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Analysis of A Clockwork Orange

Analysis and Interpretation of A Clockwork Orange

A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess, is one of the most experimental, original, and controversial novels of the twentieth century. It is both a compelling work of literature and an in-depth study in linguistics. The novel is a satirical, frightening science fiction piece, not unlike others of this century such as George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four or Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. However, the conflicts and resolutions in A Clockwork Orange are more philosophical than social, and its message is far more urgent.

A Clockwork Orange is made up of three parts containing 21 chapters, 21 being the official age of human maturity. It is a stream-of-consciousness novel about, most fundamentally, the freedom of people to choose. It asks readers if personal freedom is a justifiable sacrifice for comfort and social stability. This theme umbrellas many others, including the struggle between the governors and the governed and the age-old struggle between good and evil. A Clockwork Orange also incorporates the themes of youth versus old age and illusion versus reality.

Burgess, both a writer and an established linguist, uses A Clockwork Orange as a vessel for some very mature exploration of languages and literary play-things. Burgess fuses together many different languages in A Clockwork Orange to create Nadsat, the language of the youth. Nadsat is made up mainly of Russian, child speak, and invented and British slang, but it also utilizes Malay, German, French, Arabic, and Gypsy. The word Nadsat comes from the Russian word nadsat, a suffix for the numbers 11 through 19–the teenage numbers (Lund). The title A Clockwork Orange is derived from several sources. …

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…uturistic tale of violence and reformation. Our subconscious mind wants to give Alex the freedom to kill and rape, while our conscious mind understands society’s need for well-behaved citizens. A Clockwork Orange speaks to the philosopher, the theologist, and the psychologist in all of us, and its message becomes more relevant with each new year.

Works Cited

Bash, Kris. “Critical Discussions.” Accessed last on May 8, 1997.

Burgess, Anthony. 1985. London: Hutchinson

Voice, Words and Sound in Heart of Darkness

Voice, Words and Sound in Heart of Darkness

To Marlow, voice is the supreme symbol of civilization, and civilized understanding is expressed through words. The absence of words, or the inability to express something in words, signals meaninglessness. The psychedelic experience brings one into direct confrontation with the breakdown of language (the ‘transcendence of verbal concepts’ cited in the introduction), its inability to express the hidden truth of existence. Marlow becomes aware of this—primarily through his direct experience with Kurtz—yet he does not fully allow himself to believe in the failure of language. After all, language is still the most effective tool he has for communication.

Sound is a signifier of meaning to Marlow. If sound is comprehensible, i.e. English or the sound of the sea, then it belongs to civilization and intelligence. If it is incomprehensible, not English, or the silencing of sound, then it belongs to savagery and ignorance. Thus, understanding is represented in sound as well as in thought or action. For example:

‘With one hand I felt above my head for the line of the steam whistle, and jerked out screech after screech hurriedly. The tumult of angry and warlike yells was checked instantly, and then from the depths of the woods went out such a tremulous and prolonged wail of mournful fear and utter despair as may be imagined to follow the flight of the last hope from the earth. There was a great commotion in the bush; the shower of arrows stopped, a few dropping shots rang out sharply—then silence, in which the languid beat of the stern-wheel came plainly to my ears’ (Conrad, 82).

The whistle is the signifier of civilization, of all that is incomprehensible to the primi…

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…For the story is full of silence, full of the memory of the savage. Does his telling allow him to let go of the savage, erase the memories of the palpable force of the wilderness?

Works Cited

Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. Editor Robert Kimbrough. New York: Norton, 1988.

Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. Editor Paul O’Prey. Middlesex: Penquin Books Ltd., 1983.

Cox, C. B. Conrad: Heart of Darkness, Nostromo, and Under Western Eyes. London: Macmillan Education Ltd., 1987.

Guetti, James. ‘Heart of Darkness and the Failure of the Imagination’, Sewanee Review LXXIII, No. 3 (Summer 1965), pp. 488-502. Ed. C. B. Cox.

Ruthven, K. K. ‘The Savage God: Conrad and Lawrence,’ Critical Quarterly, x, nos 1

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