Book Review – A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

The book is about a guy who dresses cool, acts cool and likes to rape, kill and steal. He is your everyday Joker (from Batman) and you are supposed to grow sympathetic to the character when his choice to murder and commit crime is taken away. The book has an ending that sort of tries to bring a moral undertone to the whole story but the heinous acts of this teen are beyond redemption. It is understandable how the American version of the book had omitted the ending to keep the book true to its character.

Perfect ending or not, the book is a perfect treatise for those who thing that goodness is a virtue natural and healthy and evil must be weeded out at all costs. The writer begs to differ when he keeps the freedom to choose above and beyond everything else.

One important aspect of the novel is how (allegedly) unreadable it is because of its language. The writer has invented/ borrowed so many words and created a language of his own. He calls it nadsat which is Russian transliteration of the word “teen”. Well, not to boast but, I could make out the meaning of almost all the words just from their context and I am not the sharpest knife in the drawer. So, I think the regular reader mustn’t feel daunted from all the alien words. They were a necessity. The author had the duty of creating a world which is based on distant future. National boundaries have blurred and the teens are rebels who do not follow any rules, let alone the rules of grammar. The problem, if Anthony Burgess would have used the teen slang of those times, would have been massive. Using the teen slang of that day would have stamped an expiry date on the novel. Instead, the author, in a brilliant stroke of imagination, created a language of his own. What genius!

Alex, the murderous teen, sits in a milk bar and drinks milk laced with hallucinogens. He listens to mind-numbing music and loves Beethoven’s Ninth (the author must have detested pop music). He along with his droogs (friends) walks down the streets of London and beats up old men and women. His life takes a u-turn when his friends turn on him and he is caught by the police. He is then made to sign an agreement and is used as a lab rat for a state sponsored experiment dealing with morality and freedom of choice.

Alex’s struggle after the said experiment is what creates the philosophy of the book. It is also darkly hilarious and obscenely funny. The book works on your primal instincts and makes you feel how conditioned your childhood and adulthood has been.

The book is also a commentary on juvenile crime. By being softer on juveniles, the judiciary sort of makes a case for the binding nature of the law and how adults are better at curbing their natural instincts (which are to rape and murder). This might be slightly controversial as a debate topic but, the law universally goes softer on teenage criminals, thus proving the author’s viewpoint.

A must read for all.

5/5

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