Monday, February 10, 2014

"When a man cannot choose he ceases to be a man"

a clockwork orange by anthony burgess

A Clockwork Orange is one of those modern classics that is so widely referenced and alluded to -- The Simpsons, for example, seem particularly fond of it, just check here, here, and here -- that I often felt ashamed for not having read it yet. No more! Last week I finally checked out the nightmarish 1962 novel by English writer and composer Anthony Burgess. It is ranked No. 49 on this list by the Racliffe Publishing Course and was famously adapted into a controversial movie by Stanley Kubrick in 1971.

Alex is the Beethoven-loving leader of a violent teen gang. Him, the beefy Dim, second-in-command Georgie, and tag-along Pete do drugs, assault people, rape girls, rob stores, and generally cause mayhem. During one of their break-ins, Alex kills an elderly woman and is unable to escape the wealthy old woman's house. He is sentenced to prison for murder, where he agrees to undergo an experimental behavior-modification treatment, aka the Ludovico Technique.

Wow, this book is vicious. The ultra-brutality and Nadsat language might be off-putting at first, but the story quickly begins to flow when the theme of free will hits like a bolshy sledgehammer. Is it ethical to deprive delinquents of their freedom of choice? Or does that undermine the very essence of being human? A Clockwork Orange will have you rethinking good and evil. What's it going to be then, eh? 

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