Study Guide

A Clockwork Orange Violence

By Anthony Burgess

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Part 1, Chapter 1

…and that made the old veck start moaning a lot then, then out comes the blood, my brothers, real beautiful. So all we did then was to pull his outer platties off, stripping him down to his vest and long underpants (very starry; Dim smecked his head off near), and then Pete kicks him lovely in his pot. (1.1.22)

Again, Alex's descriptions of pain and blood have a particularly aesthetic quality. His light adjectives also show just how much he delights in violence.

Part 1, Chapter 2

We fillied round what was called the backtown for a bit, scaring old vecks and cheenas that were crossing the roads and zigzagging after cats and that. Then we took the road west. There wasn't much traffic about, so I kept pushing the old noga through the floorboards near, and the Durango 95 ate up the road like spaghetti. Soon it was winter trees and dark, my brothers, with a country dark, and at one place I ran over something big with a snarling toothy rot in the head-lamps, then it screamed and squelched under and old Dim at the back near laughed his gulliver off--"Ho ho ho"--at that. Then we saw one young malchick with his sharp, lubbilubbing under a tree, so we stopped and cheered at them, then we bashed into them both with a couple of half-hearted tolchocks, making them cry, and on we went. What we were after now was the old surprise visit. That was a real kick and good for smecks and lashings of the ultra-violent. (1.2.12)

Is Alex bored, delinquent, or just purely evil? What has caused him to take such delight in violence? This passage makes us wonder whether he sees it as an art form.

And, my brothers, it was real satisfaction to me to waltz--left two three, right two three--and carve left cheeky and right cheeky, so that like two curtains of blood seemed to pour out at the same time, one on either side of his fat filthy oily snout in the winter starlight. Down this blood poured in like red curtains (1.2.8)

Why do you suppose Burgess seeks to emphasize the aesthetic qualities of violence so much in this book? This passage contains a solid hint.

Part 1, Chapter 4

But, brothers, this biting of their toe-nails over what is the cause of badness is what turns me into a fine laughing malchick. They don't go into the cause of goodness, so why the other shop? If lewdies are good that's because they like it, and I wouldn't ever interfere with their pleasures, and so of the other shop. And I was patronizing the other shop. More, badness is of the self, the one, the you or me on our oddy knockies, and that self is made by old Bog or God and is his great pride and radosty. But the not-self cannot have the bad, meaning they of the government and the judges and the schools cannot allow the bad because they cannot allow the self. And is not our modern history, my brothers, the story of brave malenky selves fighting these big machines? I am serious with you, brothers, over this. But what I do I do because I like to do. (1.4.21)

Here, Alex is explaining how he commits violence for violence's sake! (It's tough to read this without feeling pretty disturbed.)

Next time it's going to be the barry place and all my work ruined. If you have no consideration for your horrible self you at least might have some for me, who have sweated over you. A big black mark, I tell you in confidence, for every one we don't reclaim, a confession of failure for every one of you that ends up in the stripy hole."
"I've been doing nothing I shouldn't, sir," I said. "The millicents have nothing on me, brother, sir I mean."
"Cut out this clever talk about millicents," said P.R. Deltoid very weary, but still rocking. "Just because the police have not picked you up lately doesn't, as you very well know, mean you've not been up to some nastiness. (1.4.14-16)

Alex sees a criminal as someone who gets caught doing something bad. This is to be juxtaposed with P.R. Deltoid's view that anyone who commits bad deeds is a criminal.

I felt the old tigers leap in me and then I leapt on these two young ptitsas. This time they thought nothing fun and stopped creeching with high mirth, and had to submit to the strange and weird desires of Alexander the Large which, what with the Ninth and the hypo jab, were choodessny and zammechat and very demanding, O my brothers. But they were both very very drunken and could hardly feel very much.

When the last movement had gone round for the second time with all the banging and creeching about Joy Joy Joy Joy, then these two young ptitsas were not acting the big lady sophisto no more. They were like waking up to what was being done to their malenky persons and saying that they wanted to go home and like I was a wild beast. They looked like they had been in some big bitva, as indeed they had, and were all bruised and pouty. (1.4.34-35)

It appears that Alex's enjoyment of violence is heightened by great "violent" music. He comes close to almost having a religious experience here with the rape of the 10-year-olds, all while Beethoven's 9th Symphony is playing. That, in and of itself, is very disturbing. Why is music so significant to Alex?

My endeavour shall be, in such future as stretches out its snowy and lilywhite arms to me before the nozh overtakes or the blood spatters its final chorus in twisted metal and smashed glass on the highroad, to not get loveted again. Which is fair speeching. (1.4.21)

Notice that Alex's speech, when he talks of violence and gore and blood, is particularly flowery and aesthetic. It would seem obvious that he takes much aesthetic delight in violence.

Part 2, Chapter 1

I would read of these starry yahoodies tolchocking each other and then peeting their Hebrew vino and getting on to the bed with their wives' like hand-maidens, real horrorshow. That kept me going, brothers. I didn't so much kopat the later part of the book, which is more like all preachy govoreeting than fighting and the old in-out. (2.1.9)

Alex delights in the sex and violence depicted in the Old Testament. Sex and violence is ubiquitous there!

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)

Forget the criminals, we need the space for political dissidents! These are the true colors of the Government. Aside from not caring about individual criminals, the Government seeks to free up space for the forces of subversion it seems to have imprisoned. What better way to quell discontent than to jail all the dissidents?

So they all stood around while I cracked at this prestoopnick in the near dark. I fisted him all over, dancing about with my boots on though unlaced, and then I tripped him and he went crash crash on to the floor. I gave him one real horrorshow kick on the gulliver and he went ohhhh, then he sort of snorted off to like sleep… (2.2.10)

There is something counter-intuitive about beating a guy up in jail and later killing him. Perhaps this is just what criminals do, but something tells us that only hardened, unreformable, and unrepentant criminals (like the ones the Governor and the Minister of the Interior speak about) do this.

"Common criminals like this unsavoury crowd"--(that meant me, brothers, as well as the others, who were real prestoopnicks and treacherous with it)--"can best be dealt with on a purely curative basis. Kill the criminal reflex, that's all. Full implementation in a year's time. Punishment means nothing to them, you can see that. They enjoy their so-called punishment. They start murdering each other." (2.2.17)

The Government says that hardened criminals don't care about being jailed or punished. Hardened criminals need to be "cured" of their criminal instinct. In case you can't tell, this is Government propaganda to further its own agenda of freeing space in the prisons for all the political dissidents.

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