Novel “A Clockwork Orange” by Anthony Burgess

“A Clockwork Orange” is a Futuristic Novel by Anthony Burgess

“A Clockwork Orange” is a mysterious name of both a futuristic novel by Anthony Burgess, and smashing film by Stanley Kubrick. Burgess wrote his dystopia in 1962, being in a deep depression after he has survived the death of his wife and learned about his own terrible diagnosis – a brain tumor. According to him, “A Clockwork Orange” is a work completely saturated with pain. In less than a decade, a great director shoots a film by this book, which later becomes a cult.

“A Clockwork Orange” has a difficult fate, but it will eternally remain almost the main symbol of the merry 60’s. “A Clockwork Orange” is a novel about human nature. About something that is given to each of us by nature and that cannot be got rid of in any way. And this is not a virtue but a thirst for violence. The author shows this in detail on a single person – the main character, Alex.

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Together with his friends, Alex robs a store, beats and rapes, drinks, takes drugs. He also gets great pleasure from listening to classical music. However, it happens that a company gets Alex in wrongly, and the guy goes to prison, where he is “treated” with inhuman methods, imposing an aversion to sex, violence, and everything connected with it. At a single Alex’s effort to touch a woman or hit someone his vomiting reflex is triggered.

It would seem that clever scientists have cured a bad boy and for him there is no need to stay for 20 years behind bars, and this is why Alex is soon let free. However, alas, during a suicide attempt, Alex hits his head, and all the “treatment” goes down the drain – the passion for sex and fights broke out with renewed vigor. He returned to his former way of life, but after a while realizes that grew up, and thinks about the family.

In general, the “A Clockwork Orange” – is a unique novel. In addition to the interesting manner of narration, the author resorts to an unusual method: Burgess wrote the book in his own invented language – nadsat (nadsat is the language of teenagers). Why is it special? The book is written in English, but with numerous distorted words from the Russian language written using the Latin alphabet. So you can find in the novel the words droog (friend), malchik (a boy), korova (cow), litso (face), viddy (to see).

Difference Between Film and Book

What can we say about the film? Certainly, Kubrick is the master of film adaptation, and “A Clockwork Orange” is a clear proof of this. In contrast, for example, to the maestro of cinema Pierre Pasolini, the American director has not so great and unique artistic angle. However, Kubrick’s work is simple and brilliant. He perfectly understood that cinematograph is the syncretic art, and used all of its features. First of all, the sounds design. Music played an important role in the novel, but reading it, we could only imagine it or listen separately, but here, in the film, we have all at once, so the impression is reinforced. Secondly, the stunning video sequence and the acting. Kubrick even managed to transfer nadsat into the film: he decorated the walls of the bar with labels Moloko and included unintelligible words into the text uttered by the characters.

The only significant difference between the book and the film is the final. Kubrick’s film ends up on the fact that Alex feels a surge of libido. We can only guess what the director was going to say: whether the timing did not allow to shoot to the end, or this is the result of own director’s world view.

The above is my own opinion on the book and on the film both of them are real masterpieces. When we read and see the terrible things Ales and his druggy do, we can hardly understand that Alex is really a tragic character. We feel fear and disgust to him and skeptically listen to the words of the pries about the freedom of choice. People like Alex deserve no freedom and no choice! They have already made their choice – they have chosen the way of violence. Alex deserves all the ordeals he experienced in the clinics and during his re-socialization.

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Critics write that the book is about the roots of aggression in society. Frankly saying, I see in it something different. Rather, it raises the question – whether we have a moral right to condemn the criminal, if we assume that the person initially was given a different system of values – for example, the idea that “life of another person has priority over personal gain” was not put into his brain.

The book gives an in-depth analysis of the causes of youth crime, intolerance of young generation to the normal moral values and foundations of modern society. However, ordinary readers are often shocked by the cynicism with which the main characters commit their criminal acts that they do not really delve into the essence of artistic and intellectual exploration of a writer. Meanwhile, Anthony Burgess explored in his prophetic book in many ways the existence of a mechanism of individual and social violence, suppression of the individual and its transformation into “obedient child” – a kind of “A Clockwork Orange” – by the apparatus of power and its various institutions.


Among the numerous merits of Kubrick (talking about the novel we should not forget about the film), I would like to especially stress his amazing ability to use the classical and contemporary music in completely unexpected and sometimes paradoxical terms, always contrapuntally and associatively with respect to the image.

The way he includes into the on-screen narration in “A Clockwork Orange” the music of Gioacchino Rossini (which not by chance still ranks among the movie hits) or the title song from the popular musical “Singing in the Rain,” strikes every time I watch the film.

Anthony Burgess once said that his book and Kubrick;s film form an integrated whole and he was right. These two masterpieces strengthen and reinforce the meaning of each other.