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Thursday, September 5, 2013

12 of 1001 Books: Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange

It's only been a few minutes after finishing A Clockwork Orange that I am still pondering over it. How do you feel toward a book where the lead perspective is from a mad men who takes pleasure in pain in any form? He's not that likable and the way society lets him off so easily doesn't leave for there to be many other likable characters either. It is one of the darkest books out there, and makes sense considering the author, Anthony Burgess, wrote it after his wife was beaten and molested by a gang.

Summary: Alex is a fifteen year old in the not so distant future who roams the night with his friends and wreaks havoc on the people. They break into houses, rob, rape, beat, and murder people who wander the streets or reside in the neighborhood. When Alex gets caught though the Government has a new plan to reform violent psychopaths, but it's met with controversy because it enables a lack of choice to do good or bad, and leaves the person only able to choose the good. Alex is desperate to do anything to be free again.


Characters: The lead character is Alex, who is probably one of the most evil characters you'll encounter in a book, and yet he is also the lead. The book is wrote in first perspective, so every step you take through the book is through the eyes of this character. I could find nothing redeemable about him though, and considering some of his thoughts regarding faith, humanity, and anything in general I would be frightened anyone could feel for this character. There is a whole slew of friends he has as well including Dim, Georgie, and Pete. What is interesting is how his crew progresses, and Alex is left at the end of the novella. There is also an array of characters throughout the novella that take part in Alex's progression toward the end, and an interesting thought posed by the priest and Mr. Alexander about the lack of choice in humanity if the person has the inability to choose to do bad, and only does good because of the force of being sick keeps them from it.

Writing: Where the book is creative but really difficult for me to get past is in the writing. I understand that taking Russian slang, and a little Shakespearean inspiration sounded like a good idea, and adds some points to it for some, but it makes the reading slow and difficult. If nothing else, you need a dictionary to explain what words like "viddy" and "droogs" mean along with countless other words. I can't decipher much of the language because of the slang. I do think it's cool how this shows the difference between youth and adult, but how is someone to make sense of it if they don't know what it means? It's the hugest setback for this book.

Plot: I think the plot has a lot to off thought wise without trying to force the philosophical notions that a lot of books do. Considering the author seemed to write this out of a personal experience it does give the book a lot more of a personal vibe where it reads like a story with a message and not just one trying to be too pretentious. It goes too far in trying to make a point though, and I think I would have preferred the British ending to the one in this edition.

The main setback for me was the writing, once I got into the book it gets better especially as more people are encountered who don't talk like Alex. For the lead to be such an evil guy though it makes it for a rough book to read. I think this would have been way more shocking to read in the 60's as well. Considering what modern society has seen and heard these days it makes for something less shocking. It still has some things in it that disturb me and leave me unable to process exactly how I feel and hoping the intent wasn't to be in a negative way outside the perspective of the lead.

Rating 5 of 10.


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