Anthony Burgess

A Clockwork Orange

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A Clockwork Orange Summary

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A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess is a novel told in three sections. The first section opens with Alex, the protagonist, and what he calls his “droogs”: Dim, Pete, and Georgie. This teen gang drinks milk that’s laced with drugs, and then savagely assaults an elderly man, subsequently destroying the library books he carries with him. After that, they move on to a warehouse where they find a rival gang, led by Billyboy, raping a young girl, or devotchka. Alex’s gang repels them until the police, or millicents show up.

Alex and his gang leave the warehouse and find a house with “Home” written on the gate. Alex and his gang, their faces hidden by masks, break into the house and assault the woman’s husband. They rob them and gang rape the woman. One of the items they find in the house is an unfinished novel by the man, whose name is F. Alexander. His manuscript is titled A Clockwork Orange, a title Alex thinks little of. The book is a critique on the government, for both its suppression of civil liberties and its creation of a welfare state. Alex’s gang destroys the book. In Burgess’s real life, his wife was brutally raped by a group of American soldiers; echoes of that event spill into this scene.

Alex and his gang argue and he goes home to his parents’ house, where he falls asleep in the midst of pleasuring himself. The next day, P.R. Deltoid, his Post-Corrective Advisor, pays him a visit. He warns Alex that he’ll be in a lot of trouble if he keeps up his current behaviors. He says the police will catch him. After that, Alex goes to the music store where he meets a pair of ten-year-old girls. He lures them back to his flat where he gets them drunk and then rapes them.

Later on at the Milkbar, the gang convince Alex that they need to rob another house—a larger one, this time. They find such a house, and inside find an elderly woman. She tries to fight Alex, but he hits her with a statue and knocks her out. When the droogs hear police sirens, Dim knocks Alex out with a chain; they abandon Alex. He’s arrested. While in jail, P.R. Deltoid pays him another visit and spits in his face. Alex learns that the elderly woman died. He thinks that he’s done everything now, and reflects on the fact he’s done all so much evil by the young age of fifteen.

The second section of the book follow Alex’s life in the state penitentiary, which he refers to as the staja. Though he kills another prisoner for sexually propositioning him, Alex is otherwise considered to be a model prisoner. He’s offered the opportunity to undergo Ludovico’s technique. If he does, he will be released from prison and never have to return, so Alex agrees. The treatment, pioneered by B.F. Skinner, is experimental. The treatment makes Alex physically ill whenever he sees violence. By conditioning his behaviors, Alex is robbed of his free will and deemed fit to be released from prison.

In the third section of the novel, Alex is victimized. He is pushed out of his home by a boarder, beaten by a group of elderly men, and kidnapped by Billyboy and Dim, who are now police officers. They bring him to the countryside where they assault him and leave him to die—but Alex survives. He finds the house with “Home” written on the gate, and is taken in by F. Alexander, who wants Alex to help him overthrow the government. Once F. Alexander realizes who Alex is, he and his friends lock Alex up. They subject him to an endless loop of classical music, which was part of his conditioning with Ludovico’s technique. Alex goes insane and becomes suicidal.

He tries to jump to his death from a window, but survives and ends up in the hospital. The fall reverses Ludovico’s treatment, and Alex once more feels a love for violence. While in the hospital, he’s visited by the Minister of the Interior who informs him that F. Alexander and his friends were arrested and imprisoned. He also offers Alex a lucrative job, as long as he supports the government. At the end of the story, Alex ends up at the Milkbar again with a new group of droogs. At the age of eighteen, he considers himself old.So while his gang is violent, he limits himself to giving orders and watching the droogs carry them out. When he encounters his old gang mate, Pete, he starts to long for a family. Pete is married and has a job with an insurance company. Alex determines that youth is animalistic, but that it also passes.

Burgess wrote his novel in 1962. In 1971, it was adapted into a feature film directed by Stanley Kubrick. The story found its way onto the stage in 1987. “Clockwork Orange” has also been used to name a political plot in the 1970s, a subway in Glasgow, and the Dutch national football team in the early 1970s. Matt Groening satirized the novel in an episode of his television series, The Simpsons.