Vanity essay

"A Clockwork Orange", a novella by Anthony Burgess, depicts the life of Alex, a fifteen-year- old outright delinquent who has chosen to create, brew and orchestrate violence with his fellow droogs (friends).  The key message of the book is simple: some people choose to make life unbearable through violence and end up miserable and nobody can change their nature. That is the life of Alex. Even after the attempt to reform him through the Ludovico Technique of behavioral correction, he is cured towards the end of the book and reverts to his previous trend of violence. Upon waking up in hospital, he mockingly quips, "I was cured alright". Without doubt, the message of the book is pure malice and misery. Simply put, the last chapter corrupts this message by giving the reader hope. The life of Alex is meant to begin and end with misery and psychopathic tendencies. At the same time, Alex begins at a certain point of crime and eventually comes back to start at that same point when he walks out of prison. His life has undergone 'transition' only to come back to the very beginning. Just like the hands of a clock, he has returned to the same dial. As much as the initial title was fitting, VANITY does suit the film-to-be appropriately. The twenty-first chapter undermines this theme.

Misery and violence was the way of life for Alex and his 'droogs'. He led the gang, driven by a passion and strong liking for chaos and violence. He says, " 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 sword-pen" (Part 1, Chapter 2, sentence 23)(Burges). He was utterly determined to dedicate his energy and strength to doing evil. After a night of mischief in which the gang robs Alexander, a writer, and rapes his wife (Part 1), he tells his 'droogs', "What we were after now was the old surprise visit. That was a real kick and good for laughs and lashings of the ultraviolence." 'Ultraviolence' is the term coined by Alex to explain the good feeling the crew got from their rendezvous. The very same night, 'Georgie' challenges Alex to go do a major crime, or as he calls it, "a man-sized job", which he takes into stride and ends up killing an old lady in the fiasco. This goes on up until the intervention by the law, represented by the police who arrested him and was charged with murder.

The Ludovico Technique was used on Alex in prison to make him reform. Charged with murder, he worked at the prison library and had the prison chaplain convinced that he was turning to God, thus gradually reforming. This idea was thwarted by his beating of a troubling cellmate to death, leading to his commission into the experimental behavior correctional technique. He is injected with drugs that make him ill and forced to watch violence. In the process, his psychology relates his illness to the violence he views, leading to an abhorrence of the vice. The psychological torture and effect is clear when Alex pleads with the prison officer, "You needn't take it any further, sir. You have proved to me that all this ultraviolence and killing is wrong, wrong and terribly wrong. I've learned my lesson, sir. I've seen now what I've never seen before. I'm cured! Praise Bog! I'm cured!" (Part 2, Chapter 2). The prison chaplain feels pity for him and views the technique as vile and unethical. He says that it robs Alex of his free will, imposing goodness on him. He says, "When a man cannot choose, he ceases to be a man" (Part 2, Chapter 3). He also poses the question on Godly ethics, "Does God want goodness or the choice of goodness? Is a man who chooses to be bad perhaps in some way better than a man who has the good imposed upon him?" This is the part of the film and book that makes one think deeper than what meets the eye about human nature. At the end of this second part, Alex is believed to have been cured of his psychopathic tendencies as well as violence and is released back into society. He also believes it too.

The last part of the novella is the release of Alex from prison. Unfortunately, he meets his former victims who are seeking revenge and is 'rescued' by his former gang member, Dim (now a police officer) and another gang rival member (Dim's partner), Billyboy. The two also want a piece of his hide and end up almost drowning him. Alex struggles to find his steps from the pool and ironically finds himself in the house of former victim, Alexander, who cannot recognize him since they wore masks at the night they gang-raped his late wife. After a discovery of this snippet of information from Alex's confession drawn from him by an associate of Alex, Alexander seeks to eliminate Alex by drumming classical music into him (which he detested since the Ludovico experiment), causing him to nearly commit suicide. He awakes from the hospital bed after his suicide attempt and after a few psychological tests, he realizes that his abhorrence of violence has ceased (Kubrick). To save face from attack by the media on this experiment, the government gives him a job, with media attention on him each day. Amid wheezing cameras, he realizes that the process had been reversed and he was back to his former, violent self. That is when he mentions his famous quote, "I was cured alright".

This novella is full of twists and turns and is a definite good read. The film by Stanley Kubrick ends with the last quote above and rightly so. His last images in the film are those of ultraviolence and rape-much to his liking. It is the most appropriate end to Alex's story. He goes back to his initial point, having achieved nothing-vanity indeed. Adding the twenty-first chapter would convey the feeling to the film that the drunk in Part one evokes in Alex when he says, "One thing I could never stand was to see a filthy old drunky howling away at the filthy songs of his fathers and going blurp blurp in between as it might be a filthy old orchestra in his sinking rotten guts: I could never stand to see anyone like that." (Part 1, Chapter 2).

Vanity essay

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