Every book ever published was written for a reason – to convey a specific idea to the readers. However, most published works do not state their central topics on the first page, opting for a more allegorical presentation. This review will examine Anthony Burgess’s most infamous novel, A Clockwork Orange, discuss its main themes and provide relevant comparisons to literary works trying to convey similar ideas.
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The novel A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess was first published in 1962 and quickly became a cultural phenomenon. The story revolves around Alex, the leader of a vicious gang of teenagers, who is forced to undergo a revolutionary treatment to cure his aggressive tendencies (Pusparini, 2018). Although the treatment is successful, it renders the protagonist unable to commit any acts construed as violent even to protect himself (Pusparini, 2018). Decidedly, the experiment strips the hero of the book of his free will because the decision to inflict pain on another human being cannot be regulated by anything but an individual’s morality.
A Clockwork Orange has an interesting background behind it that few casual readers know about. Anthony Burgess was inspired to write the novel after a visit to the Soviet Union, where he witnessed the extent to which the government had control over its people (Pusparini, 2018). As a Catholic brought up with the belief in free will, the author rejected the idea of a state where all individual freedoms are removed from the citizens for the common good (Pusparini, 2018). Similarly, Alex’s treatment destroys his ability to make choices for him to fit better into society. The inspiration for Alex’s teenage gang was taken from the widespread counterculture movement in the United Kingdom in the 1960s (Pusparini, 2018). The movement challenged the societal norms of the time, especially those dictated by the government (Pusparini, 2018). Thus, Burgess used it as the basis for the gang to show that free will should not be surprised no matter what the individuals decide to do with their freedoms.
Evaluation of the Novel
Overall, the book is an exceptional work of literature that provides the readers with an important topic for discussion. The author does not want the reader to agree with him without any dispute but rather provokes a debate. The protagonist’s treatment deprives him of his aggression and cruelty, the traits that most people would find undesirable in a civilized society. However, as he is left unable to protect himself, the readers might be forced to agree with the author’s point of view of the necessity of individual freedoms in society. The book is unparalleled in illustrating that everyone has the right to choose what to do with their lives, even if those actions are condemnable by others, society as a whole, and the law.
Many other novels discuss the issue of free will and why stripping individuals of their freedoms is wrong. One such work is Brave New World by Aldous Huxley that presents the readers with a world where the government deprives all citizens of free will by engineering and classifying them (Nadernia, 2018). However, Burgess succeeds more in depicting the issue through the juxtaposition of Alex, who is stripped of his free will, to individuals in society who are free to do what they want.
Overall, Anthony Burgess’s infamous novel A Clockwork Orange illustrates the importance of individuals having free will and the dangers of the government depriving its citizens of their freedoms. The author prompts the readers to think more about the subject by making the protagonist, Alex, who undergoes the questionable treatment, a criminal whose aggressive behavior is a danger to others. This choice makes the book more prominent among other literary works discussing free will and its effect on society.
Nadernia, V. (2018). Transrealism: In Pursuit of Social Change and Collective Justice in Huxley’s Brave New World. 3L: Language, Linguistics, Literature, 24(2), 71-81.
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Pusparini, D. (2018). Free will and counterculture movement in Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange. ELS Journal on Interdisciplinary Studies in Humanities, 1(4), 475-486.