A Clockwork Orange (Film)

A Clockwork Orange (Film) Anthony Burgess/A Clockwork Orange (Novel)

Anthony Burgess began writing A Clockwork Orange in late 1960, when he was "supposed to be dying from an inoperable cerebral tumor" (Burgess). He originally wanted to write about the "world of adolescent violence and governmental retribution" in the slang of that time that was common amongst Teddyboys, Mods and Rockers - but feared that the use of current street terms would eventually make the book feel outdated. By 1961, it seemed as though Burgess still had some time to live.

Burgess and his wife visited Soviet Russia in the summer of 1961, and recognized the same kind of youthful uprising that had become problematic in Britain. He wrote, "the stilyagi, or style-boys, were smashing faces and windows, and the police, apparently obsessed with ideological and fiscal crimes, seemed powerless to keep them under". After his trip to Russia, he decided to set A Clockwork Orange in the future, "in which it was conceivable that even the easy-going British state might employ aversion therapy to cure the growing disease of youthful aggression". As a result of that decision, he actually created his own slang - called Nadsat (Russian for 'teen') - that Alex and his droogs would speak in the book (James Joyce had used similar techniques in his work). Burgess called Nadsat "an argot of the two most powerful political languages in the world - Anglo-American and Russian".

While much of the violence that Alex and his droogs inflict in A Clockwork Orange is fictional, it seems as though their attack on the Alexanders was inspired by a real-life tragedy. In 1944, Anthony Burgess was a sergeant in the Army Educational Corps, stationed in Gibraltar. His pregnant wife, Lynne, was at home in London. During a blackout, she was beaten, kicked, and robbed by 4 GI deserters. She had a miscarriage as a result and Burgess was denied leave to see her. She died at an early age. "Burgess once speculated in an interview, that her poor health and early death may have had something to do with the attack" (Morrison xiv).

Blake Morrison writes, "The fictionalizing of this episode in A Clockwork Orange was a catharsis for Burgess, and, as he once said, 'an act of charity' to his wife's assailants, since he chooses to write it as if from their point of view rather than their victim's" (xiv).

Besides the ending, there are many differences between Burgess' novel and Kubrick's film version of A Clockwork Orange - many of which fueled film critics' arguments that Kubrick, not Burgess, should be held accountable for McDowell's portrayal of Alex. Kubrick's choice to omit the novel's 21st chapter - a number symbolic of maturity - was the cause of distress to Burgess. In the closing chapter, which was not included in American versions of the novel until the mid-1980s, Alex has left behind his wayward youth and is raising a family. Unlike in the film, Alex evolves.

Beverly Walker wrote about the differences between the novel and film in a feminist journal in 1972, concluding that Kubrick had "made an intellectual's pornographic film" (McDougal 51). For instance - the frequent allusions to sex and genitalia in the film are all Kubrick's, like the nude female mannequins that serve as furniture in the Korova Milkbar. Walker also notes that Alex's female victims in the film have been changed. In the novel, the Cat lady is an old woman surrounded by antiques, while in the film, she is introduced as a younger and virile woman, and we first see her in a yoga pose that emphasizes her pelvic area and is surrounded by erotic, suggestive art.

In the novel, the girl that Billy boy and his droogs are about to rape is only 10 years old and clothed when she runs away, while in the film she is a curvy woman who is stripped naked in a scene that Pauline Kael called "the purest exploitation". However, many supporters and lovers of the film, while not denying the exploitative nature of the aforementioned imagery, ascribed Kubrick's choices to his desire to show his audience the world through Alex's eyes. Alex doesn't love women, he wants them to be the receptacles for his "in-out-in-out". In viewing Kubrick's depiction of Alex as a highly virile and violent monster, it actually makes sense as to why Kubrick chose not to end the film in the same way as the novel. The film version of Alex is just too far gone to ever make that kind of a turnaround.