A Clockwork Orange

by: Anthony Burgess

Key Facts

full title · A Clockwork Orange

author · John Anthony Burgess Wilson (Anthony Burgess)

type of work · Novella

genre · Dystopia; philosophical novel; social satire; black comedy

language · English

time and place written · 1958–1961, England

date of first publication · 1962

publisher · W.W. Norton & Company

narrator · Alex narrates A Clockwork Orange immediately after the events of the novel.

point of view · The narrator speaks in the first person, subjectively describing only what he sees, hears, thinks, and experiences.

tone · Irreverent; comical; hateful; playful; juvenile

tense · Past, though in the last few paragraphs the narrator switches to present tense

setting (time) · The not-so-distant future

setting (place) · A large town or small city in England, as well as an English countryside village

protagonist · Alex

major conflict · Alex asserts himself against the State, which seeks to suppress his freedom by psychologically removing his power to make free choices.

rising action · Alex commits several violent crimes that disrupt the order of the State.

climax · Alex is apprehended by the police and sent to jail, where he eventually undergoes behavioral conditioning that kills his capacity for violence.

falling action · Alex becomes a being incapable of making moral decisions, and he is caught up in a political struggle between the current government and a cabal of revolutionaries.

themes · The inviolability of free will; the necessity of commitment; the inherent evil of government; “duality as the ultimate reality”

motifs · Nadsat; classical music; Christ

symbols · Milk; synthemesc, vellocet and drencrom (hallucinogenic drugs); night/darkness; day/lightness

foreshadowing · In Part One, Chapter 1, Alex foreshadows more violence before the night’s end by telling us that the “night is still very young.” In Part One, Chapter 3, the names Gitterfenster and Bettzeug foreshadow Alex’s impending imprisonment and suicide attempt, respectively. In Part One, Chapter 5, Alex foreshadows the parallels between himself and Christ, which will continue throughout the novel, and shape the novel’s three-part structure. In Part One, Chapter 5 Alex foreshadows his apprehension by the police, as well as everything else that befalls him, when he tells us that he leads his droogs to his doom. In Part Two, Chapter 7, Alex foreshadows the conflict in Part Three between the State and F. Alexander’s faction of political dissidents when he tells us that his mention of F. Alexander’s manuscript “A Clockwork Orange” hushes the room for a minute.


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