10th September 2018

A Clockwork Orange

Good literature enlightens; great literature inspires action

The aim of literature is to inspire thought, reflection and further conversation, an ambition which cannot be realised without also inspiring action. This is especially evident in the dystopian genre, in which the moral questions raised often have real-world metaphors to which these principles can be applied. Anthony Burgess uses “A Clockwork Orange,” to present the idea that to take away one’s freedom of choice is to take away their very humanity. This is evident in several of modern society’s central debates, from marriage equality and gay conversion therapy to abortion and assisted suicide.

“A Clockwork Orange” revolves around Alex, a violent gang member with a love for Beethoven. While Alex may commit several despicable acts, raping and murdering for pure pleasure, the readers find themselves drawn to his charisma and confidence. This is because there is another, even more amoral identity in the text: the

  1. Alex in “A Clockwork Orange” – highlights the flaws in the system – allows readers to reflect on freedom of choice: “Is it better for a man to have chosen evil than to have good impressed upon him?”; “When a man cannot choose, he ceases to be a man.”; “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.”; “But I do what I do because I like to do.” – exposed to a completely different character and culture so therefore reflect on things one wouldn’t normally encounter 
  2. Enlightenment vs Action – all of our actions are influenced by what we know –  literature may not inspire action but it will influence the actions we do or do not take – the knowledge and enlightenment gained from reading a text can be applied to many fields whereas taking action by directly applying the principles raised is extremely narrow
  3. Societal links 

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