Like so many of my generation, my first introduction to A Clockwork Orange was through the fact that the film version was banned for a long while. As with any “video nasties” (as they were referred to) as a teenager I of course, had to watch it. This wasn’t without it’s difficulties in a world ruled by ropy VHS. You can of course purchase it quite happily now. However in the early 90’s I soon discovered that “Oh, it’s based on a book? Which is freely available to purchase?” and so in I dove.
An eerily accurate representation of youth gang culture and violence arising from the bored and uninspired young people of Britain. Alex, our narrator, is a leader of one such gang and along with his fellow Droogs, embarks on a campaign of Ultra Violence. Pumped up from visits from the local “Korova Milk Bar” (Milk combined with a drug of choice) nothing is off limits, rival gangs, down and outs, wealthy aristocrats….. It’s difficult to remember that Alex is only 15.
Alex and his associates have a unique brand of slang, specifically created by the author, called Nadsat. A mixture mainly of Slavic and Cockney Rhyming Slang, it brings another level of intrigue to the story, which in earliest publications was mainly left to the imagination. It was only in later editions where a key was provided. Phrases which are still readily used today, such as Ultraviolent, stem from this created slang.
With each escapade his confidence escalates, yet all is not harmonious in the Droog camp. Alex’s brand of discipline towards his counterparts leads to him taking the fall spectacularly, when one of their unique adventures takes a disastrous turn. Captured and imprisoned Alex is given an opportunity to Rehabilitate himself and become a useful member of society. What’s the catch? He must undergo a new and highly experimental form of aversion treatment, the Ludovico Technique.
The Ludovico Technique submits Alex to nausea inducing drugs, whilst being forced to watch graphic violence of the kind he so readily embraced. The outcome rendering Alex incapable of violent thought, as the very consideration, sends him into violent sickness.
Deemed “Cured” Alex is allowed on his way, but finds he has no place in his old society. Many have moved on and he is subject to recourse from his pre-prison escapades. Finding himself taken in by a Home in which he once desecrated, when his identity is uncovered he is subjected to torment, his conditioning rendering him near suicidal.
The government step in and are subsequently forced to reconsider their controversial technique. They are able to reverse what they have done to him, releasing him and his ultraviolent ways back into the wider world, but has he by now simply just grown up?
I highly recommend a re-read, it’s real horrorshow.