A Clockwork Orange
by Anthony Burgess
Take a story's temperature by studying its tone. Is it hopeful? Cynical? Snarky? Playful?
Angst-ridden, irreverent, but detached and matter-of-fact
A Clockwork Orange is almost a foreign-language work because it is not written in British, American, or standard English; it features nadsat, a made up language incorporating elements of Cockney and Russian spoken by the "modern youth" in the book. Figuring out what Alex means with each term is a feat in itself, and it takes a few chapters for even the most astute reader to get a firm grip on the language. Now, once you think you've crossed the language barrier, the tone will be easy to gauge. Alex is a matter-of-fact kind of narrator, although he does embellish some of the goings-on for dramatic effect (this shouldn't be surprising because nadsat employs a decent amount of onomatopoeia, or the use of words that sound like what they mean). Much of the tone is irreverent and immature-sounding. We also detect considerable angst, not surprising given the subject matters being described. Interestingly enough, however, the tone Alex uses when describing violence might be described as almost detached. He very matter-of-factly recounts exactly what punches he throws and just how much blood oozes out from his victims' orifices.