Book vs. Film: A Clockwork Orange

Anthony Burgess’ dismissal of the Stanley Kubrick adaptation of his novel A Clockwork Orange is one for the ages. It wasn’t the last time one of Kubrick’s notoriously devastating films pissed off the author of the source material – Stephen King once said that The Shining is the only one of his book adaptations he can remember hating – but Burgess’ ire is certainly the most memorable, renouncing his own book after having seen the movie it spawned:

We all suffer from the popular desire to make the known notorious. The book I am best known for, or only known for, is a novel I am prepared to repudiate: written a quarter of a century ago, a jeu d'esprit knocked off for money in three weeks, it became known as the raw material for a film which seemed to glorify sex and violence. The film made it easy for readers of the book to misunderstand what it was about, and the misunderstanding will pursue me until I die. I should not have written the book because of this danger of misinterpretation.

I certainly don’t believe A Clockwork Orange the film is glorifying sexual violence, nor do I believe by a long shot that Kubrick’s The Shining is the worst Stephen King adaptation. (It’s clearly the best.) It seems as if Kubrick’s deliberate contradictions and tendency to set the audience at unease make those authors uncomfortable, as do his liberal adaptations of their work. But here’s what’s interesting about Burgess’ claim – in many ways, A Clockwork Orange the film is more palatable than the book.

This is particularly true in regards to the victims. In the book, Alex rapes two ten-year-old girls he’s gotten drunk on Scotch and soda in a horrifying chapter that escalates in casual bleakness.

…and then I felt the old tigers leap in me and then I leapt on these two young ptitsas. This time they thought nothing fun and stopped creeching with high mirth, and had to submit to the strange and weird desires of Alexander the Large[…] But they were both very very drunken and could hardly feel very much[…] They were like waking up to what was being done to their malenky persons and saying that they wanted to go home and like I was a wild beast. They looked like they had been in some big bitva, as indeed they had, and were all bruised and pouty. Well, if they would not go to school they must still have their education. And education they had had.

In the film, Alex has seemingly consensual sex with two teenage girls not much younger than he. Similarly, in the book, he attacks an innocent old man returning from the library. In the film, it’s a drunken tramp.

Now, I’m certainly not arguing that Burgess’ novel glorifies sexual assault and Kubrick’s film does not, as both are clearly parables about the damaging effects of ultraviolence. But I find it surprising that Burgess thinks the film is more indulgently depraved than his own novel when the most disturbing scene in the book doesn’t even appear in the movie. Is it only that no words, however evocative, can ever pierce our comfort level the way an effectively directed scene of violence can? Is there any thematically faithful version of A Clockwork Orange that wouldn’t be harder to watch than the book is to read?

There are many smaller particulars in which the film and book differ – Alex’s weapon in the book is a razor, and in the film it’s a knife hidden within his cane; in the book he’s conditioned against all classical music, and in the film it’s only Beethoven’s Ninth; he volunteers for the Ludovico conditioning in the book and it’s assigned to him in the film; in the book he’s fifteen and in the film he’s a few years older; there is no mention of “Singin’ in the Rain” in Burgess’ novel. The title A Clockwork Orange is given no explanation in the film, but in the book Alex finds a manuscript in the home of the couple he assaults:

Then I looked at its top sheet, and there was the name – A CLOCKWORK ORANGE – and I said: ‘That’s a fair gloopy title. Who ever heard of a clockwork orange?’ Then I read a malenky bit out loud in a sort of very high preaching goloss: ‘—The attempt to impose upon man, a creature of growth and capable of sweetness, to ooze juicily at the last round the bearded lips of God, to attempt to impose, I say, laws and conditions appropriate to a mechanical creation, against this I raise my swordpen—‘

But the most drastic disparity between A Clockwork Orange the film and the novel is that Kubrick’s film omits a (sort of) happy ending epilogue written by Burgess for the book. The original American publication of A Clockwork Orange also excluded this chapter, in which Alex is growing out of his taste for violence and looking forward to a future with a wife and son, whom he does not want to turn out like Alex himself. Without this epilogue, A Clockwork Orange ends on a truly black note. Kubrick’s film is based on the more dismal American version of the novel, and in a forward written by Burgess in a 1986 edition, he makes his displeasure known:

It is with a kind of shame that this growing youth looks back on his devastating past. He wants a different kind of future.

There is no hint of this change of intention in the twentieth chapter. The boy is conditioned, then deconditioned, and he foresees with glee a resumption of the operation of free and violent will. ‘I was cured all right,’ he says, and so the American book ends. So the film ends too. The twenty-first chapter gives the novel the quality of genuine fiction, an art founded on the principle that human beings change. There is, in fact, not much point in writing a novel unless you can show the possibility of moral transformation, or an increase in wisdom, operating in your chief character or characters. Even trashy bestsellers show people changing. When a fictional work fails to show change, when it merely indicates that human character is set, stony, unregenerable, then you are out of the field of the novel and into that of the fable or the allegory. The American or Kubrickian Orange is a fable; the British or world one is a novel.

[…] My book was Kennedyan and accepted the notion of moral progress. What was really wanted was a Nixonian book with no shred of optimism in it.

So therein lies the root of Burgess’ displeasure with Kubrick’s adaptation. He’s a Kennedy man and Kubrick’s a Nixon man. So which are you?

Okay, if we’re voting Kennedy or Nixon, there’s a clear answer there unless you want to sound like an asshole, but the true question is Burgess or Kubrick, and I don’t want to choose. These are two artistic geniuses with two different visions. Yes, Burgess created this story and in that way it belongs to him, but he also sold the rights to Hollywood, and in that way it does not. I don’t want to live in a world where I have to choose between a brilliant author or a visionary director, and thankfully, I don’t have to. I love the book. I love the movie. And that’s that.

Do you come down on one side or another? Speak up in the comments!

Image of A Clockwork Orange (Restored Text)
Author: Anthony Burgess
Price: $18.27
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (2012)
Binding: Hardcover, 272 pages
Image of A Clockwork Orange [Blu-ray]
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Starring: Malcolm McDowell, Patrick Magee, Adrienne Corri, Miriam Karlin
Rating: R (Restricted)

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Comments

Steve Weddle's picture
Steve Weddle March 22, 2013 - 12:51pm

You've Had Your Time: Being the Second Part of the Confessions of Anthony Burgess is an amazing book. One I keep coming back to.

In it, he discusses much about the novel CLOCKWORK, including the idiocy of the US release.

Joshua Chaplinsky's picture
Joshua Chaplinsky from New York is reading Flicker March 22, 2013 - 1:43pm

Does anyone prefer the book without the happy ending chapter? Because I might be leaning that way.

Joshua Danton Boyd's picture
Joshua Danton Boyd March 22, 2013 - 1:48pm

"he volunteers for the Ludovico conditioning in the book and it’s assigned to him in the film"

I might be wrong, but he does volunteer in the film doesn't he? In the prison yard he speaks to the politician about it.

 

 

Fight Club has a similar issue as well, with the film omitting the final chapter and giving a very different feel to it. It would be good to discuss it furthre, but unfortunately it might spoil both the film and book for those who haven't seen or read it.

Meredith's picture
Meredith from Houston, Texas is reading The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley March 22, 2013 - 1:53pm

@Josh - that's an interesting angle! Will have to chew on it. I might feel the same.

Tom1960's picture
Tom1960 from Athens, Georgia is reading Heart's A Rover by James ellroy March 22, 2013 - 2:06pm

The book was difficult for me to get into, but I thought the film was very good.

harry mc's picture
harry mc from Exeter, NH is reading Vonnegut's While Mortals Sleep (posthumous short stories) March 22, 2013 - 2:17pm

James M. Cain (Double Indemnity, The Postman Always Rings Twice, Mildred Pierce, many novels) was once asked how he felt about how Hollywood had ruined his books. Sitting in his office, he gestured to the shelf behind him. "There's nothing wrong with my books", he said, "they're all right here."

I learned this quote from Stephen King of all people, who I think is over his bad Kubrick experience.

You summed it up well at the end, "I don’t want to live in a world where I have to choose between a brilliant author or a visionary director, and thankfully, I don’t have to. I love the book. I love the movie. And that’s that."

If only everyone could be so magnanimous, but the media bubble has to put everything in competition. It is maddening.  

Thanks for the discussion!

Jacob Weatherford's picture
Jacob Weatherford March 22, 2013 - 2:47pm

I have the book for A Clockwork Orange, but have yet to read it. However, I'm already familiar with much of what's discussed here. Though I haven't yet read the book, in theory, I like the way the movie ends (or the book without the final chapter). I don't usually like happy endings. I also don't usually like 'definite' endings, but rather, I prefer open-ended conclusions where you don't have to be told by the author what happens to the character(s).

For A Clockwork Orange in particular, I prefer the movie ending better (again, in theory, since I haven't read the book) for a couple of reasons. First of all, there is no indication throughout the movie (and I presume the book) that Alex is interested in any genuine change. He volunteers for the Ludovico technique so he can get out of prison. Even once the technique is proclaimed a success and Alex is released, we're not given any indication that he's truly grown and changed, but that he's not in control of his behavior. So by the end of the movie, when he's "cured" and it's hinted that he is going to return to his old ways, it would seem kind of odd and out of place that there would be a conclusion where suddenly he's grown and changed, because there's no indication throughout that he genuinely wants to change! Now maybe in the book there is and I just haven't read it yet, but from what I've heard, I haven't gotten that impression from the book.

And the other reason I prefer the movie ending to the book ending is the message it communicates. The movie ending leaves the viewer with the message that there are corrupt and evil people/institutions in the world, and does not glorify them, but rather suggests that they need to be stopped. The message I get from the book's ending is that it placates the reader by sending the message that everything is going to all right and evil people change. Many sociopaths like Alex don't change. Some do. But I think the movie ending sends the message that it is up to us to change our corrupt institutions rather than just assuming they will change on their own.

Again, I've yet to read the book and my opinion could change, but as of now, this is how I see it.

Meredith's picture
Meredith from Houston, Texas is reading The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley March 22, 2013 - 2:43pm

Great comment, thank you so much, and I've never heard that quote from James M. Cain, but I love it!

James L Jones's picture
James L Jones March 22, 2013 - 2:50pm

I think if the film had included the happy ending from the novel, it would change my entire view of the film.

What I got out of the film is that we all want to feel protected in some way and for that we have given up certain freedoms. The film begs the question, "Where do you draw the line?"

Had Alex gotten something out of the conditioning and it inspired him to embrace a "straight life" in the end, my view would be like the film was endorsing protection at any cost.

I like Alex feeling tormented at the end, it leaves the question open. 

Mara Dylan's picture
Mara Dylan from Montreal, Canada is reading Redshirts by John Scalzi March 22, 2013 - 4:22pm

He did indeed volunteer for the treatment, both in the movie and in the book.

Other than that, the last (21st) chapter certainly changes the whole meaning of the book and movie; without it, ACO is a cautionary tale about the prevalence of violence in our society, but also that sometimes this violence can be necessary (after the conditioning, even if someone attacks him, Alex cannot defend himself), and of course the whole issue about whether or not a man who is good simply because he is forced to do so, is really good- without choice, we are not really humans, just more sophisticated machines. 

When I first found out about the 21st chapter, I was already a huge fan of the book and movie as they are, and at first thought that much of the meaning was lost with the addition. However, now that I've grown up and kind of gone through my own Alex phase, I can say that the chapter only adds to the book, adds a message that the young will choose bad or good themselves, and rather than thrusting the choice upon them, we should let them come to their decisions on their own. Usually they will realize they went wrong and try to make up for it themselves, which means so much more than just behaving well because you'll puke everywhere if you don't.

Khalil Pineda's picture
Khalil Pineda March 22, 2013 - 4:53pm

Clearly the best? Clearly the best? Stopped reading the moment the author suggested that CWO is a better adaptation than Shawshank's Redemption without thinking that such a claim is at least disputable. Whatever follows is probably just as moronic and opinionated, being the product of a writer that can't see the big fat line dividing her unsubstantiated opinions from critical concensuses. 

Patrick Riley's picture
Patrick Riley from Union, NH is reading Edgar Cayce's Story of Jesus March 22, 2013 - 7:36pm

No movie will be able to accurately portray the inner dialogue that we are allowed to watch unfold in a book. There's no proper way to flavor emotions in movies outside lighting and music, which many directors have tried to do in film.

The two mediums are  constantly compaired but so very different in their ways. They both have their strengths and weaknesses, and in a modern world of visual over stimulation, reading just requires to much imagination, movies do all the imagining for you.

I know personally, that I feel a kinship with an author through their books, the same can not often be said about movies for me. They seem less personal, and I as the viewer am not as involved. I think this is one of the main reasons people tend to enjoy books over movies. 

I personally like both, for their own merits, and recognize them for the individual beasts that they are. Always I will suggest people read the book if they like the movie, as they will flesh in details one can't get any other way.

Regardless, author's can only put things to paper. They can't decide what people take from that paper. They can try to guide their audiences to infrences and understandings, but in the end, what people pull from their stories will always be personal and flavored by their own biases and reality. The same can be said for movies, games, music or any other artistic media.

Intresting article. Lots of things to think about. In the end, I think most people will realize that is what they take out of any bit of fictional work, be it written, directed, composed or coded; something new to think about and chew over. 

How we use that information is intensely personal.

K. H. Feikus's picture
K. H. Feikus from Czech Republic is reading Atonement by Ian McEwan March 22, 2013 - 8:36pm

I usually prefer a book over a film but when it comes to A Clockwork Orange I'm just ambivalent. I can't say "what's better" (it might be dumb to compare those medias but that's point of the article, isn't it) because each has its merits. While the book has more space for a philosophy and psychological progress of characters, the film takes a hell of advantage of the audiovisuality which is quite important for the story. The importance of music is highlighted even in the book and it's one of the best aspects of the film. Same goes for the costumes which helps us understand that it's happening in future though it's obvious it's not so distant future which is worrying. Because the main aim of the story is to warn - look, how our society could look like in few decades, think about it. The book is pretty clear about it when the film looks more like a rebellious parody of society (which the story is anyway but the film can't quite describe delicate message of Burgess's book). The reason why the book is more violent - and that's good point - is because it is supposed to disgust us. I think the most shocking part of book (at least for me) is the end of first part when Alex says 'That was everything. I'd done the lot, now. And me still only fifteen.' Alex's age is very important for that unease we're supposed to feel. But Alex in film is more older, he doesn't make us feel as much shocked as disgusted (though I just love Malcolm McDowell and the film had to go with older protagonist). Since the book is dystopian we must feel horrified by its society - and also it's bound that the main evil is in a government. Alex might be naturally evil but in the end he's just a tool for governement's contest. That's why I think the 21st chapter is important because it shows that an inclination to violence is natural but can be just a phase of life. I don't think there's anything glorifying in that. I didn’t feel like going out in streets and start to punch people when I finished reading the book or watching the film. So if someone says the story glorifies violence it’s because he’s scared of possibility that people would follow the footsteps of Alex – and then the story fulfilled its intention. 

So I don’t think the book or the film is better – both have much to offer, different questions to answer. I would simply say that the book lacks where the film can fill in and vice versa. 

In the end I want to approve of @Joshua Danton Boyd’s idea about the parable with Fight Club – I had same idea. But Fight Club has a bit different message about violence. If you want another book/film with similar theme I would recommend The Lord of Flies by William Golding since it’s about natural presence of evil in everyone. And how can the society turn upside down if it’s not organised.

 

JimAkin's picture
JimAkin from Connecticut, USA is reading Jude the Obscure March 23, 2013 - 6:40am

I also love both book and movie. I saw the movie first, and its ending sparked an emotional response like few I've ever had to any work of art. The book, satisfying as it was, couldn't compare.

Kubrick managed, through a masterful merging of imagery, narration and, perhaps most of all, Beethoven's transcendent music, to induce a mix of elation and revulsion like none I've ever experienced. I still catch my breath recalling the first time I saw it. Alex's liberation from the Ludovico technique  -- dehumanizing in turn to its subject, the "caregivers" who adminsiter it, and the society that sees need for it -- was a triumph of spirit. But the freed spirit was that of a depraved, amoral monster. The resulting ambivalence -- a singular urge to cheer for joy and scream in horror at the same time, was unforgettable.

Kubrick categorically was not celebrating violence and depravity, though he did succeed in winning considerable audience allegience to vicious little Alex, mainly by contrasting him with corrupt and apathetic bureaucrats around him: Alex was nasty and cruel, but at least he wasn't dead inside. In this, however, Kubrick was no different than Burgess, who drew the same contrasts and also used narrator Alex's asides to pull the reader into his confidence.

I read the "British" edition of the book (available in the states for decades), the one with the "happy" ending. I'd never heard Burgess's claim that the final, tacked-on chapter was necessary to demonstrate the character growth intrinsic to a good novel, but I call BS on that. For starters, I'd argue Alex's journey, from punk to mind-control poster child to "cured," is a novelistic character arc, albeit an unconventional one. More significantly, the ending delineates change in Alex without any meaningful explanation of where it came from or what drove it. To me, that's the opposite of novelistic storytelling. (It's the second-worst last chapter in my reading experience, after the one in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; in both cases, the depth and beauty of the chapters that lead up to the dud ending make the journey worthwhile.) 

One implication of the "happy" ending seems to be that Alex simply grew out of his sadistic, sociopathic ways: Droogs will be droogs. I definitely don't buy that. I'm willing to believe any character can change, but I need convincing. Alex didn't just go along with ultraviolence, he reveled in it, and it'd take something powerful to turn him away from it. Burgess seemed to be going for a Crime and Punishment-type redemption, but I don't think he earned it. The rest of the novel -- the potent creations of Alex, the nadsat dialect, his dreary world, and his responses to it (including his love of music) -- is great in spite of that ending, not because of it.

 

Kevin Noble Hellon's picture
Kevin Noble Hellon March 23, 2013 - 6:02pm

I enjoyed your conclusions, but do not believe that Clockwork Orange is any less qualified to be a novel if it does not have the 21st chapter. Just because a work, no matter the medium, may end on a note of moral ambivalence, does not preclude it from being a work of art. 

Kelly A Egan's picture
Kelly A Egan from New Zealand is reading The Name of the Wind - Patrick Rothfuss March 23, 2013 - 10:44pm

I really struggle reading rape scenes so haven't read the book yet. My dad remembered watching the film when he was in his late teens and wanted me to see it. He let me know there was rape in the film so I was prepared. I've been considering reading the book for years now, this article has prepared me for the worst parts (I think), and maybe I'll get the courage up to read it now. 10 year old children though? My heart hurts just thinking about it. 

Courtney's picture
Courtney from the Midwest is reading Monkey: A Journey to the West and a thousand college textbooks March 24, 2013 - 1:54am

I never read the book because I got it on audiobook and the first thing I heard was Burgess lamenting the missing 21st chapter in previous additions. He comes off as an intolerable douchebag and says that 21 has symbolic meaning because of the cultural ties to it in America. So, what -- all of that chapter's meaning is totally lost on other countries, yet they're the ones who got the "right" version?

Also, I have a hobby of reading detailed chapter-by-chapter synopses (plus character profiles, explanations of famous quotes and all that jazz) of classics and popular books I can't get into so that I at least get what's being said or what happens. Reading through the synopsis of the book made me feel like the last chapter was just his last-ditch attempt to make it a novel instead of a fable. There doesn't seem like any point to it, like someone pointed out above -- I didn't notice a single instance in which Alex wanted to change.

@Khalil Clockwork Orange wasn't written by King, and she was referring to The Shining. This article is entirely opinion, so I have no idea how you came to the conclusion that it was meant to be fact.

cshultz81's picture
cshultz81 from Oklahoma is reading http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/6163604-christopher-shultz March 24, 2013 - 9:58am

Love both book and film; hate the 21st chapter. It feels tacked on, a sort of deus ex machina that expects us to forget everything about this character we've learned so far. Yes, people are shown to change in novels, but it has to be a progressive change that we can track like like trails on a map. In the case of Clockwork, the only change Alex experiences throughout the narrative is ushered in by external forces--so when his 'tormentors' remove the conditioning, he of course becomes the same old Alex again. Then, BAM!, he's suddenly a quasi-remorseful man with aims at family life. How can we forget who Alex really is? More importantly, How can Alex forget?

Kubrick was right to cut the last chapter.

lspieller's picture
lspieller from Los Angeles is reading LEVIATHAN March 24, 2013 - 1:20pm

I think we should all just thank out lucky stars that Larry Clark (director/creator of Kids) didn't get his hands on this one. ::shudder::

postpomo's picture
postpomo from Canada is reading words words words March 25, 2013 - 12:03am

in the novel, Alex and co wear wolf's head jock straps, whereas in the movie, they wear dancer's belts. The film plays the dance bit very well (the gang fight, etc...) right up until the rehab when the music stops.

otherwise, I suppose that they are two different versions of the same story, and I far prefer Burgess' use of language (Russian propaganda mixed with babytalk) vs Kubrick's dance presentation.

Kevin Maddox's picture
Kevin Maddox from Melstrand, Mi is reading Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut March 26, 2013 - 11:53pm

I like the film because It was a trippy movie and has influenced many people to read the book, but If I wrote it, I'd hate thu movie too. Thu book is 100 times better....

kenetic's picture
kenetic June 5, 2013 - 6:37pm

It seems most people watched the movie first, before reading the book. With me, it was the other way around, and I have to admit that the movie, though good, lost a bit of its power because I didn't feel Alex as a character grew there, which he did do for me in the novel. In the novel, I felt that Alex was a smart lad, who just used his brains for the wrong kicks. The 21st chapter felt as if he'd not only moved past the violence, but that he'd come to understand that he'd made mistakes. Mistakes that he made while he was making himself, as teens do. 

But I can honestly say I'm biased, I remember loving the book, and reading it two or three times in a short period of time. Even though that was also because of the own language, and the way it dragged you into Alex's head, unpleasant as it may have been in there :)

Jill Ells-O'Brien's picture
Jill Ells-O'Brien from Massachsetts is reading The Hunter July 16, 2013 - 3:35pm

I read the book many times in my teens and twenties, and did not see the movie until adulthood- I love both versions, though the book wins by a nose. Casting MM was brilliant, and though his mad glee in the violence is palpable, it does nothing to glorify the violence he and his droogs indulge in. I loved the use of Singling in the Rain, and the stylized look of the movie. I prefer the book without the 21st chapter, and the movie also. Being raised in America I've been stuffed to the gills with happy endings and bullshit sell-out endings for decades. 

I didn't like the gentling of the child rape and rolling the old drunk scenes, I think the film got vilified enough Kubrick might as well have gone balls-out.

Alex shows no indication of wanting to change. One of my favorite King characters is Larry Underwood, and watching his personal journey, which I thought was authentically written. And for the record, the Shining is to me simply another example of good book and good film experience, but one of the few times I preferred the film over book. 

saturnbaby's picture
saturnbaby November 20, 2013 - 10:23pm

Thanks for the article (because of just how faithfully the film is I think a comparison is very apt).

I came to the novel A Clockwork Orange via the film and it was a wholly different experience. 

The film is a visceral and blackly cynical satire.  Given the content it can come off as nihilistic (e.g. there seem to be no life affirming aspects to its world while there are myriad condemnations of behavior), misogynistic (there are several leering scenes involving fully naked women being sexually abused by fully clothed men) and preachy (lots of in your face antiestablishment humor).  The violence is told in such an overtly choreographed and comical way that its producers can seem insensitive and voyeuristically ghoulish; the creators of a fashionable glorification of cruel behavior. 

Kubrick and company’s artistry has given many people an excuse to justify and/or sympathize with its assaultive structure but I have a hard time singing its praises as a piece of social expression.  One can go on about it being misinterpreted but ultimately that’s just subjectively justifying a piece of art one was affected by (same tactic as with the film‘s critics).  The charisma of Malcolm McDowell and the playfulness of Kubrick’s style make it easy to find validation in it for sadistic and antisocial ideas and feelings (something that I know from personal experience).  Depending on who sees it, A Clockwork Orange can make rape and murder appear funny or just plain fun.  Burgess himself admits to enjoying Alex’s prurient pleasures “by-proxy” in his critical (maybe hypocritical) forward to the book, and I think the manipulation of such urges are at the center of Kubrick’s production even as the irrational argument of freewill is given much lip service (irrational because there is even less evidence for the existence of freewill than there is evidence that violent films can adversely affect behavior).

Was Stanley Kubrick even aware that his film could be perceived this way and did/would he feel such a thing was significant in the larger scheme of existence?  He definitely felt the repercussions of making it (not because of stupidity, as one might smugly suggest, but rather a different sensitivity than his own).

When I read the book, with its twenty-first chapter intact, I found it a less morally absurd experience overall because its author proposed an idea of objective righteousness (i.e. at least a theoretical God above humankind).  Without such an idea to ground it I see no rational moral point for the story beyond the notion that one form of violent behavior is somehow actually ‘better’ than any other in a moral void, or the idea that absolute ‘free’ expression is more important than the need to contain our own behavior for the sake of overall social health and welfare.  I am not saying these are invalid ideas; they just seem critically off to me from a secular point of view.  No God = no meaning but what delusions we dabble in.  No God = no one is ever truly right or wrong about anything, thus satire is one slave criticizing another for being a different kind of slave, which is logically absurd.

With the idea of A Clockwork Orange Anthony Burgess was (among other things) attempting to make a definitive statement about the human moral condition.  I really doubt whether Stanley Kubrick intended for his film to say anything so specific.  I think he liked to use film as a medium to juggle (or jumble if you like) a multitude of ideas in the context of one story.  I love the artistry of his adaptation but the content ultimately distracts my appreciation of the style.  I wish I could better explain why the irrational preaching of the novel somewhat works for me while the irrational preaching of the film leaves me conflicted.  It would be easier for me to watch a film or read a book that stylized extreme violence if it wasn’t simultaneously trying to educate me on right and wrong.  And I find it impossible to swallow morality from someone who doesn’t even try to convince me that there is such a thing outside of delusion.  Maybe the nature of moving images just has a very different effect on my psyche than that of words alone.  Probably it has something to do with the allowance of one’s own imagination that a book affords.

Both Stanley Kubrick and Anthony Burgess are dead and we are left to speculate, praise and condemn based on our own perception of their work.  And for whatever it is worth, this is my red cent on the matter.  To each his/her own.

Cheers and Godspeed,

Christopher V.

Ps: “he volunteers for the Ludovico conditioning in the book and it’s assigned to him in the film”.  I think it may be the other way around.