A Clockwork Orange2




A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess, is a dark look into a frightful
future of violence and social control. The story dives deep into such
issues as free will, the illusions of “reality”, the morality of ethics, and
many others. Burgess fills this horrific tale with satire, numerous puns,
and above all: irony. A Clockwork Orange is comparable to George Orwell\'s
Nineteen Eighty-Four or Aldous Huxley\'s Brave New World. Burgess presents
us with a philosophical message that we may soon find ourselves faced with.

A Clockwork Orange is made up of three parts containing 21 chapters, 21
being the official age of human maturity. It is a stream-of-consciousness
novel about, most fundamentally, the freedom of people to choose. It asks
readers if personal freedom is a justifiable sacrifice for comfort and
social stability. This theme umbrellas many others, including the struggle
between the governors and the governed and the age-old struggle between good
and evil. A Clockwork Orange also incorporates the themes of youth versus
old age and illusion versus reality.
Burgess, both a writer and an established linguist, uses A
Clockwork Orange as a vessel for some very mature exploration of languages
and literary play-things. Burgess fuses together many different languages in
A Clockwork Orange to create Nadsat, the language of the youth. Nadsat is
made up mainly of Russian, child speak, and invented and British slang, but
it also utilizes Malay, German, French, Arabic, and Gypsy. The word Nadsat
comes from the Russian word nadsat, a suffix for the numbers 11 through
19--the teenage numbers (Lund). The title A Clockwork Orange is derived from
several sources. Used in old London slang, one might say someone is "as
queer as a clockwork orange" (Burgess, "Resucked" x). In Nadsat, "orange"
means "man" (which is derived from the Malay word "orang," meaning "man"),
so a clockwork orange would be a man moving without pause or thought, as a
clockwork (Lund). Burgess says of the title, "I mean it to stand for the
application of a mechanistic morality to a living organism oozing with juice
and sweetness" ("Resucked" x). After the state reforms him, the novel\'s hero
and narrator Alex becomes a clockwork orange, a man working as a machine.
Nadsat is the primary language, although not the exclusive one, of A
Clockwork Orange. Burgess claims he uses it "to muffle the raw response we
expect from pornography." But he also uses it to create a "literary
adventure" ("Resucked" x). The use of Nadsat emphasizes many of the
struggles involved with A Clockwork Orange\'s purpose. The struggle between
the old and the young--the conservative and the progressive--is made more
sensational by the separation of language. Alex is misunderstood by his
parents, the police, and the government philosophically, but also literally,
widening the gap between him and the "sane" world.
Burgess also manipulates language in A Clockwork Orange in more traditional
ways, in the form of literary and linguistic devices. The novel is saturated
with irony and dark humor, dotted with repetition, and laced with word play.
Irony is used extensively A Clockwork Orange. One of the most repeated and
significant examples of irony is in Alex\'s description of violence. Prior to
his treatment, he refers any form of violence as "beautiful." After he hits
Dim in the face, Alex says Dim is "singing blood to make up for his
vulgarity" (Burgess, Clockwork 28). However, Alex refers to things most
people regard as beneficial--education, religion, and rational thought--as
undesirable and grotesque. Everything, then, that should be good, becomes
bad, and vice versa. After the state reforms Alex, he begins contemplating
his new accidental Judeo-Christian ethics: "And what, brothers, I had to
escape into sleep from then was the horrible and wrong feeling that it was
better to get the hit than give it. If that veck had stayed I might even
have like presented the other cheek" (Burgess, Clockwork 121).
Another very significant bit of irony is in the name of the house that
follows Alex throughout the story--the house that gives A Clockwork Orange
its title and most of its major themes, and that ultimately causes Alex\'s
downfall. The name of this house is Home. When Alex\'s gang first encounters
Home, Alex calls it "a gloopy sort of name" (Burgess, Clockwork 19). Home is
a word that carries with it the implication of comfort, safety, stability,
and family. When Alex chooses to break into Home, destroy its contents, beat
its master, and rape its mistress, he seals his fate. He does this also when
he destroys the manuscript of F. Alexander\'s A Clockwork Orange while at
Home. The irony is that