Impact of the Totalitarian Regime on Society In 'A Clockwork Orange'

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Society has established that the validation of choice further progresses the people of a country as a nation of the people. It becomes the idea that individual choice is liberty as it serves as the catalysts that structure the basis of democracy which idealizes the freedom of speech, religion, and expression. However, in A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, the author expresses the work of A Clockwork Orange in a futuristic England where a totalitarian regime labors on society in the idea of becoming a ‘perfect’ citizen. This perfection is hindered by violent youths who are disconnected by this aspect of society, as they find their own values of freedom through violence. The book reveals that each adolescent seen in the novel speaks in Nadsat and harbors violent urges, as the complexity of teenagers fall into the category of those who disrupt A Clockwork Orange’s system from deeming itself ‘perfect’. On the contrary, the adults in the novel speak normally, with speech that the reader can understand clearly with no slang apparent unlike the youths of the novel. In effect, Burgess structures the framework of society as those who challenge the aspect of its unity comes from the new generation, while those who follow it’s regime categories as the older generation. Burgess’s extreme appeal of violent youths and their demise, in this case, Alex’s, reveals the complexity if removing one’s sense of freedom in order to establish order can be deemed as morally right.

In order to digress the topic, one must consider the evaluations set in the narrative. Within the literary classic, Burgess structures his novel in the abstract tone which holds its prime evidence in commending the effect that linguistics have on the reader. Its contents digress the reader as being sympathetic to Alex’s tale, whether or not Alex truly deserves the sympathy the reader derives from the novel. Due to this result of the hold that language pertains throughout A Clockwork Orange, Nadsat becomes a softener that glosses over many cruelties that partake in the novel. Such as it is far simple to skim over a ‘krovvy-covered plot’ or ‘tolchocking an old veck’ and pay it no heed rather than it is to regard two hundred pages of ‘blood-covered bodies’ or ‘beatings of old men,’ (Petrix). In conveying violence as a silly demeanor, goofy phrases such as, “pull his outer platties off, stripping him down to his vest and long underpants very starry; Dim smecked his head off near”(Burgess 9) and “kicks him lovely in his pot,” (Burgess 10), all allude to the fact that the novel categories crime as something normal and enjoyable, which conveys the reader to the basis that violence is almost ordinary.

However, with A Clockwork Orange making Alex’s tale unbiased, as when the reoccurrence of a violent event commends, its impact differs immensely. And in accordance to the novel, society already pertains to violence as a norm. This effects of recurring cruelty combined with the diction of Nadsat results in Alex’s story to be viewed as sympathetic. This can be apparent in the phrasing that Alex’s offenses in A Clockwork Orange are described throughout. At the beginning of the novel, Alex describes the groans of a man being fought against by his gang by using words such as, “the old veck began to make sort of chumbling shooms-’wuf waf wuf’,” (Burgess 10). The alliteration and the onomatopoeia distract the reader from the reality of what truly is occurring behind the scenes of Nadsat. In this, the reader comprehends Alex’s violence as a sort of childish fable. It dims the acts that Alex performs as horrible or cruel, transforming itself as a sort of buffer zone that pushes the reader to determine the good and the evil inside of the protagonist (Petix). The linguistics set in Nadsat establishes a norm for the violence that Alex partakes in, which is why the abuse he suffers in prison shifts to becoming sympathetic. Such as “Linguistics, Mechanics, and Metaphysics” states, “The reader is offered no other assurances,” (Petix). So the only thing offered that is deemed sympathetic, is taken seriously. Because for once, Alex makes note of the pain he receives by using vivid detail that the reader can understand and not softened in the language of Nadsat which makes Alex’s loss of freedom so much more impactful on the reader and through Alex.

In understanding the importance of the loss of freedom and owning a sense of identity through self-expression, Mary Lowe-Evans, a twentieth-century advocate for academic journalism, published a critical essay titled “Anthony Burgess: Overview.” This literary criticism focuses on the behavior eradicated by society in A Clockwork Orange. In the novel, Alex’s self-expression comes in violence. This is contradictory to the emphasis that society places on the idea of a reputable person to be the ideal being with the immediate turmoil apparent. However, this is the eloquence that Alex places to society itself. Such ideas form the backbone that becomes the character of Alex; “He recognizes no law beyond his personal pleasure in inflicting pain on innocent victims,” (Lowe-Evans). Alex finds his central views coming from self-admiration, which, unfortunately, are designed into accounts of sadism and horror.

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Self-expression is derived from the idea that “the centrality of choice structures as catalysts for interpersonal development and as ethical foundations for individual change,” (Davis). Throughout the novel, Alex is seen making morally wrong choices in accordance with his ideal way of self-expression. Such as one comes in the expression of appearance, Alex is described with his droogs, the name Alex brands on his fellow gang members, wearing, “a pair of black very tight tights with the old jelly mould, as we call it, fitting on the crutch underneath the tights...then we wore waisty jackets without lapels but with these very big built-up shoulders,” (Burgess 4). Clothes, as they are, have become a medium in self-expression. It is this self-expression that once taken away, results in unfavorable outcomes. Who is to say that taking away a man’s freedom is not wrong? Whether the basis of morality comes to play, the idea of a man pertaining to himself has been idealized in society. No one is beckoned to wear masks, as good as a whole is interpreted through the justices of valor, truth and the disapproval of wearing facades to hide one’s true colors. In these terms, Alex follows this ‘good’ quite clearly, even going as far as to admit it. It isn’t until society deems one person unfavorable that they sense them to a disturbance of the people of good will.

Throughout the novel, paragraphs are designed describing the appearance of the droogs. This gives in detail key ideas of what Alex is trying to convey with each costume. With uncertainty, Alex responds to feelings of change by “trying on different costumes, behavioral modes, and verbal mannerisms in an effort to establish what he perceives to be a stable sense of identity,” (Davis). This approach is consistent in the novel as each change of clothing is described in full view as each switch represents a change of transition in Alex’s life. A key example is Alex describing his prison uniform: “a one-piece suit of a very filthy like cal colour,” (Burgess 86). This major shift in the novel (Alex’s demise to prison) is highlighted by the clothes he wears. In this instance, Alex is not allowed to choose what he feels pertains to his emotions, but is forced by society to place upon him a set of uniform, the first indication of his rights taken away by society.

Society is a collection of the goodwill of people, allowing them to live in harmony and expanding as a whole with no obstacles. However, when one disturbs this peace, they are seen as an obstruction of this progression. In theory, A Clockwork Orange demonstrates this problem around the themes of the Ludovico Technique. This treatment removes Alex’s impulse for misdemeanor as it suppresses his urges by making Alex become ill whenever he imagines himself committing a crime, and this sickness is so severe that Alex feels that death would be the best method to escape. This treatment is what Alex prolonged in order to rid himself of his ‘wrong’ behavior. More specifically, this technique questions the morality of the experiment itself by contrasting the differences between Alex as an individual, and society as a whole. On the basis on misdemeanor, what does society do to those who misbehave? Try to eradicate them. The basis of this eradication comes in “prison sentences, a conventional social and legal response to those who defy the laws of society, are the principal tool of the society in A Clockwork Orange,” (Pearson). This is seen in not only the book but society as well; Those who break laws are sent to prison. However, rather than treating those who misbehave like patients, sick with a root diagnosis, they are treated like animals: “being kicked and tolchoked by brutal bully warders and meeting vonny leering like criminals, some of them real perverts and ready to dribble all over,” (Burgess 86). This is a key in comprehending how society has already dehumanizes those who commit errors, and this pattern is duplicated in the novel as well. However one interprets this, this is a leading problem that refuses to go away: prisons are overcrowded. The reason is seen as a multitude as those who disturb society keeps increasing at an alarming rate.

Despite this simplistic problem, the cause is not so straightforward. Consider this: “the rescue come not only to the symptom (too many criminals) but more fundamentally aimed at the character traits of the individuals who engage in crime,” (Pearson). This is where the idea of the Ludovico Technique comes in. In order to treat a symptom, one must cure the disease, and in this case, the disease is human behavior. However, human behavior is erratic and complex. Trying to analyze it and edit its actions immediately comes into the valley of not allowing a human being to function as it is. Dealing with behavior and modifying it, is inhumane itself. No matter how good the cause. Once Alex has completed his treatment of the Ludovico Technique, while he is no longer capable of wrongdoings, “he ceases also to be a creature capable of moral choice,” (Burgess 141). This treatment dehumanizes an individual, but it stops those who misbehave in society as a whole. A recurring problem of society is the overcrowding of prisons, but while it is seen as a disease, it is actually a symptom. The actual disease is human behavior. If one thinks of crime as an actual illness, there would be no ill intent in allowing one’s personal freedom to be taken away for the well-being of society. However, the conscious mind is being debated, and as humans, the freedom of choice has always allowed one’s self-expression to become free, and to go against this being of the human mind, is to question their humanity as a whole.

If, in A Clockwork Orange, the idea of ending crime is focused on ‘fixing’ the way criminals behave, the Ludovico Technique is what people search for. Whether it be considered good or bad. However, this decision negates the choice of self-expression as it is taken away once society has altered Alex himself into ‘choosing’ good. As the Prison Chaplain states in the novel, “Goodness is something chosen. When a man cannot choose he ceases to be a man,” (Burgess 48). In this account, the self-expression of Alex’s choice is taken away. This, however, is done for a benefit: to prevent people like Alex from hurting society. Society as a whole is gaining the advantage of losing another violent youth. In contrast, Alex loses his freedom of will. The hypocrisy is that the forcing of ‘goodwill’ has not made Alex good at all. In fact, the novel states, “The important thing is moral choice. Evil has to exist along with good, in order that moral choice may operate. Life is sustained by the grinding opposition of moral entities,” (Burgess 4). This position phrases the situation of how society pertains what ‘good’ really is in their world. Through good actions, one is deemed moral, but not through choice. As society has pushed itself into being charitable and wholesome, Alex loses his standing as a human being. In order to establish control, society has pushed its citizens to lose their sense of freedom to contribute to the world.

The name A Clockwork Orange alludes to Alex himself; orange, is something natural, human, while clockwork is something mechanical, human-made. This parallels that Alex has become a human being in the book altered by society, thus, making him less human. This is why the contrasting themes of the book, viewing a prisoner as less than a human or a mortal with false mistakes, is so conflicting in the novel. The gain of society is there, but the push of forcing a being to be less human is present as well. In the novel, the world accepts the fact that pushing a man to become inhumane is fine as long as he is pushed in the right direction. His loss of freedom is a gain of safety to the world. Similarly, society outside of the narrative follows this idea wholeheartedly. In eradicating crime, control can be set. To establish a future for all to live in, one must remove their morality in securing order for the benefit of the people.

Works Cited

  1. Burgess, Anthony. A Clockwork Orange. New York: Norton, 2001. Print.
    Davis, Todd F., and Kenneth Womack. ''O my brothers': reading the anti-ethics of the pseudo-family in Anthony Burgess's A Clockwork Orange.' College Literature, vol. 29, no. 2, 2002, p. 19+. Literature Resource Center, Accessed 3 Nov. 2019.
  2. Lowe-Evans, Mary. 'Anthony Burgess: Overview.' Twentieth-Century Young Adult Writers, edited by Laura Standley Berger, St. James Press, 1994. Twentieth-Century Writers Series. Literature Resource Center, Accessed 29 Oct. 2019.
  3. Pearson, Douglas A., Jr. 'Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange.' Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism, edited by Lawrence J. Trudeau, vol. 316, Gale, 2015. Literature Resource Center, Accessed 29 Oct. 2019. Originally published in Censored Books, edited by Nicholas J. Karolides, et al., Scarecrow, 1993, pp. 185-190.
  4. Petix, Esther. 'Linguistics, Mechanics, and Metaphysics: Anthony Burgess's A Clockwork Orange (1962).' Contemporary Literary Criticism, edited by Brigham Narins and Deborah A. Stanley, vol. 94, Gale, 1997. Literature Resource Center, Accessed 29 Oct. 2019. Originally published in Critical Essays on Anthony Burgess, edited by Geoffrey Aggeler, G. K. Hall, 1986, pp. 121-131.
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