A Clockwork Orange Dystopian Novel Analysis by Ralph K Jones

Dystopian Literature Review

A Clockwork Orange: An Unending World of Violence

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess is a jarring first-person account within a hyper-violent dystopian society. Spoken in a dialect known as “nadsat”, which has similarities to the Russian language, we’re taken on an extremely graphic ride through a world in which deplorable violence is a natural to youth as puberty.

The story follows 15 year-old Alex and his three teenage gang-mates, Georgie, Pete, and Dim, as they indulge in a night of thievery, violence, and rape. They beat up a scholar and destroy his books, rob and assault a couple in their shop, and get into a fight with a rival gang. This crime spree culminates in the four youths brutally beating and raping a man’s wife, all while forcing him to watch. The woman later dies of shock.

The next day, Alex and his gang plan to rob an old woman’s house. However, she calls the police, and Alex’s gang-mates betray him, knocking him unconscious for the police to arrest him later. He is sentenced to fourteen years and prison, and is forced into a hostile environment. He tries to befriend the prison chaplain in an attempt to get an early release, but these efforts are ultimately futile, as he ends up in trouble for killing his cellmate.

A Clockwork Orange in-depth Review

As punishment, Alex is selected to undergo the Ludovico Technique, a method of criminal reform in which an unpleasant stimulus is associated with a behaviour in order to eliminate it within a subject. He receives a nauseating injection and then is forced to watch violent films, which causes him to develop a complete aversion to violence. He is also conditioned to despise Beethoven’s music, which is his favourite, and after two years, he is released from prison, humiliated and incapable of committing the violent acts he once revelled in.

A Clockwork Orange in-depth Review

Alex then runs into one of his former victims, but he is saved by his old gang-mates Dim and Billyboy. However, they end up taking him out into the country and beating him out of spite. Afterwards, he meets the man whose wife he raped and killed, and he recognizes Alex as the criminal who underwent the Ludovico technique and the one who brutalized him. He locks Alex in a room playing Beethoven, hoping to drive him to suicide. Alex jumps out of a window, but survives and is heralded as a victim of inhumane prisoner reform.

In the end, Alex’s conditioning is undone, and he forms a new gang to commit more violent acts, but he finds himself unenthusiastic about returning to his old life. Seemingly reformed, Alex envisions leading a “normal” life and having a son.

Anybody Up for a Little bit of Ultra Violence

Out of all the characters within A Clockwork Orange, not a single one of them is aware of their society’s ills. Even though F. Alexander, the writer speaking against inhumane reform practices, seems to be somewhat attuned to his corrupt society, he actually perpetuates the culture of violence by torturing Alex. There is literally nobody who is fighting against the state, which instils a sense of utter hopelessness. Even Dim and Billyboy, who eventually become officers of the law meant to uphold justice, brutally beat a demoralized and defenceless Alex. This perfectly exemplifies how moral values have become virtually nonexistent, leading to total anarchy.

Anybody Up for a Little bit of Ultra Violence

In addition, the abhorrent violence and brutality present in A Clockwork Orange is meant to serve as a warning in more ways than one. Since the main perpetrators are a rampant group of youths, it can be assumed that their violent behaviour has been ingrained within them somehow. This entire society has fallen into a pattern of apathy and indifference so deep that there’s almost no hope–save for growing up and having a son to repeat the cycle. Also, the graphic violence itself can function as a deterrent from partaking in such acts yourself (much like the Ludovico technique as presented in the book), though it could also have a desensitizing effect and actually encourage violence. 

A Clockwork Orange Ralph’s Wrap Up

Even if you find that A Clockwork Orange works as the Ludovico Technique, or if it inspires you to engage in the same violent activities as Alex, remember that the cycle outlined by Burgess is bound to continue, with or without you.

Read More of Ralph’s Dystopian Reviews:

Brave New World Analysis

1984 Analysis

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