A Clockwork Orange - Novel by Anthony Burgess

Published: 2021-09-13 14:30:10
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'A Clockwork Orange' was originally a novel by Anthony Burgess, published in 1962. The novel follows main character Alex De Large as he roams around with his gang comitting violent brutal beatings and rapes; "so we had her down on the floor and a rip of her platties for fun and a gentle bit of the boot to stop her moaning" (Burgess, 1962, p.5). The unusual protagonist is punished for his crimes by way of The Ludovico treatment, meaning he is subjected to a type of drug-assisted aversion therapy. The novel was adapted and made into a film in 1971, with Stanley Kubrick as the director. There is a great deal of difference between the novel and the film however, as 'Kubrick's vision is a good deal blacker than Burgess's' (De Vries, 1973, p.57).

The society in A Clockwork Orange is set in a time in the future where the country is oversaturated with carelessness, vice and crime. To see the reasoning behind this, we need to look at Britain at time of production. In The Observer, it was claimed that whereas the 1960's was 'the affluent society', the 1970's was 'the violent society'. Indeed there was a startling increase in criminality in comparison: 966,000 offences in 1962, compared to 2,000,000 offences in 1975 (oxfordjournals.org). There were also massive changes in the law in the late 1960's, including the decriminalisation of sexual acts between two males, legalisation of abortion, and the abolition of capital punishment. So Kubrick imagines a Britain that is pushed to a breaking point because of these changes, and so in a way to control those in society, becomes totalitarian. Society was in such disarray at the time that one journalist referred to A Clockwork Orange as 'a sick film for a sick society'. (Peregrine Worsthorne, cited in Robertson, 1993, p.149). A Clockwork Orange is said to be a film of its time, a product of 'the permissive society', an all-inclusive phrase which referred to the state of the society at the time.

As the film is directed by an American, it could initially be subjected to scrutiny as to whether as a film it does have an identifiable British national identity. Kubrick, however, had lived in England since the early 60's and a majority of the crew was British. If playing devil's advocate, it could be suggested that being an American gave Kubrick a unique outside viewpoint on the country and society he wanted to present. The film certainly related to very British problems at the time, such as crime and punishment, drugs, and shunning of authority. The generation at the time that brought in the relaxed attitudes to drugs and sex may have found more to identify with in the film. At the same time, some audiences may not have identified with the Britain projected in the film, as it would have meant taking a look at the darker side of their current society. Kubrick definitely incorporates the British habit of being very critical and satirical when it comes to class and authority in the film, as I will look into later.

Alex is the ringleader and instigator of horrific violence in the film, although the portrayal of Alex is not a conventional depiction of a villain, especially a villain who rapes and exacts unprovoked violence on people. Some critics have described Alex and the supporting cast in the film of being cartoon-like. Indeed the portrayal of the characters in general is possibly the most problematic aspect in many critics views. The characters in one view are described as

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