A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess – Review


The main reason why I wanted to read A Clockwork Orange is firstly because its dystopian and I love reading dystopian novels and secondly because this book is often studied in schools and banned in them too! Just like Brave New World this book is banned for multiple reasons, mainly for graphic violence and assault (I don’t blame ’em!), although I believe that no book can truly be banned, after all “Censorship is the child of fear and the father of ignorance.” and When you tear out a man’s tongue, you are not proving him a liar, you’re only telling the world that you fear what he might say.”
per the infamous George R.R. Martin. A Clockwork Orange is a cruel novel, but it’s a novel that makes you reflect and examine life and society in this age and what could be in store for the future. 

Some Details

Paperback, 240 pages
Published May 21st 2019 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 1962)
Genres: Science Fiction, Dystopian, Classics, Literature, Horror, Crime, Modern Classics


In Anthony Burgess’s influential nightmare vision of the future, criminals take over after dark. Teen gang leader Alex narrates in fantastically inventive slang that echoes the violent intensity of youth rebelling against society. Dazzling and transgressive, A Clockwork Orange is a frightening fable about good and evil and the meaning of human freedom. This edition includes the controversial last chapter not published in the first edition, and Burgess’s introduction, “A Clockwork Orange Resucked.”

My Thoughts

Out of all the books I’ve read, I think this one is the most violent. It is certain that I will not be watching the movie adaptation for this one even if it is good. A Clockwork Orange from the beginning is very violent and graphic. Although something I found very interesting with this novella is that the teenage characters talk in this gibberish English which is called called Nadsat and is a mix of English and Russian. Therefore, at first glance, the book seems to make no sense, but later on in the chapters, the writing becomes more clear and it is also easier to read the Nadsat language than it is right on the first page. I find it interesting that Burgess would do something like this and I actually did some research while reading the book and found out that the author created this fictional language (he was a linguist too) to mask the gruesome descriptions of what the teens are doing. Through the language, we can understand what is going on, but the language itself has censored us from the details. I thought this was very interesting and impressive. Although there were some sections where I had to consult a SparksNotes page because there was just so much slang that I did not understand.

“It is as inhuman to be totally good as it is to be totally evil.”
― Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange

Noting the ups and downs of Alex’s character in the novella is also interesting. He goes from vicious gang leader to frightened prisoner to a harmless human being after he goes through an associative learning experiment, back to a vicious human and then to a tired and pensive character. I find it fascinating that Alex chose to be good on his own even though he was pushed into the repulsion of violence by the government. Maybe this is a message that humans will always accept the right morals in the end? But what even are the right morals? It could be intolerably bad to be intolerably good.

“Is it better for a man to have chosen evil than to have good imposed upon him?”
― Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange

Lastly, I was hoping for a little bit more of a conclusion. We know a bit of what’s in store for Alex’s character, but what about the rest of society? Will all the other criminals have to do associative learning too? Will Alex let his kids be raised in such a society? I know that the last chapter in this edition was originally not included in the first edition of the book and I’m glad that my edition does have this last chapter because I would be left with even more questions than I have now!

The Wrap Up

Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange is a very insightful read. Many aspects of this novel can be noted in today’s society. Although the language was at times difficult, I feel like I understood the novel quite well. My only preference would be to have the opportunity to study this novel at school, not because I want to read such a gruesome book with my classmates, but because I think this book would be fun to digest and analyse because it has much to offer.

“The important thing is moral choice. Evil has to exist along with good, in order that moral choice may operate. Life is sustained by the grinding opposition of moral entities.”
― Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange

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