Sunday, July 11, 2010

I don't need no drugs to calm me

Current book: A Clockwork Orange
Pages read: 76 -177 (end)

Ok, I'm finally finishing this. Things have been a combination of insane and unmotivating, and I also just didn't feel like writing about this book, really.

In the end, Alex gets enrolled in an experimental behavioral modification program in which he's physiologically conditioned to feel crippling nausea when he has a violent impulse. The only way to combat the feeling is to act completely the opposite way, to the point of cringing and groveling in front of whomever he was inclined to feel violence toward. He's released in this condition, and gets beaten up by the cops, a couple of whom are his former gangmates. He finds himself in the hands of some anti-reactionary political activists, who hold him up to the newspapers as a sign of the ills of the government. One of these activists, however, is a former victim of Alex's, whose wife was raped and killed by him and his gang. Discovering that Alex's reaction to violence is also triggered by the classical music that played during the conditioning films, he locks Alex in a room and plays Beethoven until Alex tries to commit suicide. Alex wakes up in the hospital, where he's been unconditioned after the whole scandal broke in the press, and is eventually released, violent once more.

Now, there's a publishing controversy about this book, because there's an additional chapter at this point, which, it seems, Burgess intended to be included in the original edition, but which was left out of the American version. In the last chapter, Alex sees the error of his ways and realizes that he can't live his entire life simply being violent - that, in fact, he has to grow up and become part of society.

I don't know what the American publishers were thinking trying to print it without the last chapter. Apparently they wanted it to enforce the bleak futuristic dystopia idea, but it makes a helluva lot more sense with the last chapter included, not to mention being far more realistic. It's not as though the last chapter means society's all ok and everything will be fine. It just means that Alex will pass into the next bleakly horrifying part of his future, and there will be a new generation of degenerate youth to take his place.

As far as the message goes, it's pretty clear: morality is invalid unless you make a choice to be moral. If there's no choice, we are no longer human. However, where it gets complex is in the fact that Alex was moved by society to become violent just as he was moved by society to become non-violent. So it seems that Burgess is saying that the flawed nature of modern society is just as brutal and morally bankrupt as the idea of chemical induction of morality. Also, the fact that Alex gets great violent joy out of high art (Beethoven) and that same art is the engine of his demise seems to be implying that art is not exempt from social ills, but rather can be bent into a tool for whatever means its consumer desires.

Cheery. I don't know if I think it's worthy of the list. I suppose, though, that my uncertainty probably means it is, since I sort of hated reading it and am still inclined to put it on. Can't argue with the fact that it makes you think.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting commentary. Especially the summation. I would never have thought about the art aspect. I'm happy for you that you have four "good" ones coming up.



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