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This article is about the novel. For the film, see A Clockwork Orange (film). For other uses, see A Clockwork Orange (disambiguation).
A Clockwork Orange is a dystopian novella written by Anthony Burgess and published in 1962. Through the exploits and experiences of a teenager it explores the violent nature of humans, human free will to choose between good or evil, and the desolation of free will as a solution to evil. Set in a not-so-distant future society with a culture of extreme youth rebellion and violence it satirizes trends in youth culture that were prevalent in the 1960s in the West (and are still contemporary). Burgess experiments with language by writing in a Russian-influenced argot called "Nadsat" which is used by the novel’s teenage anti-hero in his first-person narration and the younger characters. According to Burgess, the novel was a jeu d'esprit written in just three weeks.
In 2005, A Clockwork Orange was included on Time magazine's list of the 100 best English-language novels written since 1923, and it was named by Modern Library and its readers as one of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century.The original manuscript of the book is located at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada since that institution purchased the documents in 1971.
Alex, a teenager living in near-future England, leads his gang on nightly orgies of opportunistic, random "ultra-violence." Alex's friends ("droogs" in the novel's Anglo-Russian slang, Nadsat) are: Dim, a slow-witted bruiser who is the gang's muscle; Georgie, an ambitious second-in-command; and Pete, who mostly plays along as the droogs indulge their taste for ultra-violence. Characterised as a sociopath and a hardened juvenile delinquent, Alex is also intelligent and quick-witted, with sophisticated taste in music, being particularly fond of Beethoven, or "Lovely Ludwig Van."
The novel begins with the droogs sitting in their favorite hangout (the Korova Milk Bar), drinking milk-drug cocktails, called "milk-plus", to hype themselves for the night's mayhem. They assault a scholar walking home from the public library, rob a store, leaving the owner and his wife bloodied and unconscious, stomp a panhandling derelict, then scuffle with a rival gang. Joyriding through the countryside in a stolen car, they break into an isolated cottage and maul the young couple living there, beating the husband and raping his wife. In a metafictional touch, the husband is a writer working on a manuscript called "A Clockwork Orange," and Alex contemptuously reads out a paragraph that states the novel's main theme before shredding the manuscript. Back at the milk bar, Alex punishes Dim for some crude behaviour, and strains within the gang become apparent. At home in his dreary flat, Alex plays classical music at top volume while fantasizing about more orgiastic violence.
Alex skips school the next day. Following an unexpected visit from P. R. Deltoid, his "post-corrective advisor," Alex meets a pair of ten-year-old girls and takes them back to his parents' flat, where he serves them scotch and soda, injects himself with hard drugs, and then rapes them. That evening, Alex finds his droogs in a mutinous mood. Georgie challenges Alex for leadership of the gang, demanding that they pull a "man-sized" job. Alex quells the rebellion by slashing Dim's hand and fighting with Georgie, then in a show of generosity takes them to a bar, where Alex insists on following through on Georgie's idea to burgle the home of a wealthy old woman. The break-in starts as farce and ends in tragic pathos, as Alex's attack kills the elderly woman. His escape is blocked by Dim, who attacks Alex, leaving him incapacitated on the front step as the police arrive.Part 2: The Ludovico Technique
Sentenced to prison for murder, Alex gets a job at the Wing chapel playing religious music on the stereo before and after services as well as during the singing of hymns. The prison chaplain mistakes Alex's Bible studies for stirrings of faith (Alex is actually reading Scripture for the violent passages). After Alex's fellow cellmates blame him for beating a troublesome cellmate to death, he agrees to undergo an experimental behaviour-modification treatment called the Ludovico Technique. The technique is a form of aversion therapy in which Alex receives an injection that makes him feel sick while watching graphically violent films, eventually conditioning him to suffer crippling bouts of nausea at the mere thought of violence. As an unintended consequence, the soundtrack to one of the films — Beethoven's Ninth Symphony — renders Alex unable to listen to his beloved classical music.
The effectiveness of the technique is demonstrated to a group of VIPs, who watch as Alex collapses before a walloping bully, and abases himself before a scantily-clad young woman whose presence has aroused his predatory sexual inclinations. Although the prison chaplain accuses the state of stripping Alex of free will, the government officials on the scene are pleased with the results and Alex is released into society.