Very few modern or even classical novels present a psychological tale like that presented in Anthony Burgess's magnum opus and controversial novel, A Clockwork Orange. The novel follows the protagonist and narrator, Alex, who is not a given a surname until the film adaptation. Alex, while the protagonist of the novel, is a violent person up to the second to last chapter of the novel. However, the underlying psychology behind every one of Alex's actions rings true and presents a compelling argument about the nature of free will, violence, and what makes a man human.
First published in 1962 (McNamee), follows fifteen year old Alex. The novel starts with Alex recounting a typical night of "ultraviolence" that he and his "droogs" participate in. The night includes drinking, drugs, and violence of the worst kind including rape. Eventually this lifestyle catches up to him, and Alex is arrested (Burgess 67). He is offered the opportunity to participate in an experimental procedure that it is believed will cure him of his violent behavior and his sentence is reduced (82). When he is released, Alex realizes that the treatment has rendered him effectively unable to make his own decisions about whether to do the right or the wrong thing as well as sucking pleasure out of every day things he used to enjoy such as music and art (156). Alex finds himself at the mercy of a man he had crossed in the past (167) and attempts to commit suicide (169). In the original British edition of the book, the final chapter reveals that after waking up in the hospital, Alex's went on to finally grow up and settle down, however in the first published version to reach America this final 21st chapter was left out so that the novel ended with the failing of the conditioning and Alex returning to his old ways (Jarvis).
A document was recovered from 1961, a year before A Clockwork Orange was first published in the UK, that declared the book at concern for becoming a flop (Owen). The first person from the publishing company to read and review the book declared it would be hard to follow (Owen) because of the use of nadsat, the slang language that Burgess created for use in A Clockwork Orange. Nadsat, which is comprised of rhyming slang and corrupted Russian words (Carson), is certainly difficult for the reader to begin to understand and makes the novel more difficult to comprehend. However, nadsat is not the only language use that sets the protagonist apart from his society. Alex's use of pronouns such as thou instead of you in situations where he is trying to place himself in control (Carson). The use of nadsat and Alex's distinction of pronouns reveals a person who believes himself to be in charge.
The treatment offered to Alex in the novel is called the Ludovico Technique (Burgess 82). The treatment involves treating Alex first with a drug that will induce sickness (99). At that point Alex is forced to watch violent films and movies while his eyes are held open (101). For...