A Clockwork Orange is one of those titles that I’ve heard mentioned many times before, but I never read or watched the movie. For those of you who don’t already know, I’m an English teacher as my full-time job. Earlier this school year, a few students came to me saying they wanted to start a book club and asked me to be their advisor. Despite an already very full plate at work, I really wanted to be part of this club so I agreed and got my friend/co-worker to co-advise the club with me.
While perusing through our book closet for a book that no English teacher was using for their class we came across A Clockwork Orange. We hadn’t read it yet, but both knew it was also a movie. I had heard it was “trippy” but I knew nothing else about the book. One of the students had seen the movie, and that’s about it. I even said “oh maybe after we read the book we can watch the movie” to which that one student immediately said “no, we cannot watch the movie!”. Apparently, the movie is not school appropriate and that’s saying something coming from a teenager since usually they find nothing inappropriate to watch at school.
Having read the book now, I can see how it would be inappropriate because a majority of the book is filled with violence and rape. The novel by Anthony Burgess takes place in a dystopian future (this was published in 1962 and doesn’t say when this “future” takes place) where extreme youth violence takes place.
The main character, Alex, is very violent and seems to take pleasure in inflicting pain on people. He does such extreme things that I often forgot that he’s only a teenager! He acts as a leader among his little group and even his parents are intimidated by him. As he narrates he has his own language and made-up words for things, which made the start of the novel quite difficult to get through. To give you an idea, here is an actual part of the first page of the novel:
“They had no license for selling liquor, but there was no law yet against prodding some of the new veshches which they used to put into the old moloko, so you could peet it with vellocet or synthemesc or drencrom or one or two other vesches which would give you a nice quiet horror show fifteen minutes admiring Bog And All His Holy Angles And Saints in your left shoe with lights bursting all over your mozg.”
This was on the first page! I read it and immediately wondered how I was going to get through this book. But, I kept at it because I’m not a quitter! But really, because I’m the advisor of the book club and I can’t give up on the book that my students are reading. Anyway, at first I kept thinking that it must get easier as the novel goes on and these made-up words would go away, but they never completely go away. What I did find though was that after a while, you get used to the language and you even begin to know what the words mean through context clues. Getting used to the language in the first few chapters is the hard part, then once you’re used to it it gets much easier!
Overall, I found the novel really interesting. It’s one of those weird novels or stories where you know the character is not necessarily a “good” guy, but you can’t help but root for him at the end. I mean, at the beginning Alex is really not a good person, but still towards the end things happen to him where you start to feel sorry for him and want him to have a happy ending.
Is it a book that you must read? No. But, I also don’t regret reading it. I wasn’t let down by it at all — I just don’t feel like it’s something life changing or a book you’ll never be able to put down. I am glad I read it because it is so iconic in pop culture and now I can say I’ve read it!