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The Need For Nadsat In A Clockwork Orange

2498 words - 10 pages

        A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess, develops a fictional account of a violent futuristic society, while integrating commentary on  current political and social issues.  

         Not only does A Clockwork Orange present Burgess' view on behavior science, but it also contains an invented language mixed in with English. Being well educated and having a background in languages such as Russian, German, and French, Burgess created a language known as Nadsat.  Nadsat is influenced by Russian, German, English, Cockney Slang, and it also contains invented slang. The language has a poetic feel to it and Burgess' writing contains context clues that help the reader determine what the unknown language means.  The history of what led to Burgess' ideas for the novel explains the history of Nadsat because it points out the need for a fictitious language.


         A Clockwork Orange follows a teenager by the name of Alex, who teams up with his hoodlum friends in the night hours to commit a little bit of the old ultra violence.  After one of Alex's droogs challenges his leadership and loses, all of his friends turn on him, and our humble narrator is arrested and sent to prison for murder.  In prison, Alex volunteers for a radical new treatment, which can cure him of his evilness, in exchange for a shortened sentence.  Alex is released back into society, only to have the people he has wronged take their revenge on him.  He finally finds redemption by living a normal life in society.


         There are three events that led Burgess to ideas for the novel that needed a language to separate it from the content.  The biggest influence happened in 1943, when Burgess' pregnant wife, Lynne, was attacked and brutally raped by a group of AWOL American GI's. This attack sent her to the hospital where she suffered a miscarriage (Contemporary), and eventually died (Keckler).  Burgess turned this tragedy into a scene in the novel.  The home of a writer by the name of F. Alexander is invaded by Alex and his thugs.  Alex brutally rapes his wife, who later dies.


         What is interesting is how later in the novel, Alex happens upon Alexander's home again, forgetting exactly why it seems so familiar.  Alexander gets his revenge on the poor Alex, who opens up to the horrors he suffered in prison, unknowingly telling Alexander ways to harm him.  Alexander represents Burgess' desire for vengeance; Burgess is able to take out his anger on Alex, a murdering rapist.


         Burgess does not characterize Alex as just a murderous rapist.  To come to terms with his wife's death, he had to believe that it is inhuman to be totally good or totally evil (Burgess ix).  In the final chapter, Alex undergoes a moral transformation; "he grows bored with violence and recognizes that human energy is better expended on creation than destruction" (vii).  Burgess could not believe that the men who raped his wife were totally evil, so...

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