A Clockwork Orange

Music and A Clockwork Orange: Applications in Novel and Film

Anthony Burgess’s <i>A Clockwork Orange</i> is a novel pervaded by a multifaceted and intrinsic musical presence. Protagonist Alex’s fondness for classical music imbues his character with interesting dimensions, and resonates well thematically -- the music in the novel can be characterized as a synecdoche for high culture, as offset by Alex’s violent and antisocial behavior. Some of the most violent scenes of the novel are carried out to the music of various Classical- and Romantic-era composers, creating especially jarring moments in the narrative, complete with a wealth of interesting hermeneutic possibilities. Stanley Kubrick’s infamous 1971 adaptation, a film notorious for its depictions of violence and remarkable for its faithfulness to its source material, accordingly features a score reflective of the novel’s musical disposition, though it chooses a particular work -- Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony -- to act as a sort of narrative catalyst. Examining both Burgess’s novel and Kubrick’s cinematic adaptation, I will outline how music is used in the works in both similar and contrasting ways, bringing into focus aspects of the relationship between the mediums of film, music, and literature.

Considering the connection...

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