Reasons for Banning:
1. blamed for inciting copycat violence
2. Stanley Kubrick decided to ban A Clockwork Orange from being shown in Britain after some youths raped a woman while performing “Singin' in the Rain,” a scene from the movie.
1. Free Will
Explores the ideas of good and evil by asking what it means to be human.
Pits the intrusive powers of the state against the liberties of the individual.
To fully grasp the human condition, Burgess implies in A Clockwork Orange, individuals must both recognize and accept their evil nature and recognize how society attempts to stifle it.
Burgess’s moral universe can be described as a conflict between Augustinianism and Pelagianism. Augustinianism is derived from St. Augustine (354–430), who believed in humankind’s innate depravity. Pelagianism is derived from Pelagius (c. 355–c. 425), whose doctrine held roughly that human beings were perfectible, and that evil was the result of superstition, social forces, the environment, and the like. In Burgess’s novel, the government adhered to Pelagius-like thinking in that it tried to change human beings, to turn them away from their evil behavior through whatever means necessary. In Alex’s case, it is the Ludovico Technique. Alex, who embraces his evil nature as if it were a second skin, chooses to be that way, but shows promise of choosing a different way in the book’s final chapter, demonstrating that Burgess is not the consummate Augustinian that some critics have made him out to be. The tug between Augustinianism and Pelagianism creates the moral tension that sustains Alex’s story, but it is a tension that remains largely unresolved.
5. Dystopia and Dystopian Ideas
A Clockwork Orange describes a dystopian society. The opposite of utopias, or ideal societies, dystopias are severely malfunctioning societies. Dystopian novels such as George Orwell’s 1984 portray bleak landscapes, corrupt social institutions, and characters among whom trust or authentic communication is impossible.
*** Twentieth-century dystopian works include Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, and Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.
Nadsat, which means “teen” in Russian, is the language spoken in A Clockwork Orange. It is a mixture of Russian, English, and American slang, and rhyming words and phrases, with a touch of Shakespearean English. The singsong rhythm of the speech underscores the heavily stylized world of the novel and of Alex’s own mind.
In 1961, the year after Burgess had written his first draft of A Clockwork Orange, he and his wife took a trip to Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) in what was then the Soviet Union. During that trip, Burgess was appalled and intrigued by the roaming gangs of hoodlums he saw, called stilyaqi. Burgess noted how the police, preoccupied with ideological crimes against the state, had a difficult time controlling these unruly youths. He also noted the similarities of the Russian and British youth subcultures and was inspired to fashion a hooligan character who was a composite of the ways in which youth spoke, acted, and dressed in Russia and England.
Hence, Alex and his droogs—“droog” derived from the Russian word “drugi,” which means “friends in violence.” The stilyaqi, or style-boys, sprung up in Russia during the 1940s and were roughly contemporaneous with American beats. The stilyaqi listened to jazz and later to American rock and roll. The Soviet government considered them troublesome juveniles.
The London youth subculture included groups known as teddyboys, mods, and rockers. Teddyboys emerged in the 1950s, as England was economically recovering from World War II and at the beginning of a consumer boom. Like many youth subcultures, they dressed to shock the status quo, wearing Edwardian-style drape jackets, suede Gibson shoes with thick crepe soles, narrow trousers, and loud ties. Like the greasers in movies such as American Graffitti, the teddyboys listened to rock and roll, fought rival gangs (often with razors and knives), and engaged in random vandalism. With the British pop-music boom of the 1960s, many teddyboys became rockers, wearing leather jackets, hanging out in working-class pubs, and riding motorcycles.
The mods, short for modernists, also emerged during the late 1950s in England. A more elitist group than the teddyboys, they wore their hair short; rode scooters; donned army anoraks; danced to groups such as the Creation, the Jam, and the Small Faces; and took amphetamines. The mods were sometimes referred to as “rude boys,” and evolved into the “punks” and “skinheads” of the 1970s and later. For Burgess, however, being a mod, a stilyaqi, or a teddyboy, did not mean one practiced individual freedom. The trendy consumerism in which these group members engaged signaled a mindlessly slavish conformity.
Burgess also hated the control the state had over the individual, believing this control curtailed individual freedom. This state control was nowhere more evident than in the Soviet Union in the early 1960s, where Burgess saw firsthand the extent to which the communist government regulated the individual’s life. Burgess especially detested the way in which communism shifted moral responsibility from the individual to the state. Though Britain was and is a democratic government, by the 1950s the Labour Party had nationalized many industries including coal (1946), electricity (1947), and the railways (1948). Also, in 1946, the National Health Service was founded to take care of British citizens’ medical needs. This welfare state was odious to Burgess, who believed that it put the needs of society over the freedom of the individual.
“Historical Context.” Novels for Students. Ed. Marie Rose Napierkowski. Vol. 4. Detroit: Gale, 1998. 9-10.
“Style.” Novels for Students. Ed. Marie Rose Napierkowski. Vol. 4. Detroit: Gale, 1998. 8.
“Themes.” Novels for Students. Ed. Marie Rose Napierkowski. Vol. 4. Detroit: Gale, 1998. 6-8.