Skip to main content
PBS logo
Want fewer ads?

Book Review of A Clockwork Orange

A Clockwork Orange
Shannatram avatar reviewed on + 33 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2

This book was very hard to get through, and not just because of the language. Like many good art pieces, A Clockwork Orange makes you feel uneasy, throwing the taboo in your face.

The main character and narrator, Alex, not only commits heinous crimes, but delights in them, and describes his delights in great detail to the reader. It's not often rape and violence is put in a positive light (at least not in books I read). You start off (rightfully) thinking of Alex as a monster, despite his likable personality.

To make things more uncomfortable for the reader, during and after Alex's "reform" you start to feel sympathy for him. Once you're lulled into believing that he's a victim, Burgess shoves reminders in your face of just how wicked Alex is. A lot of questions and thoughts come up that you never thought you'd have to ask. Did he deserve to lose his free will? Or did he lose that right by making his evil choices? Does bad behavior warrant such extreme, inhumane treatment?

Burgess gives us the questions but doesn't answer them for us. The answers are left ambiguous, for us to challenge our own thoughts and views and come up with our own answers. It is a hard reminder that not everything is black and white.

A lot of people felt the strange language and made-up slang detracted from the story, but I think it made the story what it is. It emphasizes this future scenario, acknowledging that language is ever changing. You are an outsider, looking in on a completely different (yet slightly familiar) society. I think it also helps distance the reader from what's going on. Not having a complete and comprehensive grasp of what the narrator is saying makes the pill of violence a little easier to swallow.

This was a very good book, and one that everyone should read at least once in their life.

Want fewer ads?