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A Clockwork Orange Summary

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A Clockwork Orange PDFMy dear malchickiwick, time for a good ol’ ultra-violent prestoopnick story  

Believe us: you’re going to have a hell of a khorosho time!

Brace yourself for Anthony Burgess’ “A Clockwork Orange.”

Who Should Read “A Clockwork Orange”? And Why?

Burgess didn’t like his most famous work, considering it “too didactic to be artistic” and describing it as “a jeu d’esprit knocked off for money.”

Most people, however, would beg to differ – especially after Kubrick’s 1971 film.

Since we are one of the latter, we always warmly recommend “A Clockwork Orange” to anyone and everyone.

Both the book and the movie.

Anthony BurgessAnthony Burgess Biography

Anthony Burgess was an English writer, linguist, and composer.

Predominantly a comic writer, he is best known for “A Clockwork Orange,” though most of the critics consider his Enderby quartet and “Earthly Powers” more deserving of the fame.

He also wrote librettos and screenplays, including one for the ultra-popular 1977 TV mini-series “Jesus of Nazareth.”


Don’t know about you, guys, but just like we can’t think of Lewis Carroll’s Alice without thinking about Disney’s Alice, Anthony Burgess’ “A Clockwork Orange” will be forever marred in our fantasy by Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 adaptation, which, in retrospect, we were just too young to watch at the tender age of 14:

But, don’t be fooled: Just like the film, the book is a masterpiece.

And it consists of three parts, seven chapters each.

Part 1: Alex’s World

In a near-future dystopian England, Alex is a 15-year-old leader of a terrifying ultra-violent gang of four.

In addition to him, the gang includes Georgie Boy, Alex’s aspiring second-in-command, Dim, a slow-witted muscleman persistently talked down by Alex, and Pete, the only one of the group who seems like he doesn’t belong fully in it.

Just like most of the teenagers in this future, the gang uses a strange dialect called Nadsat, described by Dr. Branom (you’ll meet him later) as:

Odd bits of old rhyming slang… A bit of gipsy talk, too. But most of the roots are Slav. Propaganda. Subliminal penetration.

The novel begins in the Korova Milk Bar, where the four friends – or “droogs” as they call each other – are drinking their favorite drink: milk-plus.

If you’re wondering what that plus stands for, wonder no more: milk-plus is nothing more than milk mixed with the customer’s drug of choice.

Needless to add, what follows is the regular nightly mayhem.

Once the droogs leave the bar, they assault a scholar, rob a store, beat up a beggar, and then fight with a rival gang led by Billyboy.

Afterward, they steal a car and, after some joyriding, break into an isolated cottage, inhabited by a young couple.

The husband is a writer working on a novel called “A Clockwork Orange” – that’s strange! – which Alex shreds after reading a paragraph stating the book’s main theme.

The droogs severely beat the husband and gang rape his wife before heading back to the Korova Milk Bar.

There, Dim makes a crude comment about a woman singing an operatic passage, and Alex – though a sociopath, a keen lover of classical music as well – strikes him, making known to the reader the existent strains inside the gang.

Alex goes back to his parents’ apartment and plays himself some classical music at top volume:

Oh it was gorgeousness and gorgeosity made flesh. The trombones crunched redgold under my bed, and behind my gulliver the trumpets three-wise silverflamed, and there by the door the timps rolling through my guts and out again crunched like candy thunder. Oh, it was wonder of wonders… I was in such bliss, my brothers.

We already told you that he really likes classical music, the “Lovely Ludwig Van” especially!

The next day, Alex feigns illness to his parents to stay out of school and gets an unexpected visit from P. R. Deltoid, a criminal rehabilitation worker with an assignment to keep Alex on the straight road.

Once he leaves, Alex goes to a record store where he meets two pre-teen girls. He takes them to his apartment, then drugs them and rapes them.

The next morning, his droogs rebel against his leadership, but Alex prevails, slashing Dim’s hand and fighting with Georgie.

To appease the three, he takes them to a bar and insists on following through with Georgie’s plan to burgle the home of a wealthy old woman.

However, once there, Dim strikes Alex and the gang leaves him there to be arrested by the police.

Part 2: The Ludovico Technique

The old woman dies from her injuries. Alex is tried for murder and sentenced to 14 years in prison.

In the meantime, Georgie dies as well – as Alex learns from his parents while in prison.

Two years in, and we see Alex spending his time playing religious music for the Sunday services, and reading the Bible in the meantime.

But make no mistake – he does that not for religious purposes, but because of the music and the violent passages in the Scripture.

Soon after, due to his violent behavior, he is chosen to be a lab rat, and he undergoes an experimental behavior-altering treatment dubbed the Ludovico Technique.

The Technique – co-developed by Dr. Branom and Dr. Brodsky – consists of injecting Alex with nausea-inducing drugs, while playing him graphically violent images.

The goal is to condition Alex to link them so that his body starts naturally reacting to violence with aversion.

However, the soundtrack to one of the films Alex is forced to watch includes Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony – Alex’s favorite work – and, as a side-effect, he starts hating classical music as well.

A demonstration of the effects of the Ludovico Technique follows.

A group of VIPs watches Alex as he breaks down before a bully and degrades himself before a naked young woman and the government officials can’t be happier with the results.

Determined healthy, Alex is released from prison.

Part 3: After Prison

Alex returns home, but only to find out that he’s been replaced by a lodger.

He starts wandering the streets and eventually ends up in a public library, where he attempts to find a painless method to commit suicide.

There, the old scholar whom the gang had assaulted in Part 1 recognizes him and, with the help of several friends, beats Alex up.

Two policemen come to his rescue, but – lo and behold! – they are none other than Dim and Billyboy!

Needless to add, they don’t help Alex, instead taking him outside of town and beating him up further.

Alex manages to drag himself to an isolated cottage, where he is accepted by its inhabitant, F. Alexander.

Unfortunately for Alex, that’s the writer whose wife he and his friends had raped in Part 1 – and who has since died of the injuries sustained during the rape.

Alexander doesn’t recognize Alex, but, being highly critical of the government, he is very curious of the Ludovico Technique and its effects.

In fact, he plans to use Alex as a symbol of state brutality to prevent the government from being re-elected.

However, Alex inadvertently reveals himself and, as a consequence, F. Alexander locks him up in an upper-story bedroom, where Alex is forced to listen to an endless stream of classical songs.

Unable to bear it, Alex leaps from the window.

Soon after, he wakes up in a hospital, in the presence of government officials who like to counter the bad publicity caused by Alex’s suicide attempt, by offering him a well-paying job.

After a round of tests proves to the nation that Alex is back to his old self, Alex starts daydreaming of orgies and violence.

He says:

I was cured all right.

A Clockwork Orange Epilogue

And that’s how both the movie and the American edition ends.

The original book, however, includes one more chapter.

In it, we learn that Alex has a new gang – consisting of Rick, Bully, and Lenn – but we also feel that he’s not that interested in his old lifestyle anymore.

After a chance encounter with Pete – during which he finds out that Pete is now married – Alex starts rethinking his life, planning to give up crime altogether and sublimate his destructive energies into a more creative manner.

He even expresses a desire to marry, and fear that his children may be even more violent than him.

Too anti-climactic, ha?

Most seem to share this opinion.

Which is… kinda scary?

Like this summary? We’d like to invite you to download our free 12 min app, for more amazing summaries and audiobooks.

“A Clockwork Orange PDF Quotes”

Is it better for a man to have chosen evil than to have good imposed upon him? Click To Tweet

We can destroy what we have written, but we cannot unwrite it. Click To Tweet

When a man cannot choose, he ceases to be a man. Click To Tweet

But what I do I do because I like to do. Click To Tweet

I see what is right and approve, but I do what is wrong. Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

Written in only three weeks – just like Kerouac’s “On the Road” – “A Clockwork Orange” is considered one of the 100 best English-language novels ever written.

And indeed – the unconventional story, the memorable characters, and the Nadsat argot used so masterfully by Burgess, provide for a once-in-a-lifetime reading experience.

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