Book Review: A Clockwork Orange

A CLOCKWORK ORANGE | Anthony Burgess
04.07.2011 (first published 1962) | Penguin Essentials
Rating: 4/5 stars

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Alex is fifteen. He lives in a society where the youth are trying to overthrow the world around them and show that they are the group in charge. It’s common for teenagers like Alex to engage in extreme violence, robbery, rape, and even murder. When we meet Alex he is the leader of a group of friends who seem to be willing to do anything he commands with the aid of some drugs. One night while out on a violent escapade Alex feels his first sense of losing control of his friends. There seems to be a bit of a rebellion going on behind his back.

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Is a man who chooses the bad perhaps in some way better than a man who has the good imposed upon him?

It should come as no surprise that this secret rebellion eventually takes full force and Alex is left alone and headed to jail after a robbery gone wrong. He has been thrown in State Jail and convicted of murder. Among the worst society has to offer, Alex finds himself still getting by with his violent and manipulative behavior. One day he is offered the chance at early freedom from jail if he’ll just sign some papers and agree to an experimental treatment plan designed to cure him of his debauchery. This offer of reform sounds like Alex’s golden ticket back in to society, but what will it cost him? What does “being cured” really mean?

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“What’s it going to be then, eh?”

A CLOCKWORK ORANGE is a look in to the not-too-distant future for our society. Burgess creates a world in which youth and the older members of society are at odds, which is a common issue throughout time. As a member of the rebelling youth, Alex speaks in a dialect known as Nadsat, which was created by Burgess. This use of a foreign dialect is at first completely disorienting to the reader, but over time you are able to translate what these words mean. I will admit I got hung up on context and meaning behind these words very early on and struggled to enjoy the novel until I found a glossary of terms to assist me. While some words are easy to translate, others are more difficult and I’m a detail-oriented reader, so not knowing what things mean was highly distracting. Once I got the overall feel for the language and could muddle through with no issue, the story grabbed at my attention and completely sucked me in. I wanted to know more about this society, what motivated Alex, and ultimately what Alex’s fate would be. A CLOCKWORK ORANGE is a short, powerful text about a boy trying to make himself known in his society and the depths he is willing to go to in order to achieve his goal.

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