A Clockwork OrangeIn the novel A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess suggests that a controlling government will cause a dark, turbulent, gloomy future using music, using violence, and using language.I. Burgess’s use of musicA. music as emotional heightener B. music to calmC. music to harmII. Burgess’s use of violenceA.
use of rapeB. use of fightingC. use of bloodIII.
Burgess’s use of languageA. language as social identifierB. language as maskC. language to show violence A Clockwork Orange: Settings of a Human MachineWhen he wrote A Clockwork Orange, John Anthony Burgess Wilson created his own world set in London during a future time when gangs and violence are rampant on the streets.
After World War II, the non utopian novel had become more commonplace and was a literary staple of the times. This particular brand of literature stressed the overly pessimistic view of human nature and featured, as was presented in A Clockwork Orange, violence as well as the dark areas of human behavior and society. This novel of a young fifteen-year-old boy known only by the name of Alex, is not an exception.
Alex, the antihero, and his three “droogs” (friends) are a gang of youngsters who goes around in the dangerous streets of London, fighting, raping, pillaging, and all the basic doings generally associated with anarchy. This young hoodlum is eventually betrayed to the police by his own gang and sentenced to fourteen years in prison–a prison which attempts to cure him of his love for violence and evil using what was dubbed the “Ludovico Technique” yet at the same time strips him of his own humanity by not allowing him the freedom to choose right or wrong. He is tested and released out on his own where he encounters many of his earlier victims. After recuperating from an attempted suicide brought on by the pain of the Ludovico Technique, Alex happened to come upon Pete, an old droog of his in the gang. Both Alex and Pete were by then eighteen, but Pete had matured. He had a wife, a job, spoke standard English, and owned a home; whereas Alex was still living with his parents and spoke his own slang.
It was after this experience that the young droog had grew up, and a rite of passage took place. At the end, the reader leaves Alex as he is pondering a job and realizing that eighteen was not at all very young to him. He contemplates becoming a family man, having a son to whom he could teach the things he knew.
During the course of this story, the readers develop within themselves a sense of darkness and fear, and at the same time a feeling of the surroundings and the tone of this book. Anthony Burgess suggests that a controlling government will cause a dark, turbulent, gloomy future using mood, using music, and using violence. A passionate lover of classical music, Anthony Burgess readily incorporated this element into his novel. A reader must be somewhat versed in symphony and orchestra to be able to fully grasp what Burgess writes of, “But even as he flatters his readers with the assumption that they have these prerequisites, Burgess reminds them that their cultural attainments are shared by the lowliest, most depraved dregs of humanity.
” (CLC 70). He had at one point in his life desired to become a composer. Although he did compose classical pieces in his time, he never undertook the task as a profession.
This desire translated itself into one of the most important characteristics of the main character, Alex, who himself was an avid listener of symphony, his favorite being Ludwig Van Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, “..the Glorious 9th sic.” (Burgess 178) as he so called it. He listened to it when he needed soothing and relaxation as depicted after Alex comes home from a night of violence and thievery: Oh, it was gorgeousness and gorgeosity made flesh. The trombones crunched redgold under my bed, and behind my gulliver head the trumpets threewise silverflamed, and there by the door the timps tolling through my guts and out again like candy thunder. Oh, it was the wonder of wonders. (Burgess 33).
It is seen here that the music which Alex listens to also has a psychological effect on him which heightens his emotions. Music has always been a form of entertainment and also has been a large factor in the manipulation of senses. The music heard in cinemas is placed there to create a more dramatic effect on the audience.
It is in this same way that the government which attempted to correct our hero also destroyed him. The Ludovico Technique which was administered on him is a process which is intended to cure a person of his violent behavior by forcing him to be unable to choose violence. This is done by forcing the subject to view films of ultra-violence and gore while at the same time he is injected with a nauseating compound.
The violence seen on the films and the intense nausea are associated with each other in the brain causing the subject to succumb to profound dizziness when experiencing anything of a violent nature. During one of these films, the soundtrack played along with it happened to be Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony which the doctors used on Alex. “Its a useful emotional heighthener, that’s all,”(Burgess 113) said one of the doctors to him at the end of a film. Alex used the music to relax and to calm himself down. He also listened to symphonies to help him remain calm as he was recuperating from his attempted suicide. Yet ironic as it is, it was also the same symphonic music that had gotten him in the hospital.
Music in this sense also harmed poor Alex. Because the music was played with the films, it was associated in his mind with the violence. Therefore, not only when he saw violence, but also when he listened to classical pieces he was overcome with the intense pain and nausea. “It was not the intention of his State manipulators to induce this bonus or malus: it is purely an accident that, from now on, he will automatically react to Mozart or Beethoven as he will to rape and murder.” (CLC 61). The “State” the government which attempted to reform Alex not only committed sin in not allowing the “reformed” prisoner to decide on what path he would take, but also in a sense, “…meddled not only in the mundane area of morals but also in the higher realm of art,” (CLC 61) by not allowing him to enjoy his music. “The state has succeeded in its primary aim: to deny Alex free moral choice, which, to the State, means choice of evil.
But it has added an unforeseen punishment: the gates of heaven are closed to the boy, since music is a figure of celestial bliss… it has destroyed a human being… it has also destroyed an angel,” (CLC 61). Another of the elements used in Burgess’s novel was the component of violence. An ever present topic in the book, violence is mostly what gives the novel its dark, pessimistic, somewhat “ghetto” mood, most probably more than the music or the language. Rape, being one crime usually associated with violence, was one of Alex’s favorite past times, next to, “kicking litsos faces in,” (Burgess 181) with “real horrorshow bolshy big boots,” (Burgess 181). When Alex raped two young girls, Marty and Sonietta, who could not have been more than ten years old, he bragged saying, “…then I felt the old tigers leap in me and then I leapt on these two young ptitsas girls. This time they thought nothing fun and stopped creeching with such mirth, and had to submit to…Alexander the Large… but both were very drunken and could not feel much… they were creeching..
as they put their platties clothes on…”(Burgess 46). Another part essential part of the violence in this book was the constant fighting. Alex got into many fights, with his enemies as well as his own droogs.
This element gives the reader a sense of the perpetual turbulence which enveloped the city of London and any place around young Alex as well as within this disturbed young man: There were vecks guys and ptitsas girls both young and starry old, lying on the ground screaming for mercy, and I was smecking laughing all over my rot mouth and grinding my boot in their litsos. And there were devotchkas women ripped and creeching against walls and I plunging like a shlaga into them…(Burgess 33). The blood which the main character in this book enjoys seeing so much is not as essential as the rape and the fighting. Yet it is necessary in that it provides readers with the feeling of Alex’s grotesque and evil nature, blood usually being a symbol of evil, although in some Judeo-Christian terms it could also depict salvation and hope. It is shown in its negative sense when the gang robs a local store, “…and then a fair tap with a crowbar they had for opening cases, and that brought the red out like an old friend,” (Burgess 10). Another time when he fought a rival gang, “it was real satisfaction… to carve left cheeky and right cheeky, so that like two curtains of blood seemed to pour out at the same time.. down this blood poured in like red curtains,” (Burgess 17).
Unlike the violence and the music which many other authors use to create a setting, language was one of the most unique and original elements which Anthony Burgess introduced into this dystopian novel. His fascination with language and his mastery of his words is clearly shown here as he creates a whole new slang dubbed “Nadsat” for his creations, Alex and his droogs. Nadsat is a blending of English and Russian words. “Alex’s first-person narration… gives the book a highly original and much-admired texture.”(CLC 62). Because of this new language, the unobservant reader would not be able to grasp what violence Alex speaks of, yet one who is attentive will easily see the pattern arise within the pages and soon comprehend the terminology which the author incorporates into the book. It is takin to a mask, hiding the true violence and the hateful world underneath: If Alex’s nightmare of “smecking malchicks doing the ultra-violent on a young ptitsa who was creeching away in her red red krovvy, her platties all razrezzed real horrorshow,” is translated into “smiling guys viciously assaulting a young woman who was screaming while lying in her own blood, her clothes beautifully torn up,” the masked violence becomes naked. Language both disguises and reveals.
Its significance goes well beyond an external and superficial effect. (Olsen 115). When the mask is removed, or torn off rather, one is, “Drawn into Alex’s language, the reader enters his world of images and values, where there is no word for pity or compassion…”(Olsen 115). Here, the brutal language of the delinquent youths shows the violence which they are accustomed to.
“Language also creates an aesthetic of violence, celebrating the terrible and disgusting. The repetition of ‘O my brothers’ is a grotesque irony in the midst of nonstop violence.” (Olsen 115). Finally language can be used as a social identifier. Using language, one can determine from what region another is, what country another is from, or what ethnic group another belongs to. As it is used here, Nadsat allows all around Alex to see what sort of a person he is.
The adults around him are at times unable to comprehend his slang; at this they automatically assume him to be a young ruffian, a hoodlum causing nothing but harm, as many of the elders of our own era assume. “In choosing his patois, Alex has declared who and what he is. Language is a more important assertion of his identity than his oddly-mannered clothes,” (Olsen 114). The is language important not only in the story, but also in the title. A clockwork orange has come to mean (to Burgess) something which on the surface, is an organism, alive and breathing, yet beneath its peel, is something more mechanical, being controlled and not under its own free will. As Alex himself said after the Ludovico Technique was completed, “‘Am I like just some animal or dog?… Am I just to be like a clockwork orange?” (Burgess 127).
As Burgess wrote, “‘…this title would be appropriate for a story about the… mechanical laws to an organism which, like a fruit was capable of colour and sweetness. But I had also served in Malaya, where the word for a human being is orang.’” Another interesting note would be that the man whose wife Alex’s gang raped, and whose house he pillaged was F. Alexander, an author of a book (in this story) titled: A Clockwork Orange (Burgess 20).. Burgess wrote this most probably due to the fact that he and his wife was brutally attacked by four GI deserters during W.W.II.
He was beaten while his wife, who was pregnant at the time, was raped and then kicked in her abdominal area, aborting the child, which would have been their first (CLC 69). Anthony Burgess is a truly talented writer, and as an author and linguist, one must give him his due respect. The novels, the stories, and the mountains of journalism which he wrote are all evidence to such talent. He combined the elements of music, violence, and most importantly language, in this one fiction of a turbulent and violent world to give his audience the depth and the feelings which he had envisioned in this book of a world where to many people, choice and free will are second to the well being of all- a very fascist, Nazi-like idea to say the least.