A Clockwork Orange book cover

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A Clockwork Orange

A Clockwork Orange is a science fiction 1962 novel by Anthony Burgess, and forms the basis for the 1971 film adaptation by Stanley Kubrick. more...

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The novel is widely regarded as a successor to earlier great fiction novels such as Nineteen Eighty-Four, Brave New World, We, and Anthem.

It is one of Burgess's 'terminal novels,' written to provide posthumous income for his wife after Burgess had allegedly been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour.

Burgess wrote that the title came from an old Cockney expression "As queer as a clockwork orange." ¹ Due to his time serving the British Colonial Office in Malaya, Burgess thought that the phrase could be used to punningly refer to a mechanically responsive (clockwork) non-human (orang, Malay for "person"). The Italian title, "Un'Arancia ad Orologeria" was interpreted to refer to a grenade. Burgess wrote in his later introduction, "A Clockwork Orange Resucked," that a creature who can only perform good or evil is "a clockwork orange—meaning that he has the appearance of an organism lovely with colour and juice but is in fact only a clockwork toy to be wound up by God or the Devil."

In his essay "Clockwork Oranges"² he says that "this title would be appropriate for a story about the application of Pavlovian, or mechanical, laws to an organism which, like a fruit, was capable of colour and sweetness." This title alludes to the protagonist's negatively conditioned responses to feelings of evil which prevent the exercise of his free will.

The book was partly inspired by an event in 1944, when Burgess' pregnant wife Lynn was robbed and beaten by four U.S. GI deserters in a London street, suffering a miscarriage and chronic gynaecological problems³. According to Burgess, writing the novel was both a catharsis and an "act of charity" towards his wife's attackers - the story is narrated by and essentially sympathetic to one of the attackers rather than their victim.

Synopsis

Set in the near future, the book centres around the life of the fifteen year old protagonist Alex. Alex and his gang roam the streets at night, committing crimes purely for enjoyment. The crimes described in the book increase in severity, from assault, to robbery, to a fight with rival gang, culminating when the gang breaks into the house of F.D. Alexander and rapes his wife. The gang returns to a bar where Alex hits one of his gang members, Dim, as punishment for Dim's rude behaviour towards a woman who was singing the chorus of Ode to Joy, classical music being Alex's other passion, apart from violence. This sparks off a tense moment between the two gang members.

The next day, after fighting Dim and George to re-establish his control of the gang following the previous night's dispute Alex agrees, on Pete's suggestion, to rob a house in a rich part of town. Alex tries to persuade the woman living in the house to open the door. The woman refuses and calls the police as a precaution. He gains access to the house through a window, but is confronted by the defiant woman, who defends herself with unexpected strength, he manages to knock her out with a bust of Beethoven. As he runs out the front door he is struck by Dim who runs off with the rest of the gang just as the police arrive. At the police station we learn that the woman has died.

Read more at Wikipedia.org


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