A Clockwork Orange is evocative, risqué, and dark… quite appealing to many teens. It jives with cells of rebellion that multiply exponentially between the ages of 14 and 18, making it a high interest book that is sure to draw the attention of your class. Students can view Burgess's work through social and literary lenses to evaluate the text's reflection of humanity while also analyzing it for the elements studied in English Language Arts. This text is kind of like a Goji berry. It's the superfood of dystopian novels.
Burgess paints a horrific picture of the not-so-distant future and he calls into question political, medical, and social practices. He forces the readers to get caught up in a love/hate relationship with Alex, his anti-heroic protagonist. Students can compare the narrator-reader relationship with the way the public falls in love with violent main characters in movies and TV. Tony Soprano, Jax, and Klaus are just a few horrible characters that are also lovable in their own screwed up ways. Let the students grapple with the human inclination toward voyeurism. What made us a species of rubber-necking gawkers who can't get enough blood on TV, but won't leave the house without hand sanitizer and our iPhones?
This novel will also challenge the students' outlook on age, class, and their relationship to moral and ethical codes. Do any of them feel discriminated against as kids? Do they feel as if art, created mostly by adults, misrepresents the pubescent? Take this opportunity to let them have their say. Adults are constantly bemoaning "kids these days," but what do they think about their own generation?
It's not often we read in school about a guy raping two ten-year-olds. And to top it off, that guy is our protagonist. So why does Burgess include all this violence? Is it all necessary for the text, or is it just there to shock and awe? Similar questions/criticisms have been raised about Quentin Tarantino movies, yet they remain wildly popular. Maybe a writer needs to include some smut to get the reader's attention. Then he can slip the themes in… sort of like a parent slipping vegetables into a reluctant child's dinner.
See what your students think about this issue, and connect it to some of the violent media they consume. Are violent movies and video games necessary? Can we be entertained without them? Does playing violent games have any impact on the players? There are lots of opportunities here for great discussion and even bringing in outside sources on the issue—and it's an issue that's sure to resonate with many of your video game-junkie students.