A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess


I’m edging towards Halloween now that it’s day sixteen of Blogtober and the fake blood has come out. I picked A Clockwork Orange to follow on from Never Let Me Go because I wanted to highlight the link between two books where science experiments are carried out on children for the ‘greater good’. Partly because I needed a tenuous link, but mainly because I think that, with the Stanley Kubrick film (which rest assured I will rant about below), the message of A Clockwork Orange is lost.

I originally read this book when I was around thirteen or fourteen, after getting it in a penguin classics collection of banned books. I ended up including it in my GCSE oral presentation which I think in hindsight might have been been deemed ~inappropriate but was fairly well received by my teacher.

A Clockwork Orange is a hard book to get through, despite how short it is. It’s written in a sort of Russian-inspired-dialect which works really well to create a futuristic barrier between us and these ultra-violent teenagers in the novel, but it does make you want to get out a Russian language dictionary. It’s very violent, as you can imagine, and there is something distinctly unsettling about being made to feel sorry for someone who is so at odds with our own morals. But by the end I felt like he’d earnt my sympathies. 

Now, possibly a controversial point, but this is the book is the main reason I cannot stand Stanley Kubrick. The final chapter of A Clockwork Orange makes the book for me, yet it failed to appear in the US publications, which the film was based on, because it was deemed unsuitable. Stanley Kubrick claimed he never read this chapter (which I think is also the sign of a piss-poor director if you don’t read all the source material) but also that he found it too ‘bland’. Now, to me, the omission of the ending destroys something integral to the book; that the message is you cannot force someone to change and be something that they are not, but that they can change naturally over time. In the film, the message is people cannot change. At all. And I think that’s a sad bastardisation of the original book.

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