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A Clockwork Orange

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It’s not very easy to justify why a book like “A Clockwork Orange” had a strong influence on me, but that’s the truth. Anthony Burgess’ novel depicts a dystopian world where the youth are corrupted individuals wrecking homes, taking drugs and stealing money. Out of all books why would one which depicts the worst possible scenario of life have an influence on me? Shouldn’t I be talking about Pursuit of Happiness or some rags-to-riches account of a billionaire instead?

The first reaction I had when I read the first few pages of A Clockwork Orange was not even close to the appeal I got after finishing it. The “Nadsat” language (mixture of Russian and Cockney-English), the portrayal of “ultra-violence” and domestic abuse was shocking. Why did Burgess do this? It all unfolded in the end. Alex the protagonist believed in independence and free will, but this meant wrongly implementing his free will at the expense of others. Alex was deceived by his friends and went to jail for his crimes. In jail he was brainwashed by a series of videos depicting what his generation actually did to society. Burgess called it “Ludovico’s technique”, a form of drug-fed, brainwashing which made Alex a harmless, nostalgic victim rather than a rehabilitated, sober person. An important symbol used was that the doctors in the jail played classical music during the experiment and thus, Alex couldn’t bear listening to Beethoven as a side-effect of this experiment.

Burgess uses this technique as a metaphor for what society does to an individual, so that we children function according to the way society wants it to. Alex was just like me; unknowingly I was functioning according to my society and not my own will. Alex was released but soon ended up in the house of the writer he wrecked, and whose wife he raped and killed. He was imprisoned by the owner and locked in an apartment with speakers playing loud Beethoven. He had to suicide in order to avoid the pain and nostalgia and thus jumped out of the window resulting in a near suicide. He was saved. Lying in a hospital bed, Alex saw redemption. His friends had sobered up and he knew that life had given him another chance to rectify his life.

I told a friend that I would be writing about this novel in my essay. It shocked him. Why in the world would I like to show any college admissions’ officer that I liked violence and drug-abuse? No, we have often misinterpreted Burgess master-piece and Kubrick’s controversial film. This book and film shows how a character like Alex, a person perhaps like me, sees the light of hope at the end of a tunnel of despair and emptiness. Alex was not a fictional character, he was me.

Everyone faces despair. We taste the feeling of success properly only after facing defeat. Alex had lived in a life full of deception, “the old ultra violence” and Beethoven. The worst consequence of coming into jail and getting brainwashed into helplessness was the horrifying nostalgia of listening to Beethoven’s ninth symphony. Society turned the orange i.e. Alex into a brainwashed clock. This is what society has done to me. My life no longer evolves arond the organic natural gift of independence but is morphed as a machine. My society decided my school, my courses, my career and above all my life. I have become “a clock-work orange” and like Alex, want to beat this flawed system. My society is conservative and materialistic. I am told to go to college in order to get a high-paying job but what about going to college to learn?

By the end of the book I realized that being ourselves was far more important than working like a machine for someone else. Alex becomes himself again; a lover of violence and Beethoven. I have different beliefs, I don’t indulge in violence for satisfaction, I prefer talking and solving issues through debate but, what we both have experienced in common is the morphing done by our respective societies. Our schools although struggle to maintain a general education, succumb to the marks/money-obsessed society. I don’t blame my school for failing to prevent rote learning as the nation’s education system unfortunately demands it. What Burgess did was show me a character I could put my shoes in. He wrote the book as his wife was a victim of rape; he showed Alex redemption because he believed that we need to be ourselves not products of society. Just like Alex, I too yearn to be myself again.



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