As I mentioned in class last week the theme of many of these readings have reminded me a lot about Clockwork Orange a novel by Anthony Burgess. What I have found most interesting is how much of the material we have learned about not only connects with the story of Clockwork Orange but also the story behind Clockwork Orange.
For those of you who have not read the novel, Clockwork Orange was written by Anthony Burgess in 1962. Burgess had been told by doctors that he would live less than a year and so he set about writing as many stories of fiction as he could in order to earn some money for his widow. Clockwork Orange stands as his most well known work to come out of this period and is an examination of youth, free will, and morality. A short trailer for the film can be found here.
The story of Clockwork revolves around a gang leader by the name of Alex, who is a teen only interested in drugs, violence, and mayhem. After committing several acts of violence and rape, Alex is betrayed by his fellow gang members and incarcerated. During his time in prison Alex is “treated” for his violent tendencies by the state in the form of aversion therapy. Although this effectively curbs his violent tendencies and leads to his release, Alex finds himself utterly helpless to defend himself against his former victims and friends. After taking a great deal of abuse Alex decides to commit suicide but is unsuccessful. His suicide attempt was enough however to raise awareness of the states “treatment” of him and so he was deprogrammed.
What is interesting is the story behind the story. In the original novel Alex is initially drawn back into the violent gang life but later begins to realize that he wants more out of life. This revelation takes place in the novels twenty-first chapter, a choice consciously made by Burgess as it signifies the year in which adolescences are considered by many to become adults.
However when this story was brought to America, American publishers felt that this twenty-first chapter detracted from the story and so with the author’s permission it was removed. In the American version of the story Alex is left much like where he began, a violent youth who is only interested in mayhem.
As I previously mentioned, I chose to use this film as a Rendering of Youth because I feel that this film exemplifies many of the themes we are exploring in this course. The whole notion of Youth culture as leading to a Moral Panic is most prevalent for me, especially when one considers how American novels (and the Stanley Kubrick film) leave out the twenty-first chapter and effectively keep Alex as a troubled adolescent. Also the age of twenty-one as signifying this shift from a troubled youth to a mature adult is most interesting (and perhaps an updated version of the novel would have to take into account the phenomenon of emerging adulthood and add in a few more chapters).