November 2, 2009

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

BOOK #: 75 (I know I am kind of reviewing out of order, so I will just order by my reviews, not the order I read them in.)
REASON READ: October Read-a-thon, New Authors Challenge, Colorful Reading Challenge, I Read Banned/Challenged Books
PUBLISHER: William Heinemann
GENRE: Fiction, Science Fiction, Dystopian Lit
PAGES: 176
FCC B.S.: I got it from the library.
RATING: 4 Stars

BOOK SUMMARY: A Clockwork Orange centers around the character of Alex, who lands himself in prison. For an earlier release, he "volunteers" for an experiment called the Ludovico Technique, which involves making Alex nauseous while watching very violent films. The experiment renders Alex incapable of wrongdoing, as he now associates violence with extreme nausea. He is released back into society where he encounters former victims, thus providing a unique form of punishment for Alex.

FEELINGS ON THE BOOK: At first I did not really like Alex. He is, after all, a child rapist and a prison gang leader. However, against nature itself it seems, I end up actually feeling sorry for the bastard. How can this be? Well, it is all in Alex's narration of the events that unfold for him post-experiment and post-prison. I was very impressed with the amount of moral arguments Burgess managed to pack into a book less than 200 pages. It was quite the cerebral read.

What I Liked:

  • The ethicial debate brought up by Alex's participation in the Ludovico Technique. Should such experiments be legal? Is it okay to experiment on criminals? Is this cruel and unusual punishment? Lots of good thinking material. And you know how I like that. I could go all sociology on you guys right now but I will hold back. :)

  • The way that Alex's "droogs" (aka gang members) end up. Of course there is the completely obvious yet trite ending, but there are also more creative paths taken by some gang members.

  • The way Burgess was able to create pity in the reader for such a completely unsympathetic character. Shouldn't I hate him more? Shouldn't he elicit more of a "that's what you get" response from me when he encounters his former victims only to be victimized himself? How did Burgess do that? I feel like I need to re-read it just to pinpoint where I began to turn the corner from animosity to pity.

What I Did Not Like As Much:
  • Dr. Branom and Dr. Brodsky, the developers of the Ludovico Technique. I did not quite connect with them on any kind of level- disdain or respect. I pretty much felt nothing for them. I don't know that I agreed with their experiment, but I didn't really feel I got a chance to make a connection with them.

  • There was a lot of slang used in this book. Some of it was Russian slang, some of it was Cockney slang, some of it I learned later Burgess just made up on his own. It made the dialogue richer, if not more complicated.

What You Should Know Before Reading This Book:

  • Alex rapes two ten-year-old girls and a married woman. That's enough to get the book banned right there. However, without this information it would be impossible to have much hatred and disgust for Alex, which would completely collapse the whole plot- do we still feel disgust or do we begin to pity him after the experiment?

Other Reviews/Viewpoints on A Clockwork Orange:

Have you read and reviewed this book? Please leave me a comment with the link and I will add it to the post!


  1. I've never read this book or seen the movie, and I'm not sure I want to. But it does sound intriguing -- and it's definitely one of those stories that's talked about for decades. :-) There's a kid/YA novel that is kind of inspired by The Clockwork Orange (though less raw and brutal) -- I can't think of the title or author right now. very interesting.

  2. Interesting. I read this book in high school and remember thinking it's great. I wonder what I'd think of it now.

  3. I've always thought the movie of this book would be way too intense for me, but for some reason I haven't given much thought to the book itself. If I can ask, how graphically violent is it throughout the book? Because that's something I have a hard time with when I'm reading.

  4. Oh goodness, I couldn't even BEGIN to read this book. The movie was creepy enough.

  5. I've seen the film a few times but have not yet read the book. I think I tried once, but the language - I guess the slang - was too difficult. Perhaps I'll give it another try.

  6. Great review! This was one of the more coherent and understandable reviews of this book that I have read ... but I still don't think I want to read it! I'm still haunted by the film version, which made me sick to my stomach.

  7. And now I know what a Ludovico Experiment is!

    I haven't read this book or seen the movie, but it sounds wayyyy cerebral. That could be a good thing for me or a bad thing... ;)

  8. Did you have a glossary? I wouldn't have been able to read it without one, though by then end I considered myself fairly proficient in nadsat.


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