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The Clockwork Orange: Book 565

My students are given the opportunity to blog about the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die for extra credit. The following is an extra credit post received by Angela Judd. Angela can be reached at ajudd@kheslc.com.

The Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess is number 565 on the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list. This novel is unique in that Mr. Burgess created and implemented his own language which can be difficult to comprehend at first. Whereas it does make it a bit more complex, eventually the reader will catch on to the lingo.

It begins in a future England with Beethoven loving, 15 year old Alex and his set of “droogs” (friends) at their favorite hangout, the milk bar. The droogs consist of Pete, Dim, and Georgie and most of their time together is spent being “ultra-violent” and causing trouble. After hyping themselves up at the bar, they continue to wreak havoc throughout the city by beating up random people they find, eventually stealing a car and going for a joyride. Ultimately, they find themselves at a remote cottage. Alex, using his conniving ways, convinced the owner to let him in. After which, the masked gang severely beat the husband and rape the wife.

The next day, Alex goes to meet his droogs only to find that there is obvious tension within the gang. Georgie begins to demand that they start pulling bigger jobs as opposed to the silly childish games he believed they were currently playing. To appease his minions, he decides to do what the gang wants, and rob the home of an elderly rich woman. Instead of a simple burglary, Alex ends up exacerbating the situation by killing the older woman. During the escape, Dim blocks the exit  and leaves him immobilized, just in time for the police to arrive.

After being found guilty of murder, Alex is sent to prison where he begins to read the Bible. While this sounds like he might be turning a new leaf, in fact, he is reading it only to get his fix of violence. Following his usual “normal” behavior, he kills his cellmate, which launches his acceptance into a new experimental treatment called the “Ludovico Technique”.  The intention was to make him incapable of violence, which was accomplished by giving him drugs to make him feel ill while being forced to watch graphic, sadistic movies. This method proves to be very efficient. He soon becomes physically ill at the mere thought of violent behavior or sex, which for him are one in the same. An unexpected consequence, however, is that the Ninth Symphony by Beethoven also begins to make him sick because that song was played during the movies. After testing his condition, he is released as a free man under the assumption that he was officially cured.

His first stop after being set free is his parent’s house. There, he finds that his room has been rented out and he now has nowhere to go. As he wanders the street trying to formulate a plan, Alex stumbles upon several of his former victims whom, as expected, are eager to exact their revenge. At long last, policemen arrive, only to find out that it is in fact a rival gang member and former droog Dim. They proceed to beat him mercilessly and leave him to die in a remote location. By some miracle, he is able to get up and find his way to a little cottage, which just so happens to be the same cottage where he raped and beat the owners.

The man, not realizing he is helping his former assailant, allows Alex to come in. As they begin to reveal more of each other’s story, it comes to light that the man’s wife indeed died from injuries received from Alex and his gang. He stays, however, because this man has anti-government ideals. Therefore, after informing him of his strange treatment, he rallies behind him hoping to use him as a symbol of the problems within the government. It is not long until the truth is revealed that Alex was, in reality, the violent goon who attacked him.

Rather than physically harming the boy, he decides to torture him by playing Beethoven repeatedly. After a few moments of pure hell, Alex can take no more and decides to commit suicide by jumping out a third story window. Yet, he managed to only hurt himself. He awakes in the hospital surrounded by government officials who are concerned, not for his health but for the public reaction to his treatment. They bribe him to keep quiet about the bad experiences associated with the controversial technique. As he poses with the doctor, he finds himself thinking violent thoughts toward him. But instead of getting ill, nothing happens. He was, in fact, back to the way he was. The treatment had somehow been reversed.

Thanks, Angela, for introducing us to a great book! Happy Reading.

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