Dystopia & A Clockwork Orange

Dystopia & A Clockwork Orange
• “A utopia is a place or situation
of perfection. It is an idealistic
goal or concept for political or
social reform…
• A dystopia is a place of imperfection—
an unfavorable place. Dystopia
explores what man values now and
raises the question of whether he is
capable of overcoming the evil that
seems to be inherent in mankind.”
a) focus: modern values
b) Presence of a flaw in man
II. History: the tradition out of which dystopia is
• Utopia: St. Thomas More - the philosophical
exercise (presumption: a sense of future)
– resurgence of popularity in the late 19th century
through H.G. Wells
– Wells vision of the world (1860-1948): “all this world is
heavy with the promise of greater things, and a day
will come when beings who are now latent in our
thoughts and hidden in our loins, shall stand upon this
earth as one stands upon a footstool and they shall
laugh and reach out their hands amidst the stars.”
II. History: the tradition out of which dystopia is derived
• Anti-Utopian (Anti Wellsian)
– Post W.W.I disillusionment
– We (1924); set in the 26th century AD, Yevgeni Zamyatin’s
influential masterpiece describes a totalitarian society of
OneState ruled by the “Benefactor.”
– Brave New World (1932): Aldous Huxley imagined a fictional
future in which free will and individuality have been sacrificed in
deference to complete social stability. A world in which a
totalitarian government controlled society by the use of science
and technology.
– 1984 (1947): The rise to power of dictators such as Adolf Hitler
in Germany and Joseph Stalin in the Soviet Union inspired
George Orwell’s mounting hatred of totalitarianism and political
authority. Remains one of the most powerful warnings ever
issued against the dangers of a totalitarian society.
Anthony Burgess
• Born John Burgess Weilson, 1917 in
• 8 years military service
• Lecturer in Phonetics - 1948
• Lecturer in English lit. -Malaya-1952
• Writer of chamber music & incidental music for
• Expatriate - Malta, U.S.: “England does not
support its writers.”
• Novelist & critic (re Joyce; & Shakespeare)
• “I was brought up a Catholic, became an
agnostic, flirted with Islam, and now hold a
position which may be termed Manichae - I
believe the wrong god is temporarily ruling the
world and that the true god has gone under.
Thus I am a pessimist, but believe the world has
much solace to offer: love, food, music,
language, literature, and the pleasure of artistic
• All of his novels are somewhat allegorical,
because they are all in some way religious: “no
novel …can possess any vitality without an
implied sense of values from religion.”
On Language
• “Language is everything- it survives
corruption; ignorance, ineptitude. It merits
not only our homage, but our constant and
intelligent study.”
On Language in Clockwork…
• My problem in writing the novel was wholly
stylistic. The story had to be told by a
young thug of the future, and it had to be
told in his own version of English. This
would be partly the slang of his group,
partly his personal dialect. It was pointless
to write the book in the slang of the early
sixties. A slang for the 1970's would have
to be invented…
On Language of Clockwork…
• “I ended up with a vocabulary of around 200
words. As the book was about brainwashing, it
was appropriate that the text itself should be a
brainwashing device. The reader would be
brainwashed into learning minimal Russian. The
novel was to be an exercise in linguistic
programming, with the exoticisms gradually
clarified by context: I would resist to the limit any
publisher's demand that a glossary be provided.
A glossary would disrupt the programming and
nullify the brainwashing.”
The Nadsat Language
– p. 114- “the language of the tribe”
– made up of mostly Russian, but also rhyming
slang, gypsy talk, and Slav, Cockney, bible
– As activities become more violent, syntax
becomes more poetic
– Ironic intensity adding to nightmare horror of
“Being sore athirst, my brothers.”
“They know not what they do or say.”
The Nadsat Language
Irony of some of the words:
– “bog”→ god
– “lewdies”→ people
emphasizes characterization
and maintains illusion of a
dehumanized world at same
– “horrorshow” → good
– “malchick” → boy
– “rot” → mouth → rotten, contaminated
– “rabbit” → job → rodent that works stupidly and instinctively
Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936)
• Conditioning
– aka classical conditioning, Pavlovian
conditioning, or respondent conditioning
• The original and most famous example of
classical conditioning involved the salivary
conditioning of Pavlov's dogs.
• The treatment of Alex (the Ludovico
technique) is justified.
– Affirmative
– Negative
Part 1
Describe the world in which Alex lives. What is society like? Find
specific examples.
What authority figures have you encountered so far? Describe them.
How do they treat Alex? Are they responsible for his behavior?
Analyze the article on “Modern Youth” that Alex reads in the
newspaper. Also, analyze Alex’s philosophy on goodness on the
previous page.
What effect does music have on Alex? Why does Alex hit Dim at the
milk bar? What is the irony here?
Analyze Alex’s relationships and the roles he plays in:
His gang
His family
Up to this point (in the book), what moral wrongs have Alex
committed? Go through the book and list them. If you were
sentencing Alex, what would be his punishment? Do you think he
can be reformed?
What are Alex’s strengths? What , if anything, is morally
good about Alex? Does he have an ethos/personal values?
Find and explain the good choices Alex makes. Think about
his relationships with his family, droogs, prison-mates, and
the charlie.
Find all instances where the charlie speaks in Part 2. What
are his reservations about the technique? Why is it
significant that he is a chaplain?
What is the general demeanor of the doctors? Describe
their physicality and analyze the way they speak to Alex.
List all differences between Dr. Branom and Dr. Brodsky and
(On the final exam…)
• Identify the theme of the book with &
without the last chapter.
• Tell me what YOU think the title means,
AND reference my lecture (the next 2
The Title
• Burgess wrote that the title was a reference to an old
Cockney expression "As queer as a clockwork
orange." Due to his time serving the British Colonial
Office in Malaya, Burgess thought that the phrase
could be used punningly to refer to a mechanically
responsive (clockwork) human (orang, Malay for
• Burgess wrote in his later introduction, "A Clockwork
Orange Resucked," that a creature who can only
perform good or evil is "a clockwork orange—meaning
that he has the appearance of an organism lovely with
colour and juice but is in fact only a clockwork toy to
be wound up by God or the Devil."
The Title
• In his essay "Clockwork Oranges," Burgess
asserts that "this title would be appropriate
for a story about the application of
Pavlovian, or mechanical, laws to an
organism which, like a fruit, was capable of
colour and sweetness." This title alludes to
the protagonist's negatively conditioned
responses to feelings of evil which prevent
the exercise of his free will.