Study Guide

A Clockwork Orange Language and Communication

By Anthony Burgess

Language and Communication

Part 1, Chapter 2

…so I said in a very refined manner of speech, a real gentleman's goloss:
"Pardon, madam, most sorry to disturb you, but my friend and me were out for a walk, and my friend has taken bad all of a sudden with a very troublesome turn, and he is out there on the road dead out and groaning. Would you have the goodness to let me use your telephone to telephone for an ambulance?"
The devotchka sort of hesitated and then said: "Wait." Then she went off, and my three droogs had got out of the auto quiet and crept up horrorshow stealthy, putting their maskies on now, then I put mine on, then it was only a matter of me putting in the old rooker and undoing the chain, me having softened up this devotchka with my gent's goloss, so that she hadn't shut the door like she should have done, us being strangers of the night. (1.2.13-15)

Alex uses his voice and speech to his advantage in deceiving others. The change in the manner in which he speaks essentially makes him a chameleon.

Part 2, Chapter 2

He just sort of looked right through us poor plennies, saying, in a very beautiful real educated goloss: "The Government cannot be concerned any longer with outmoded penological theories. Cram criminals together and see what happens. You get concentrated criminality, crime in the midst of punishment. Soon we may be needing all our prison space for political offenders." (2.2.17)

Can tone and language lend authority to the speaker? Do you think it is important to speak well? How has Alex learned to speak so well as to fool others?

Part 2, Chapter 5

"Life is a very wonderful thing," said Dr. Branom in a like very holy goloss. "The processes of life, the make-up of the human organism, who can fully understand these miracles…" (2.5.9)

Alex describes Dr. Branom as speaking in a very "holy" tone. What does this mean, exactly? How does this shed light on the content of the speech to come?

Part 2, Chapter 6

"These grahzny sodding veshches that come out of my gulliver and my plott," I said, "that's what it is."
"Quaint," said Dr. Brodsky, like smiling, "the dialect of the tribe. Do you know anything of its provenance, Branom?"
"Odd bits of old rhyming slang," said Dr. Branom, who did not look quite so much like a friend any more. "A bit of gipsy talk, too. But most of the roots are Slav. Propaganda. Subliminal penetration." (2.6.13-15)

AHA! So these are the roots of nadsat, as it were. Can you think of any significance that might be attached to it's being a predominantly Slavic-influenced language? Is Burgess referring to his own process, as an author, with the "subliminal penetration" idea? What role does nadsat play as a literary device in this book?

Part 3, Chapter 5

"Strange, strange, that manner of voice pricks me. We've come into contact before, I'm sure we have." (3.5.21)

Ahh…the subtle workings of language and speech!