“It is as inhuman to be totally good as it is to be totally evil” (Burgess Xiii).
Life could not exist without evil. ‘A Clockwork Orange’ by Anthony Burgess describes the exploits and behaviors of Alex. The author depicts him as a violent and sociopathic adolescent who strives to become a constructive member of the community. Based on the story, a film adaption directed by Stanley Kubrick came out in 1971. Both the movie and novel versions of the work have had a significant impact on popular culture. However, the film adaptation omits certain sections found in the novel version. The modified film version reflects a dystopian England society. More fundamentally, it excludes the 21st chapter of the novel. Therefore, one can conclude that ‘A Clockwork Orange’ differs from its literary source. Despite the slight differences, the movie and literary versions have areas of convergence. Both the movie and the novel demonstrate the effect of ultra-violence perpetrated by Alex. However, the film director is determined to create a much-darker quality of the criminal acts of ‘thuggish’ Alex, hence removing the sympathy often portrayed in the novel.
The film version of ‘A Clockwork Orange’ downplays the criminal acts of Alex. It provides the story from his point of view. According to Snively, the movie is unable to depict the violence in a non-graphic way, thereby giving Alex a much darker quality. As such, this removes any element of sympathy that the viewers might have towards Alex. For instance, the novel portrays a razor as Alex’s primary weapon. However, in the movie, one can observe that the weapon is a hidden knife. From the omission of a razor in his book, one can clearly see that the director is keen on creating a much-darker quality of Alex’s behavior. Despite this and other disparities, the two versions of the movie have areas of agreement.
In both the movie and the novel, Alex is portrayed as a gang member that engages in acts of criminality. As illustrated by Snively, “He is a violent gang member who assaults, robs, and rapes people purely for enjoyment” (Snively, 1). Both the movie and the book contain scenes where he terrorizes people, including authority figures, friends, and innocent strangers. In both instances, Alex is portrayed as a pervert hell-bent on assaulting women and forcefully engaging them in sex. In explaining a rape incident where Alex had his brutality by saying, “forcing down a woman who was crying hysterically” (Burgess, 23). The film version also remains keen to demonstrate the violent scenes. The novel is brutal and explains Alex’s behavior from an outsider’s point of view. However, the movie provides the story from Alex’s point of view.
The ending of the movie also plays a significant role in the overall direction of the story. Kubrick’s film removes the happy ending that Burgess attempts to put in his story. Burgess attempts to restore social order in his story by rehabilitating the character of Alex. The author portrays a changed Alex willing to start a life with his wife and son. However, the film version ends in a bad note. The director takes a retributive approach against Alex. According to him, evil should be punished, and justice restored in society. He does not allow him to change or make amends for his character and shows no ‘optimism’ for Alex. Therefore, from the onset, the film director is determined to create a much darker quality of the criminal acts of Alex hence removing the sympathy often portrayed in the novel.
With this being said, ‘A Clockwork Orange’ is a classic nonetheless. The book tries to have the reader sympathize with Alex, and show he is changing for the better. The movie portrays Alex as a demon and someone that does not belong in society. This could be for the audience’s entertainment, removing any sympathy for Alex. Both the movie and the novel demonstrate the effect of ultra-violence perpetrated by Alex.
- Kubrick, Stanley, and Anthony Burgess. A Clockwork Orange. Los Angeles: Warner Bros, 1971.
- Burgess, Anthony. A Clockwork Orange: Restored Edition. Penguin UK, 2013.
- Snively, Ben. Cured All Right: The Differing Messages of the Literary and Cinematic Versions of ‘A Clockwork Orange’. https://medium.com/@bensnively/the-differing-messages-in-the-literary-and-cinematic-versions-of-a-clockwork-orange-7d817de9d8b1
- Farrell, Thomas B. Introduction. Norms of Rhetorical Culture, by Farrell, Yale UP, 1993, pp.1-13.