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Term Paper, 2002
18 Pages, Grade: 2,0
1. Violence in A Clockwork Orange – An often discussed theme of novel and film
2. Novel Summary
3. The presentation and the impact of violence in A Clockwork Orange
3.1 Two kinds of violence
3.2 Violence and free will in A Clockwork Orange
3.3 The presentation of violence in the novel – 'Nadsat' as a method of distancing
3.4 Novel into film – differences in content
3.5 The presentation of violence in the film – 'Stylisation' instead of 'Nadsat'
5. Works cited
Oh my brothers,
I hereby confirm that this paper was written by myself and that all direct and indirect quotations from other sources have been documented appropriately.
After the release of Stanley Kubrick's film version of A Clockwork Orange in 1971, Anthony Burgess's original novel of 1962 and the film were obstinately criticised to be senselessly brutal and it was (and is) said (until today) that both Burgess and Kubrick glorified violence with their works. Although in A Clockwork Orange, a lot of different themes are dealt with – for example politics, music, art or themes of philosophical nature – the violence in the book and on screen are the most concerned about things when critics write about A Clockwork Orange. But not only critics, also 'normal' readers (or viewers) regard the violence to be the most remarkable thing about the whole book (or movie). One simply has to look at the web-site of the internet-bookstore 'Amazon' (www.amazon.de) to see that the main part of the readers' reviews for the book by Anthony Burgess comment on the violence and the brutal crimes committed by the story's protagonists: Alex DeLarge and his 'droogs'. It is interesting that most of the readers that commented on the book also gave a statement about Kubrick's film adaptation. It looks like the whole discussion about violence in A Clockwork Orange really first came up when Stanley Kubrick's movie version hit the theatres.
But why this violence? Does it stand for itself? Are rape and murder obeyed fetishes of Burgess and Kubrick? Or is there something more in the story, that makes it indispensable to present violence in the extreme way Burgess and Kubrick did? This text will explain the function and the intention of presenting violence in A Clockwork Orange. It will show the differences between the way of presenting violence in the original novel and the film version and why author and director decided to portray the protagonists' brutality in unlike ways, including the impact they have on the reader and the viewer. This text will conclude that in the novel and the film version, violence in A Clockwork Orange serves to discuss other and more important themes included in the story.
A Clockwork Orange tells the story of Alex DeLarge, and his gang of 'droogs' (Pete, Georgie, Dim) in a society set in the near future. The teenagers take drugs, encounter another gang in a bloody fight and beat up a weaker, helpless person. Later on in the story, the gang assaults an old man, the writer F. Alexander, and rapes his wife. After that, they kill a female health farm owner (who, in this text, will be later referred to as the 'Cat Lady'). As the police arrive after this crime, the other gang-members manage to escape while Alex gets arrested and is sent to prison for murder.
After two years in prison, Alex encounters the Minister of the Interior and is forced to volunteer for an experiment of an aversion treatment, the 'Ludovico Technique', which should heal him from violent behaviour. After this conditioning therapy, Alex is released from prison, incapable of committing violence or having sex without suffering an agonizing nausea. He meets a former 'droog' (Dim), who is now a policeman and beats him up severely. F. Alexander invites Alex (who does not recognise his host) into his house and tries a revenge on the injured teenager. At the same time he plans to damage the reputation of the government's therapies: F. Alexander forces Alex into an suicide attempt. In the end, the Minister of the Interior believes that F. Alexander's plan did not work and that the 'Ludovico Technique' is a success. But Alex has resumed his violent and sexual fantasies. In the novel's last chapter, that is not taken into consideration by the film, Alex "matures and grows out of his violent adolescent ways" (O'Keefe 1999: 32).
When talking about violence in A Clockwork Orange, it is useful to give a definition of what the word 'violence' at all means exactly. If one follows Nemecek, violence is "(…) unprovoked, and either perpetrated against persons with whom the offender has no or a minimal social relationship, or perpetrated against a person whom one knows, but performed egregiously out of proportion to any immediate circumstances." (1985: 168). It is crucial to examine which persons in the story commit violence in which circumstances and whether the brutality of Alex DeLarge and his 'droogs' is the only violence that book and film show.
As Elsaesser points out, A Clockwork Orange contains "two kinds of violence" (1976: 194). One can see the "individual, anarchic physical violence of the hooligan, and the story-book nightmare violence of mad scientists and totalitarian politics" (199). That means: on the one hand, there is violence committed by Alex (and his gang), and on the other hand, there is violence that is done to Alex. In the following, the most crucial violent acts in A Clockwork Orange will be briefly presented.
The first important appearance of violence in the novel is Alex and his 'droogs' beating up an old, drunk man in an alley (Burgess 1992: 24-27). When comparing novel and film version, this scene will be referred to as the 'drunk-scene'.
The next form of bloodshed the argument will be led onto is the gang-fight between Alex's gang and Billyboy's gang around the Municipal Power Plant (27-30). In the following, this scene will be called 'Billyboy-scene'.
A furthermore crucial situation is the 'raping-scene'. Here, Alex and his 'droogs' disguise themselves, intrude into the cottage of the writer F. Alexander, beat him up and rape his wife (34-40).
Another appearance of an action one could also call a rape is when Alex meets two very young girls in a record-store, provides them with alcohol and drugs and finally has sex with the girls without them knowing what is going on (65-71) ('two-girls-scene').
The last form of violence before Alex is sentenced to prison will be mentioned as the 'Cat-Lady-scene'. In this scene, Alex and his gang assault the Cat-Lady. After a fight, Alex kills the Cat-Lady with a silver statue (83-96).
The political violence, caused by the government in A Clockwork Orange, is the use of the 'Ludovico Technique' (137-161). This therapy is "no less than a form of brainwashing in which Alex is pumped full of drugs and forced to watch a succession of pornographic and violent images, to the accompaniment of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, which he can no longer listen to without suffering nausea." (Chapman 1999: 129). This appearance of state cruelty is finished by the government's official presentation of Alex's 'cure', where he has to go through humiliations and sexual temptation and gets sick, caused by his therapy (162-170).
A different event of violence that is done to Alex is the 'police-scene', where his ex-'droog' Dim and his ex-rival Billyboy, both now policemen, help him out of an attack by old men in a library, but then they recognise him and beat him up themselves (190-194).
The last remarkable violent appearance will be referred to as the 'suicide-scene'. Alex's host, F. Alexander, recognises the young man, and for purposes of personal revenge and political propaganda, he forces Alex into a suicide attempt by playing the music of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony (212-214).
The reason for the use of extreme violence and its different kinds is that especially the most intense situations are supposed to intellectually lead onto a higher levelled theme: the discussion of free will. A Clockwork Orange "ties the images of violence to a moral problematic of freedom" (Nemecek 1995: 169). This theme will be argued in the next chapter.
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