Review - A Clockwork Orange

A Clockwork Orange
Author: Anthony Burgess
Pages: 200+

Publisher's Description:

A Clockwork Orange is a frightening fable about good and evil, and the meaning of human freedom. And when the state undertakes to reform Alex to "redeem" him, the novel asks, "At what cost?"

My thoughts:

I've been meaning to read this cult classic for long time. I mean a really long time. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about and now that I've read it, I think I understand the appeal. The readers follow Alex and his gang of droogies as they carry out their ultra-violence and speak their Nadsat slang (which was really fun to decipher). The reader gets the feeling that they're always up to no good. Theft, rape, murder, you know, the usual. One day Alex is caught by the millicents (police) and thrown in jail for murder. After some time in jail, he is chosen to be a test subject for a rehabilitation technique that turns the bad into the good. 
The question is whether such a technique can really make a man good. Goodness comes from within, 6655321. Goodness is something chosen. When a man cannot choose he ceases to be man (93). 
After being rehabilitated Alex is released back into society, but has a tough time reintegrating. Society is cold and without empathy. It's the society he both came from and helped perpetuate. Alex encounters a group of subversives who want to use him as a weapon of propaganda against the government, but with no desire to be violent and no sense of belonging, he seeks an outlet: suicide.
I most emphatically do not approve. An eye for an eye, I say. If someone hits you you hit back do you not? Why then should not the State, very severely hit by you brutal hooligans, not hit back also? (104)
I found the novel to be an interesting mix of philosophy; tossing in God, humanity and oppressive political systems. The central character Alex is somewhat intriguing. I had a hard time understanding his fascination with classical music. I mean it's not unusual to like classical music. I like classical music, but I was also a musician. And Alex just seemed so one-dimensional, his only motivation being his ego, his violence and tendency to fly off the handle. And classical music to me is very different. It has many layers. It's disciplined and complex, tender at times, bombastic at others. But I may be over-analyzing this. Alex liked classical music simply because he could. He had the choice. Later in the novel, choice is denied to him and classical music once a source of pleasure is transfigured into a source of pain. 

Apparently, the last chapter of the edition I read was initially omitted from the American version..I can see why. In the last chapter there's a change; after converting back into his old self, Alex becomes bored with violence and begins to mature at the ripe age of eighteen. I don't know, it just seems out of place. I wish I hadn't read the last chapter. I would have preferred to end it on a darker note, with the implications that man is man, violent and reckless. And he can't be changed. This American can appreciate that message. 

If you were wondering what the title is about, maybe Burgess can shed some light on it:
I mean it to stand for the application of a mechanisitic morality to a living organism oozing with juice and sweetness (A Clockwork Orange Resucked, 1986)
I liked it. I get why it's a cult classic.

A Clockwork Orange

Three stars.


  1. When I read this book, and I was only about 14/15 at the time, it terrified me. I think I had nightmares for a week. I refuse to watch the film, even now!

    1. Yeah, it's definitely violent. The movie is...sexual? Yeah, really sexual. Too sexual. To me it overshadows the violence. I saw way too many penises and vulvas (mostly from artwork and sculptures) But it is sort of funny at times...I don't know. I think the book is better.