Places: A Clockwork Orange

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1962

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Dystopian

Time of work: Indeterminate future

Places DiscussedCity

City. Clockwork Orange, AUnnamed future British city where Alex and his “droogs,” or friends, roam. The landscape is cheerless and industrial; echoes of the past and its culture can be seen, but these are largely decayed or corrupted. Streets are named for twentieth century British writers, and Alex and his gang wear masks of “historical” figures including Peebee Shelley (Percy Bysshe Shelley) and Elvis Presley. The Public Biblio, or library, is frequented only by the old and the poor, and the Filmdrome, or cinema, is decaying from lack of use. Giant housing developments, such as the Victoria Flatblocks, are home to most of the population. Past the flatblock developments is Oldtown, where Alex and his friends go in search of valuables to steal. Like its aged but elegant houses, the people of Oldtown seem to represent an earlier Britain. They include old men with sticks and old “ptitsas,” or women, with cats. While robbing the Manse, a house in Oldtown, Alex beats and kills an old woman. The fifteen-year-old criminal is sentenced to fourteen years in prison.

Staja 84F

Staja 84F. State prison in which Alex is imprisoned for robbery and murder. In this overcrowded, depersonalizing environment, he is addressed by number rather than by name. When a seventh man is thrown into Alex’s cell, originally built for three, it sparks a brawl that ends with the new man dead and Alex again accused of murder. Ironically, this incident wins Alex his freedom. Alex is chosen as a subject for Ludovico’s Technique, a conditioning treatment designed to reform criminals. Given drugs to make him physically ill, he is forced to watch violent films, accompanied by classical music. Within weeks, Alex cannot see or think of violence or hear music without feeling horribly sick.

Municipal Flatblock 18A

Municipal Flatblock 18A. Apartment in which Alex lives with his parents. The building’s dingy halls are adorned with a socialist mural showing naked working men and women, their dignity marred by obscene graffiti. The elevators are smashed, so that Alex must walk ten flights up to his small flat. Despite the general dreariness of his surroundings, Alex has made his bedroom an oasis of civilization. Surrounded by stereo speakers on the walls, ceiling, and floors, Alex lies on his bed listening to Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart and dreaming violent dreams. When Alex returns home after his nonviolence conditioning, he is surprised to find the walls free of graffiti and the elevators running, and his stereo and albums sold.

Korova Milkbar

Korova Milkbar. Public drinking place in which the novel opens; a favorite haunt of Alex and his droogs. The milkbar has no liquor license but sells milk laced with drugs, either hallucinogens or stimulants.

HOME

HOME. Cottage in a village outside the city that is the home of the writer F. Alexander. Following a night of violence in the city, Alex and his droogs drive out to the country and stop at a comfortable middle-class cottage with a sign reading “HOME.” In the course of their break-in, which ends with the beating of F. Alexander and the rape of his wife, Alex reads part of Alexander’s work, A Clockwork Orange, in manuscript. The book, which gives Burgess’s novel its title and central metaphor, is a condemnation of the attempt to impose upon human beings restrictions appropriate to machines. The writer’s home, like the houses in Oldtown, seems a relic of an older, gentler era.

Alex returns to HOME as a victim. Released from prison, he is driven to the country by his former droogs, now policemen, and beaten. He makes his way to F. Alexander’s place, where the writer, not recognizing Alex, who had worn a mask during the break-in, welcomes him. F. Alexander’s cottage, warm and cozy, seems to offer Alex salvation, but it turns into another trap for him. The writer’s political cronies want to martyr Alex to the cause of liberty, even commenting that it would be better for their purpose if he could look worse than he does. They spirit him to another flatblock, lock him in a room, and play music until Alex, maddened from pain, jumps from the window.

BibliographyCoale, Samuel. Anthony Burgess. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1981. A general discussion of Burgess’ work, including an examination of the philosophical issues in A Clockwork Orange.Morris, Robert K. The Consolations of Ambiguity. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1971. Compares A Clockwork Orange to The Wanting Seed (1962), another of Burgess’ dystopian novels.Petix, Esther. “Linguistics, Mechanics, and Metaphysics: A Clockwork Orange.” In Anthony Burgess, edited by Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House, 1987. Defines the author’s dualistic worldview and relates it to the language and images of the novel.Ray, Philip E. “Alex Before and After: A New Approach to Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange.” In Critical Essays on Anthony Burgess, edited by Geoffrey Aggeler. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1986. Argues that the three sections of the novel represent changes in Alex’s inevitable development.Tilton, John W. Cosmic Satire in the Contemporary Novel. Cranbury, N.J.: Bucknell University Press, 1977. Argues that the restoration of the last chapter greatly increases the depth of the novel.
Categories: Places