A Clockwork Orange

John Anthony Burgess Wilson was an English novelist and critic. He was born in a small house in Harpurhey and was the son of a bookkeeper and part-time pianist. He was found lying in his cot when he was a baby with his mother and sister dead beside him. They were said to have been victims of the Spanish Flu. Anthony attended the Bishop Bilsborrow- Primary School, Moss Side, Xavier College and lastly Manchester University. He then spent six years as a wartime soldier and after he went into education, he became an education officer in Malaya and Brunei. In 1959 he was diagnosed with a terminal illness, so he became a professional writer, hoping to provide for his wife. The diagnoses turned out to be wrong; however, he decided to stick with it and he wrote over thirty novels.

Anthony Burgess was a very well-rounded artist. He drew, wrote novels, was a musician and produced a lot of works. At the age of twelve, his drawings were being accepted by national newspapers and at fourteen, he taught himself to play the piano and compose music. He wrote two symphonies, concertos, songs, sonatas and incidental music for plays. In his very first year he wrote five novels, a couple of plays and several radio scripts and stories.He had all sorts of different topics, themes and styles. Of all his writings, the most well-known was and still is A Clockwork Orange. It is also his most controversial work. A Clockwork Orange was his eighth novel and was published in 1962. Although this was among his best works, he had his own thoughts on it. In an interview done in 1981 in “Modern Fiction Studies” Burgess was quoted, “I’m not particularly proud of A Clockwork Orange because it has all the thoughts I rail against in fiction. It’s didactic. It tends to pornography.” John Anthony Burgess Wilson died in 1993 and will always be remembered by the remains of some of his classic works.

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A Clockwork Orange

The new American edition of the novel A Clockwork Orange features a final chapter that was omitted from the original American edition against the author’s preference. Anthony Burgess, the novel’s author, provided for the new edition an introduction to explain not only the significance of the twenty-first chapter but also the purpose of the entire book, which was the fundamental importance of moral choice.
Burgess states that the twenty-first chapter was intended to show the maturation or moral progress of the youthful protagonist, Alex. The omission of the twenty-first chapter resulted, according to Burgess, in the reduction of the novel from fiction to fable, something untrue to life. Human beings change, and Burgess wanted his protagonist to mature rather than stay in adolescent aggression. The twenty-first chapter shows this change, and the chapter is important because it includes Alex’s mature assessment of his own adolescence and shows the importance of maturity to moral freedom which is Burgess’s main point. Burgess has presented his definition of moral freedom in both his introduction and in his novel.
Burgess’s definition of moral freedom as the ability to perform both good and evil is presented by implication in his discussion of the first kind of clockwork orange. In his introduction, he states that if one “can only perform good or only perform evil, then he is a clockwork orange – meaning that he has the appearance of an organism lovely with color and juice but is in fact only a clockwork toy to be wound up by God or the Devil or (since this is increasingly replacing both) the Almighty State.” Burgess goes on to say, “It is as inhuman to be totally good as it is to be totally evil. The important thing is moral choice. Evil has to exist along with good, in order that moral choice may operate.” This hypothetical type of clockwork orange nowhere appears in the novel because Alex is neither totally good nor totally evil but a mixture of both. This remains true even after Alex’s conditioning by the Government. It is true that the Government tries to make Alex totally good through conditioning; however, in the last chapter you can see that since it is a coerced goodness, against Alex’s will, total goodness is not achieved.
Although Burgess considers one kind of clockwork orange inhuman, he does allow for another kind of clockwork orange that is human. Burgess’s little Alex is a clockwork orange until he reaches maturity in the twenty-first chapter. Stanley Hyman, a literary critic, provided an afterward for the original American edition of A Clockwork Orange. In it he states that “Alex always was a clockwork orange, a machine for mechanical violence far below the level of choice…”. One must remember that this after word was written for an edition in which the important twenty-first chapter was missing. In that chapter, Alex himself states:
Youth must go, ah yes. But youth is only being in a way like it might be an animal. No, it is not just like being an animal so much as being like one of these malenky toys you viddy being sold in the streets, like little chellovecks made out of tin and with a spring inside and then a winding handle on the outside and you wind it up grr grr grr and off it itties, like walking, O my brothers. But it itties in a straight line and bangs straight into things bang bang and it cannot help what it is doing. Being young is like being like one of these malenky machines.


Alex goes on to apply this condition to his own hypothetical son and says that even if he explained this condition to him, he wouldn’t understand or want to understand. He would probably end up killing somebody and Alex wouldn’t be able to stop him any more than he would be able to stop his own son. And this repetition of youthful, clockwork aggression would continue until the end of the world. This repetition is compared to someone, like God, continuously turning an orange in his hands. Also, for the perceptive reader, it is compared to the repetition of the phrase “what’s it going to be then, eh?” which begins the first chapter of each part until Alex states his intention of finding a wife to mother his son which is “like a new chapter beginning”. He then concludes, “That’s what it’s going to be then, brothers, as I come to the like end of this tale.” Therefore the last chapter shows that Alex has grown up and become morally responsible. He is no longer a human clockwork orange.

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Personally I agree with the author in that the last chapter is crucial to understanding the whole point of the novel. Without the last chapter the novels theme changes almost interlay. The last chapter shows that the coerced goodness brought on by the government did not fully work and that it is not possible to make someone totally good trough conditioning, you will always have moral choice.

A Clockwork Orange

A Clockwork Orange Many of us like to think that humanity as a whole is progressing to a better future where we will live united and in peace with one another. Nevertheless, there are those among us that do not share these beliefs. In A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess, a futuristic world is turned upside down and in shambles. This 1962 classic is a frightful depiction of what our society could become and possibly, what it already is. Drugs almost seem to be legal and unregulated and subsequently are widely used.

The prison system is overcrowded with young punk criminals who are inherently evil with no regard for humanity, or any part of society for that matter. Youth take over the streets at night and beat anyone they encounter. The elderly sit around in bars and drink the remainder of their lives away. The people have become desensitized to violence, because it is so prevalent in their lives. A Clockwork Orange is a very intriguing story that deals with many social problems, not offering a solution, but pointing out obstacles in the way of the creation of a more perfect society. A Clockwork Orange is written in the first person by the main character, Alex. Three of his “droogs”(friends) that help him in his crimes are Dim, Pete, and Georgie.

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Throughout the story, the author creates his own language called “nadsat”, which is used by the youth of the futuristic world. “Nadsat” is a mix of Russian, English, and the slang words of both.

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