Concept Analysis For A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess ...

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1 Fisher Brigham Young University, 2011 Concept Analysis For A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess Norton Paperback Edition (New York 1986). Plot Summary This novel tells the story of Alex, a fifteen year old boy who is growing up in a world of violence. The novel is set in the future, which Burgess portrays as chaotic and depressing for most of its inhabitants. This world has produced teenagers that seem to lack any empathy for the rest of humanity. To increase the apparent gap between the old and the new generations, the teenagers have developed a slang which they use to communicate with one another. Alex tells his story in this slang called Nadsat. The novel follows the exploits of Alex and his gang of thugs as they rob and beat people in the streets. They have no qualms about stealing, fighting with everyone they see, and even raping women and children. On one seemingly average day, Alex accidentally goes too far with his violence and kills a woman. For this, he is sent to prison. Alex is not particularly happy at prison, so he opts to undergo a technique that the prison warden says will “cure” him of his obsession with violence. They inject Alex with a serum that makes him feel extremely ill and then they make him watch violent movies while he is feeling sick. After about a fortnight of this treatment, Alex is no longer able to even think about violence without having a strong, negative physical reaction. He is let out of prison and goes back to his parents, who have taken up a tenant for his room. Alex is subsequently physically attacked by many men whom Alex had attacked before being sent to prison. Unable to act violently in any way, he must sit and take the beatings. After only a few days of being out of prison he is overcome and jumps out of a window in an attempt to escape his misery. He is then hospitalized and undergoes a reverse treatment, since so much negative publicity had been released concerning this new treatment. The story ends with him reverting back to his old ways but considering a future in which he could be married. Organizational Patterns The novel is split into three parts with seven chapters each. Burgess suggests in his introduction that the number twenty-one is significant because it represents our society’s view of maturity. By the end of the novel, Alex is becoming more mature and it suggests that he will

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Fisher

Brigham Young University, 2011

Concept Analysis For A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess Norton Paperback Edition (New York 1986).

Plot Summary

This novel tells the story of Alex, a fifteen year old boy who is growing up in a world of violence. The novel is set in the future, which Burgess portrays as chaotic and depressing for most of its inhabitants. This world has produced teenagers that seem to lack any empathy for the rest of humanity. To increase the apparent gap between the old and the new generations, the teenagers have developed a slang which they use to communicate with one another. Alex tells his story in this slang called Nadsat. The novel follows the exploits of Alex and his gang of thugs as they rob and beat people in the streets. They have no qualms about stealing, fighting with everyone they see, and even raping women and children. On one seemingly average day, Alex accidentally goes too far with his violence and kills a woman. For this, he is sent to prison. Alex is not particularly happy at prison, so he opts to undergo a technique that the prison warden says will “cure” him of his obsession with violence. They inject Alex with a serum that makes him feel extremely ill and then they make him watch violent movies while he is feeling sick. After about a fortnight of this treatment, Alex is no longer able to even think about violence without having a strong, negative physical reaction. He is let out of prison and goes back to his parents, who have taken up a tenant for his room. Alex is subsequently physically attacked by many men whom Alex had attacked before being sent to prison. Unable to act violently in any way, he must sit and take the beatings. After only a few days of being out of prison he is overcome and jumps out of a window in an attempt to escape his misery. He is then hospitalized and undergoes a reverse treatment, since so much negative publicity had been released concerning this new treatment. The story ends with him reverting back to his old ways but considering a future in which he could be married. Organizational Patterns

The novel is split into three parts with seven chapters each. Burgess suggests in his introduction that the number twenty-one is significant because it represents our society’s view of maturity. By the end of the novel, Alex is becoming more mature and it suggests that he will

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become a productive member of society one day. The three parts also correspond to the major events of the novel: the first being when Alex is committing his crimes, the second being when he is in prison, and the third being when he is released from prison and must move on with his life.

The Big Question

The big question that this novel asks is: what does it mean to be human? Because Alex’s ability to choose is taken away, has his humanity been stripped from him as well? Even under strict regimes, humans still have the choice to follow their laws or not—but Alex no longer has that basic human ability. He has become a ‘clockwork orange’, that is to say an organic being that has been perfected to the point where it is like a machine, not a living organism. The other side of the argument, though, is that Alex does do terrible things with his life and humanity in general would probably be better off without him walking the streets at night. Thus the other question this novel asks is: is it more important to give someone the right to choose or to decrease crime permanently? After reading about Alex and his horrible crimes, this question is harder to answer than you would think.

Background Knowledge

This novel would be almost impossible to teach effectively if students are not given pre-reading activities and scaffolding beforehand. The language (Nadsat) can be very hard to understand, so helping students learn techniques to deduce word meaning through context clues is essential. Studying Latin and Russian roots would help the students understand the writing as well.

It would also be very helpful for students to understand the genre of science fiction and why it was written when it was written. In this novel’s case, this future portrays a dysfunctional society that has been ripped apart by Communist Russia’s influence and by the unfortunate effects of technology on mankind. Considering that this novel was first published in 1962, this idea is not surprising, but high school students may not be able to make those connections on their own.

Issues Related to this Study of Literature

Themes: The ability to choose is right, even if that person uses their power of choice to do wrong. When a person’s ability to choose is taken away by man, he/she becomes less human and more of a machine.

Setting: This story takes place in a city as well as a prison. Both of these settings are similar in that they contain a high amount of danger and unhappiness. In fact, the prison seems to be a much safer place to live than the city, which Alex roams with his gang. The settings in this novel would be difficult for students to understand if they have never been to or lived in a

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metropolitan area. Showing some pictures of city streets would give them a better understanding of the setting of the novel.

Point of view: The novel is told through the words of Alex, the protagonist. He sometimes speaks to the reader, often referring to himself as “your humble narrator”. The point of view never changes, which can be a challenge for those who have a hard time understanding what he is saying in Nadsat.

Characterization: The main characters in A Clockwork Orange are:

Alex: Alex is the protagonist that tells us his story. He is extremely violent, yet is very likable because of his sincerity. He loves being in control of his gang and hurting others, which suggest a superiority complex. He attempts to elicit pity on the part of the reader, claiming that he is always the victim of the authorities who simply do not understand his love of violence. Though he does make very bad choices, he does seem to be a victim in many ways. He is constantly misused by adults and is even betrayed by his friends, to the point where the reader becomes his only friend. The following quote shows his personality as he tells his tale:

“This is the real weepy and like tragic part of the story beginning, my brothers and only friends, in Staja (State Jail, that is) Number 84F. You will have little desire to sloshy all the cally and horrible raskazz of the shock that sent my dad beating his bruised and krovvy rookers against unfair like Bog in His Heaven, and my mum…in her mother’s grief at her only child and son of her bosom…Then there was the starry very grim magistrate in the lower court govoreeting some very hard slovos against your Friend and Humble Narrator..” (85).

F. Alexander: Though this character shares a name with the protagonist, he is different from Alex in every way. He is the victim of one of Alex’s crimes, and yet he is still optimistic in his outlook and works hard to protest against the treatment that Alex went through. F. Alexander is different from Alex in that he is extremely kind to others, yet is hypocritical and conniving in his actions. When Alex comes to his door at the end of the novel having been beaten by the police, F. Alexander takes him in and says:

“’Another victim,’ he said, like sighing. ‘A victim of the modern age’”.

Though he does offer Alex help, he does not look at him as a specific individual, but rather a victim in general. He continues to use Alex to promote his cause and eventually puts Alex in a situation that makes him so miserable he attempts suicide. F. Alexander is gentle and kind yet does not understand how to empathize with specific people and uses them to support his arguments.

Dr. Brodsky: This is the main doctor that works on performing the Ludovico’s Technique on Alex. He lacks all empathy for Alex’s plight and does not understand why his technique could be considered as wrong. After the technique has been deemed a success, he brags:

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“’He will be your true Christain…ready to turn the other check, ready to be crucified rather than crucify, sick to the very heart at the thought of even killing a fly…Reclamation,’ he creeched. ‘Joy before the Angels of God’” (143).

His hypocrisy is blatant, yet seemingly unnoticed by the crowd of authorities that praise him. He is the example of an authority that uses medicine for evil with good intentions.

The Prison Chaplain: this character, referred to as ‘the charlie’ by Alex, is the only adult that cares for Alex as a person and does not want him personally to go through the technique. Though he is caring, he is also corrupt and a drunk. Despite these faults, however, he is one of the most morally straight characters in the novel. When he hears of the Ludovico’s technique, he tells Alex:

“’The question is whether such a technique can really make a man good. Goodness comes from within, 6655321. Goodness is something chosen. When a man cannot choose he ceases to be a man’” (93).

He is the voice of reason in the novel, even though he is still a very imperfect being.

List of literary terms used in this novel:

Antihero: Alex is a wonderful example of an antihero in that he is the protagonist that must go through the challenges presented, but he is the opposite of the ‘normal’ hero: he is selfish, violent, and rude. Still, we feel bad for Alex and the tortures he is put through by his dysfunctional society.

Dialogue: Dialogue in this book is very important in that is gives the reader insight into the class and age of the person speaking. Alex and his ‘droogs’ use Nadsat, whereas the adults and sophisticated people in the novel speak normal English. This fact, however, is not explicitly stated, so the reader must use the dialogue as clues to determine the age and class of the person speaking. An early example of the differences that are portrayed through dialogue is on page 8: “’An old man of your age, brother,’ I said, and I started to rip up the book I’d got, and the others did the same…They starry prof type began to creech: ‘But those are not mine, those are the property of the municipality, this is sheer wantonness and vandal work,’ or some such slovos”. By looking at this conversation closely, students can begin to understand that not everyone in this future society speaks like Alex and his friends do. They can also begin discussions on factors that separate Alex from the other people in his world, including age, maturity level, and leisure activities. Foil: The characters of Alex and F. Alexander are foils of each other. Because F. Alexander is so kind and forgiving, it makes Alex seem even more violent and hateful. However, F. Alexander is hypocritical and conniving, whereas Alex is sincere in what he says and does. Because they are opposite of each other in these ways, their personality faults and strengths are highlighted.

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Foreshadowing: The use of foreshadowing in this novel is logical in that Alex is telling the story after it had already happened. Thus, he knows, as he’s telling it, what the implications of his actions are going to be. For example, on page 61 Alex finishes the chapter saying: “And so I led my three droogs out to my doom”. Along with Alex’s remarks such as this, we can see foreshadowing being used by the prison authorities when they discuss beforehand what is going to be done to Alex, like the prison chaplain when he talks about the implications of Ludovico’s Technique on page 93.

There are other instances in the novel in which foreshadowing is present, but less explicit. For example, when Alex starts his procedure, they start injecting him with ‘vitamins’. Alex says: “But the vitamins in the after-meal injection would put me right. No doubt at all about that, I thought” (111). In this case, Alex originally thinks that the vitamins are doing him good, but this sentence is important because he is suggesting (as the narrator) that he was duped into accepting injections that made him ill.

Imagery: Alex does a surprisingly good job of having imagery in his descriptions. When he listens to his music, for example, he portrays it in a way that gives us a picture of what he is hearing. He says:

“Oh, it was gorgeousness and gorgeosity made flesh. The trombones crunched redgold under my bad, and behind my Gulliver the trumpets three-wise silverflamed, and there by the door the timps rolling through my guts and out again crunched like candy thunder…and then, a bird of like rarest spun heavenmetal, or like silvery wine flowing in a spaceship, gravity all nonsense now, came the violin solo above all the other strings, and those strings were like a cage of silk round my bed” (37).

This imagery is so well done that students could use it as an example to describe in words a song that they like to listen to.

Onomatopoeia: Onomatopoeia is used a lot within the Nadsat language. Burgess facilitates comprehension of many new words and expressions because they sound like the things they are attempting to convey. For example, whenever Alex is saying that someone is crying, he something along the lines of: “and my mum squaring her rot for owwwww owwwww owwwww” (85).

Affective Issues Related to the Work

Although Alex participates in very adult situations, he is still very much a teenager. The minds and motives of adults are mysteries to him, yet he tries his best to convince them that he is a good and mature person. Thus, the idea of being respectful to authority in speech is an issue that comes up a lot in this novel.

Also, students may identify with Alex in that he is very different from the older generation in both speech and ideas. Generation gaps can be pretty big among contemporary adolescents, and we could compare and contrast Alex’s society with our own.

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Loneliness is also a very big issue in this novel that is often overlooked. Because Alex is so intelligent and strong, he does not have an equal among his peers. He is also abandoned or betrayed by every adult in the novel—even his parents. Some students may be able to relate to this isolation and empathize with the main character. Looking at how Alex is lonely also gives us hints of his motives.

Vocabulary Issues

As discussed previously, this novel is very challenging as far as vocabulary is concerned. Not only are there a lot of novel words used very frequently, they are Russian based, so they are even more unfamiliar and difficult to understand. Reading this novel slowly together as a class, especially at the beginning, is essential. Because of this difficulty, however, students gain the ability to decipher meaning through context clues as well as widen their knowledge of common words that come from other languages. Using this difficulty as a chance to learn gives the teacher tons of ways to improve students’ vocabulary and reading ability.

Implications for Students of Diversity

Because this novel presents a mixture of cultures and languages being brought together under one roof, it is does not lend itself to being understood better by one type of person more than the other. It is equally difficult for students of all races and cultures to understand what is going on and why. This book, however, presents many challenges to students with disabilities and students who are English language learners. Because of its difficult language, an alternate text may be needed in some situations. Also, it is very violent and it is likely that a teacher could encounter problems with either parents or students who do not feel comfortable reading this novel. If this is the case, another novel can be taught in its place. Other books that can be taught with this one are:

1984 by George Orwell

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Anthem by Ayn Rand

Gender Issues

This book does not overtly discuss gender roles, but they are still very present in the novel. Women are always seen as victims of society’s problems and never the cause of these problems. After studying the 1960’s and society’s views of women and their roles in society, students could analyze the reasons why Burgess treated women in such a way in his novel.

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Research Issues/Project Ideas

At the end of the novel, have students participate in a debate, with one side of the class debating why the treatment is good for society and the other side debating why it is not. They can be asked to use specific examples and quotes from the book to support their arguments.

Have students create a picture book, podcast, movie, or essay answering the question of : what does it mean to be human?

Have students write their own story using Nadsat. They can write a short story based on Alex ten years after the novel ends. They can use this project to predict what will become of this society.

Have students write an essay discussing ways in which this novel is a product of the time in which it was written. Using both outside sources and quotes from the book, students can delve into reasons and implications of science fiction and the Cold War.

Enrichment Resources

After the class has read through part one, they can listen as a class to “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen. Pass out lyrics so that students can read the words as they listen.

http://www.songmeanings.net/songs/view/3187/

As the class reads difficult parts of the text, the applicable movie scenes can be shown from Stanley Kubrick’s version of the film (1971).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nadsat