By Anthony Burgess
I'd never read this book and wanted to see if it matched the classic Kubrick movie. It was ... practically word for made-up word. Very good.
But the twist was that the book, originally published in Britain, had a final chapter that was excised form the American edition, censored at the time. The movie was made from that book. So the real book has a denouement that totally changes the theme of the story.
Here's the basic plot:
- An oppressive government tries to crack down on increased ruffianism in a future, dismal Britain.
- Young hooligan Alex mixes up some trouble with his droogs, raping and pillaging the villagers.
- Alex kills an old woman, gets arrested.
- The State undertakes to reform Alex, using him as a test subject for a new technique.
- They use association - causing Alex pain when he sees graphic images of violence. Alex is incapable of causing violence and can only do good. His freedom of choice has been stripped from him.
- He's released, but finds out his parents no longer want him, and his old victims (and the police) gang up to attack him - and he can't fight back.
- A rival party to the government tries to use the dismal Alex as their poster boy for the failed policies of the government.
- The reform technique turns out to have a side effect - it also prevents Alex from enjoying any "wild" human pleasure - art, literature, sex, and especially his love, symphonic music.
- Inconsolable, Alex attempts to take his own life when he can't even enjoy Ludwig Van's glorious Ninth.
- Waking up in the hospital, Alex realizes the government has reversed its technique because of the bad press. They've jailed the dissidents that had tried to help him too. Alex looks forward to a resumed life of the old ultra-violence.
Theme: People can't change, and human nature is miserable. We have no free will and only act because of our nature.
But the further ending in the original book ...
- Growing older, Alex realizes his life is empty and sees his old friends married and happy. He resolves to change his life and settle down.
Real Theme: Everyone can change. Everyone can find redemption. We have freedom of choice.
Which ending do you prefer? It's your choice.
read October 2004