In one respect, A Clockwork Orange is of its time. Written in 1961 when the 'teenager' as an entity had just come about, (complete with its own language, dress code, music and culture) the novel deals with this 'problem', finds a solution and then considers the consequences.
The protagonist is an unlikable teenage thug who leads a gang into acts of extreme violence. There are no excuses for his behaviour, such as having a dysfunctional or poor family life, he simply enjoys what he does. What this means is that I have no sympathy for him. He also is quite original in that he likes classical music and has invented a language that he and his friends use, which is a mixture of slang and words taken from Eastern European countries.
This invented language leads to two things. One is that I struggled to follow the story for a while as the flow was interrupted by having to refer to the glossary far too often, so that in the end I just ploughed through without fully understanding what the word meant. Does he have a pain in the stomach or the head? Never mind, move on. Very frustrating. However, this also serves to diminish the impact of the violence, which is very disturbing. Flicking to the glossary to find out what has covered the floor certainly disrupts the graphic imagery.
The next two parts of the book demonstrate an evergreen theme: freewill. Should delinquent members of society be forced to conform to the accepted standards by brainwashing or other such programmes, or be allowed to suffer the consequences of their choices organically. There are other themes covering good versus evil, man versus machine, man versus government, youth versus maturity, and intellect versus intuition. All relevant today.
The story is told from the perspective of the protagonist in a lighthearted, frivolous and arrogant manner, suitable for someone capable of such unfeeling brutality against others. The style does not connect with the depravity or touch the dark acts in the way many other novels do, so I always felt disconnected from the story. Perhaps that is the point. Towards the end it also feels as if the author has lost his way a bit, too.
A Clockwork Orange certainly has an originality, but as it took me three weeks to read a relatively short book, it suggests I wasn't drawn to the story as much as I expected.
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