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Dystopian Fiction in A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

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Renee Noel

on 8 June 2017

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Transcript of Dystopian Fiction in A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

Dystopian Fiction in
A Clockwork Orange
by Anthony Burgess

As modern-day society is changing, so does its wording in books. There are so many different genres of literature that influence into modern day for a specific purpose. One genre that people try to prevent from happening that are shown in books is dystopian fiction. Dystopian fiction is a genre of fiction that is used to explore social and political issues in a futuristic, imaginative world in which oppressive societal control are maintained through corporate, bureaucratic, technological, moral, or totalitarian control.
About the Novel
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess is a dystopian fiction that, shows the story of Alex who is a barbarous criminal who commits any possible crime that is known to man. After he was betrayed by his gang, Alex was placed into prison for 14 years. Finding out that he could be set free from prison early, he is the victim of a new treatment that psychologically conditions criminals and makes them incapable to violence. With the success of this treatment Alex was released from prison as a defenseless man who is incapable of making wrong choices and standing up for himself. Due this his previous friends of victims take revenge on him, leading him to attempting suicide. His unsuccessful attempt of suicide and the uproar of the media, the government changes Alex back to his old self. At the end of the novel Alex realizes his need to live a normal life.
With a twisted view of portraying good and evil A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess creates an exceptional example of dystopian fiction. The corruption of society in Burgess novel is displayed through totalitarian government, the dystopian protagonist resistance towards oppressive societal control, and the use of technology.
Dystopian Fiction
Dystopia comes from the ancient Greek word ‘dys’ and ‘topia’ which means ‘bad place’. Dystopias make judgment about a current trend, societal norm, or political system. Dystopian fiction can be traced back to the United Kingdom in the early 1500s with Sir Thomas More’s book called Utopia. Dystopian fiction can usually relate to a dystopian society created by human beings. Books such as The Iron Heel by Jack London and Lord of the flies by William Golding are novels that display a dystopian society created by humans. Back then, dystopian fiction derives from the advance in socialism and communism and the nature of government that emerge from a devastating conflict. With books such as Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and 1984 by George Orwell. It’s interesting to see what forms dystopian fiction takes on whether it concerns about socialism and collectivism, technology and science, religion, and societal acceptance. There are always presented to have a chilling kernel truth to them.
Element 1: Totalitarian Government
The first element that is found in A Clockwork Orange is totalitarian government. In a totalitarianism society “[every night] was what they called a worldcast, meaning that the same programme was being viddied by everybody” (Burgess 15). The society that is displayed in the novel shown people live under absolute government control where everything from jobs, and what is viewed on television is being controlled. When it comes to totalitarianism in A Clockwork Orange there are “commonest motifs in the dystopian [literature] include representing war sufferings, criticizing totalitarian regimes and warning against technology abuse” (Xiaolan 3). Readers can see in this novel the government displays the way how totalitarian behaviour is caused by the flawed crumbling society that the protagonist, Alex lives in. “People everywhere may well have become oppressed by a mind and spirit-numbing homogeneity, even world government” (Stinson 2). You could see the connection of dystopian fiction to this element and how society in this novel can be easily controlled by the government, and things that could not be controlled there are laws that they must abide to.
Another element of dystopian fiction that is present in A Clockwork Orange is the protagonist resistance towards the oppressive societal control. Alex, the dystopian protagonist in this novel has a rebellious approach to the rules that are laid out by the government. Now being harmless due the treatment Alex feels like a “poor malchick who was govoreeting about his sufferings and how the Government had sapped his will and how it was up to all lewdies to not let such a rotten and evil Government rule them again” (Burgess 119). Being angered about this treatment he meets with a man who he abused during his violent days, and teams up with him to expose the state’s crimes. In the novel, the “character [Alex] who most oppose this government are naturally those who are extreme libertarians” (Rabinovitz 2). Even though Alex has violent nature towards government control he believes that revenge on the government is the only way, who made him suffer most. Usually a situation in dystopian novels “the dystopian enterprise depends upon the totality of one relentless and overpowering experience--social oppression, governmental oppression and natural/scenic oppression--bearing down upon a specific character, Nevertheless, those negative characteristics, in turn, oppress the individuals or a particular character fighting against that system in the novel” (Lewis 3). In relation to Alex, usually in dystopian novel characters tend to have an oppressive nature towards the government, they would try different ways on fighting against the government for them to feel the character’s pain and suffering.

Renee Noel
Element 2: Dystopian protagonist resistance towards oppressive societal control
Element 3: The use of technology
The last element of dystopian fiction that is shown in A Clockwork Orange is the use of technological advancements by the government to psychologically turn criminals into law abiding citizens. While in prison, Alex was selected as a test subject to a new experiment called Ludivico’s Technique which brainwashes its victims (Alex) into ridding themselves from violence. In the novel, it is described as “behavioural conditioning technique that will help to shore up state power” (Sumner 49). Alex conducted this experiment in exchange for an early release from jail. According to the doctors, “What is happening to [him] now is what should happen to any normal healthy human organism contemplating the actions of the forces of evil, the workings of the principle of destruction. [He is] being made sane, [he is] being made healthy” (Burgess). The government in this novel tries to manipulate certain individuals so that they can control and mold how society should be. This generally is displayed a lot in dystopian fiction novels in fact, “the technology in dystopian fiction merely an instrument in the hands of the state's totalitarian rulers, used by them to enforce a set of values extrinsic to the technology itself, or is it, rather, an autonomous force that determines the values and thus shapes the society in its own image” (Beauchamp).
Artifact #1
Artifact 1: Totalitarian Government
• An article taken by BBC news, was written on January 21, 2013
• This article talks about the totalitarian government of North Korea and its control over media to be used as a stream of propaganda.
• This relates to my genre element of totalitarian government by relating the super-state of government in A Clockwork Orange, with its citizens being controlled by the government. With North Korea’s totalitarian government brainwashing its victims using propaganda media.
• Another relation with my genre element is the way North Korea controls its society where they have certain rules that all citizens must abide when it comes for foreign broadcasting. If North Koreans are caught listening or viewing foreign media, will be severely punished.

Artifact #2
Artifact #3
Artifact 3: the use of technology
• This is a scene from the movie called Divergent which released in the year 2014
• Divergent sets in a dystopian society that is divided into five factions Abnegation (the selfless), Amity (the peaceful), Candor (the honest), Dauntless (the brave) and Erudite (the intellectual). The remaining population are factionless and are worthless in society.
• Once they reach the age of 16 they undergo a serum-induced psychological aptitude test which indicates their best-suited faction.
• In this scene Beatrice undergoes the aptitude test to see which faction she fits into, after completion of this test she finds out that she fits into multiple factions and is known as a divergent, which are dangerous people.
• This relates to my genre element of the use of technology because in this situation the government is controlling where you should be in society based off a personality test, so that they can help shape society how it should be
• Another relation to my genre element is that they use this kind of technology under supreme rule (totalitarianism) so that they can use this sort of technology however they want, and don’t care about the people who they hurt. In this artifact they would try every possible way to get where they need to be, since they are super state government.

“I've battled demons that won't let me sleep
Called to the sea but she abandoned me
But I won't never give up, no, never give up, no, no
No, I won't never give up, no, never give up, no, no
And I won't let you get me down
I'll keep gettin' up when I hit the ground
Oh, never give up, no, never give up no, no, oh” (AZ Lyrics)

Never Give Up by Sia
Artifact 2: Dystopian protagonist resistance towards oppressive societal control
• This is a song called Never Give Up written by Sia and was released in the year 2016
• This song is about never giving up on life, and whatever you must do to make yourself happy, stand up for what is right.
• This relates to my genre element of resistance towards oppressive societal control because people have certain demons in their life that was heavily caused by a certain power, so they use that as sort of a lift for themselves to never give up on that one goal, they must expose those certain powers that held them down. In relation to Alex in A Clockwork Orange he used the suffering that he went through that experiment to help himself to try and expose the government for their crimes.
• Another relation to my genre element is that a lot of times people fail to get to their goal and would tend to give up on life, but they should not. They should continue to fight against those oppressive powers, to get what they want which they’ll eventually will.

Works Cited
Beauchamp, Gorman. "Technology in the Dystopian Novel." Modern Fiction Studies 32.1 (Spring 1986): 53-63. Rpt. in Contemporary Literary Criticism. Ed. Janet Witalec. Vol. 168. Detroit: Gale, 2003. Literature Resource Center. Web. 7 June 2017.

Burgess, Anthony. A Clockwork Orange. New York: Norton, 2001. Print.

Lewis, Darcy. "Melancholia and machinery: the dystopian landscape and mindscape in Hard Times." Dickens Quarterly 31.1 (2014): 17+. Literature Resource Center. Web. 7 June 2017.

Rabinovitz, Rubin. “Ethical Values in Burgess's A Clockwork Orange”. Studies in the Novel 11.1 (Spring 1979): 43-50. Rpt. in Novels for Students. Ed. David M. Galens. Vol. 15. Detroit: Gale, 2002.

Stinson, John J. "Condemning the Neutrals in Oppressively Dull Worlds: Look Back in Anger, A Clockwork Orange, and Equus." Notes on Contemporary Literature 38.5 (Nov. 2008): 7-9. Rpt. in Contemporary Literary Criticism. Ed. Jeffrey W. Hunter. Vol. 291. Detroit: Gale, 2010. Literature Resource Center. Web. 7 June 2017.

Sumner, Charles. "Humanist Drama in a Clockwork Orange." Yearbook of English Studies, vol. 42, July 2012, pp. 49-63.

Xiaolan, Wang. "Dystopian nightmare in contemporary adolescent fiction and its ethical value." Forum for World Literature Studies 8.1 (2016): 75+. Literature Resource Center. Web. 23 May 2017.

"Never Give Up." AZ Lyrics. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 June 2017.

Divergent Series . “DIVERGENT — Aptitude Test Scene.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 19 July 2015. Web. 7 June 2017.

"North Korea Profile - Media." BBC News. BBC, 21 Jan. 2013. Web. 07 June 2017.
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