Essay on The Need for Brutality in A Clockwork Orange

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Burgess' A Clockwork Orange, a critically acclaimed masterstroke on the horrors of conditioning, is unfairly attacked for apparently gratuitous violence while it merely uses brutality, as well as linguistics and a contentious dénouement, as a vehicle for deeper themes.

Although attacks on A Clockwork Orange are often unwarranted, it is fatuous to defend the novel as nonviolent; in lurid content, its opening chapters are trumped only by wanton killfests like Natural Born Killers. Burgess' Ted Bundy, a teenage Lucifer named Alex, is a far cry from the typical, spray paint-wielding juvenile delinquent. With his band of "droogs," or friends, Alex goes on a rampage of sadistic rape and "ultraviolence." As the tale unfolds, the
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The movie was pulled from British theaters in the early seventies and is still illegal, in any form, in the United Kingdom (Contemporary Authors 491). In addition, ripples from the film tarnished the novel's popular image. On account of the movie, some readers regard the book as "a flip testimonial on behalf of mindless, juvenile violence" (Edelheit 126), and Burgess is dubbed "an antisocial writer" and the "stepfather" of a "punk cult" (Burgess, "A Clockwork Orange: A play with music") which sprung up around the Kubrick film.

Compiled upon the movie-galvanized image of the novel, the handiwork of ignorant critics cements Orange's reputation as a phantasmagoria of sex and violence. An anonymous reviewer for the Times Literary Supplement once labeled the tome "a nasty little shocker" (qtd. in Burgess, "A Clockwork Orange: A play with music"), and the pithy epithet now graces the cover of the novel's most recent American printing. Yet, through it all, the author maintains that he took no pleasure in documenting Alex's brutality and even invented Nadsat in an effort to make the violence symbolic (Burgess, Contemporary Literary Criticism 38). He never seeks to justify Alex's actions and believes that his crimes "must be checked and punished" in a "properly run society" (Burgess, Contemporary Literary Criticism 38). In addition, Burgess bases the most horrific scene in the novel -- the rape of the writer's wife -- on personal experience. During a
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