Anarchy itself is presently used to describe a state of disorder due to the absence or non-recognition of authority or other controlling systems. In both of the texts I have selected, anarchy is central to the critiques of criminality offered by both Capote and Burgess. Within his book, Capote famously offers a slightly altered but ultimately faithful story of the events prior to, and post the horrific crime that occurred on November 15th, 1959. The non-fiction novel as a form itself is interesting, as it almost excuses the use of blatant horrific details that I suspect would have gained far more controversy if they had been a work of complete fiction. Stanley Kauffmann, a critic who originally reviewed the book, claimed that although the narrative was intriguing, Capote “demonstrates on almost every page that he is the most outrageously overrated stylist of our time”, which proves ‘the nonfiction novel’ was not universally praised and accepted upon release. Capote’s devotion to translating real life into such a novel was something which he believed he was physically made for. In 1973 he told Rolling Stone Magazine that he had a photographic memory, one that was “almost 100% reliable”, and that also he had an “audio memory”, something in which he utilised often, and stated proudly in the same interview that he could “recreate a conversation as long as up to six hours which is 90% accurate and have done it.”-his obsession and devotion to his masterpiece was so great that it made it so that this would be his last novel. The books which I have selected both hold significance in their respective author’s bibliographies. Burgess believed that he had written works far greater than his most famous and loved A Clockwork Orange, and its rampant success over his other obscure books caused him a great deal of unhappiness. The great success of both texts can be attributed to many reasons; whether it is because of their successful film adaptations or the general controversy surrounding both, I believe that a main factor towards this success of both texts is in fact, their unrelenting depictions of brutality and anarchy, which is dealt by the hands of both the criminals and the government who condemns them.
In Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, the tattoo is the mark of the killer. Both the characters of Dick Hickock and Perry Smith are bound together by their breached skin. These tattoos are described by Capote as both ‘polished’ and ‘intricate’ and consist of dangerous and supernatural creatures including a spitting snake and the head of a dragon, with a human skull wedged in its jaw. These tattoos act as a desperate attempt by the pair to appear intimidating, and are therefore given an outlet to embody these thuggish characters they are portraying. In 1950’s America, tattoos were perceived as a gaudy reflection of masculinity, and there was a general stigma around such tattoos that related them to criminals. Similarly, in A Clockwork Orange, the inspiration for the presentation of both the protagonist and his gang came from a moment in 1961, in which Anthony Burgess visited St. Petersburg, and witnessed a tyrannical atmosphere that he recognised as a great threat to the world. Within this oppressive atmosphere were abundances of aggressive teenagers, known to the locals as the ‘Stylyagi’, of whom Burgess based his group of violent teens (labelled as ‘droogs’- a word which comes from Burgess’s fictional slang used in the novel referred to as ‘nadsat’, and is language that reflects the boldness and brutality of the character’s who use it), along with the ‘English Teddy Boys’, a youth culture of the 1950’s to 1960’s that associated with American rock music of the same time, and was a movement comparable with the Punk Rockers that later appeared in the 1970’s. These, comparable to the droogs, had a particular outgoing fashion that bound them together, the Teddy Boys wore clothes that mocked the fashion of the aristocracy, and the Droogs wear outlandish intimidating clothing that underline their frequent violent and sexual habits, including a crotch mould with a personalised image for each member (including a spider, a hand, and the face of a clown), and heavy boots intended for kicking. This of course also provides them also a platform to align their personalities with the way in which they dress. It is as if Alex adopts a separate identity when he dons his elaborate costume, and although he consistently portrays his fearsome intelligence and morbid wit, he is at his most violent and detestable when he wears the mask. The violent young men who roam and fill the streets of A Clockwork Orange are all connected by the clothes they wear. This of course then becomes the mark of the hoodlum, and in Alex’s case, the killer.
In the worlds of A Clockwork Orange and In Cold Blood, the accepted perception of anarchy is seen as something which is both uncontrollable and inevitable to their respecting governments. Outward bursts of testosterone-fuelled violence are surprising and somewhat exciting to the residents of Holcomb because of the taboos and hypocrisies of small-town America after the events of the Second World War, but not to the citizens in Alex’s world. They have grown accustomed to such violence. A local journalist attempts to promote the idea that it is in fact the devil who is causing violence within the modern day youth, a statement which Alex approves because, if this is the case, he is in fact innocent, and can see himself ultimately as a victim (which he is, in some capacity). The law enforcers and people in places of power in both the quiet town of Holcomb and the dystopian society in which Alex lives are portrayed as equally unhelpful, whether that's through the unwillingness to arrest Alex or the grossly underprepared Kansas Bureau of Investigation. It seems as if such acts are perceived as inevitable in both worlds, yet none are prepared. Once the people responsible for committing unspeakable crimes have been recognised for doing so, there is only punishment. There is no focus on prevention, and no chance of redemption. Common people simply ignore the true issue and only hope that such inevitable acts do not happen to them. In Kansas, America, criminals are killed. In A Clockwork Orange, a new government regime being introduced could suggest that the criminal’s fate could be far worse. It is clear that in both texts the extreme justice provided to Alex, and the murders of the Clutter family is simply not enough to ease the pain and regret of those indirectly affected. Mr Alexander, the man whom Alex beat severely and brutally raped his wife (who then later died due to trauma), is understandably deeply affected, and is driven against his inherent pacifist moral beliefs when he wishes to kill Alex in order to avenge his wife, stating that ‘if he were I’d tear him. I’d split him, by God, yes yes, so i would.” Burgess’s interesting multiple use of violent verbs to describe the ways in which Mr Alexander would destroy Alex are interesting, as it shows both his newly adopted sense of violence and his loss of humanity, as these verbs degrade and objectify Alex, as if he were a piece of paper or a block of wood. The repeated adverb of “yes” suggests that this feeling overpowers Mr Alexander, and he is drawn to a similar primal bloodlust that we see Alex portray earlier in the novel, suggesting that their characters have more in common than their names. This change of Mr Alexander’s character shows him as a primary victim of the lasting effects of untreated anarchy, and so is Bobby Rupp, the sixteen year old boy who dearly loved Nancy Clutter, whose many childhood memories being with the girl he loved were brutally tainted at the hands of Dick Hickock and Perry Smith. These painfully genuine depictions of grief and anger make it hard for readers to feel sympathy. The authors, however, offer the harrowing perspectives of their criminals. Alex has always been a victim. The systemic neglect and the ignorant nature of his authoritative figures were bound to breed violence and hate. Alex is not the typical bully. He is intelligent, and self confident, and seemingly holds no insecurities (other than being overthrown as leader, which is an instinct that most heroes in places of power seem to possess). People fear him because they know he will go unpunished, and ultimately they will be the ones who will receive punishment at the mercy of Alex. This is the case for all adults excluding law enforcers. Burgess creates an intense environment in which there is an almost tangible fear of children, at the center of which are victims themselves. Richard Hickock and Perry Smith were also victims. Richard Hickock was involved in a serious automobile accident in 1950, experiencing head injuries and rendering him disfigured. Perry Smith experienced abuse at the hands of his own parents, and after the death of his mother which was caused by her pervasive alcoholism, left Smith in an Catholic orphanage, a place that would define his childhood with even further abuse. He would often receive physical punishment for his bed wetting, a result of malnutrition. When he moved to a separate orphanage, one of the caretakers allegedly tried to drown him. He spent time in street gangs after this, committing petty crime. One of four siblings, his two brothers committed suicide as young adults, suggesting hereditary mental illness. The remaining sister eliminated any contact with him before both his and his accomplice’s eventual execution, which in itself was a separate brutal process.
Comparable to the infamous act of violence in Capote’s In Cold Blood, a key moment of anarchy in A Clockwork Orange is the significant action which brings about Alex’s downfall. After venturing into a wealthy area, the four droogs identify a vulnerable woman alone in her home. Alex recognises her to possess ‘real lovely innocence’, the use of multiple specific adjectives here reinforces his recognition that she is his prey. She denies the droogs entry into her home but they enter anyway. This means that even though previously in the novel, Mr Alexander voluntarily let the droogs into his home, if he did not they would have broken in anyway, making his actions inconsequential to the inevitable force that is Alex and his gang. This is idealistic anarchy without morals. The droogs target the innocent. Alex contemplates committing violence against the woman’s cats- the idea of harming animals is not new to Alex. He hit ‘squealing things’ with the car he stole previously in the book. It is my belief that as a result of the society he was raised in, Alex sees all of his victims as nothing but ‘squealing things’. His perception of all life is defined by his belief that it is meant to be influenced and harmed somewhat by him. His character is the complete embodiment of unrelenting anarchy. He refers to his fellow droogs as his ‘sheep’, ready to follow and do as he says, further reinforcing the idea that to him, all life is equal, but it is equal because of the way in which he attempts to degrade all of it. In this chapter, Alex fails, as his ‘sheep’ choose to betray him, meaning he underestimated them. The woman sets her animals to attack Alex, and, overwhelmed, he becomes helpless. The particular ‘sheep’ he underestimated the most, chains him to the home, and Alex is left there, caught in a trap, like an animal he’d compare his peers with. Left waiting for the police to arrive, Alex knows his outcome will not be fair.
In chapter two of A Clockwork Orange, the four destructive young men come across a “filthy old filmdrome”, which is described as being usually empty, except for the teens who enter only for sexual pleasure in the dark of the cinema whilst the “usual cowboy riot” is shown. This description of cinema through the cynical noun phrase is ironic, as in the 1960’s westerns were the most lucrative genre of film, a trend which would be finally broken in the early 1970’s, coincidentally alongside the release of Stanley Kubrick’s equally masterful and controversial 1971 adaptation of the book. The controversy and acclaim surrounding the film bought both the book and the picture much attention, and made many people consider the effects such a violent, depraved story would have on the already rebellious youths of that time. Following multiple crimes associated with the novel and film, the book was banned in multiple states in America. In 1973, a disheartened Kubrick withdrew the film from its UK theatrical circulation, after receiving death threats and being particularly horrified upon hearing that a dutch girl had been gang raped whilst the men sang Arthur Freed’s and Nacio Herb-Brown’s famous song ‘Singing in The Rain’-the song had been an addition that Kubrick himself added into his adaptation, separate from the original story. The film received mixed criticism, a young Roger Ebert claimed that all the film did was “celebrate the nastiness of its hero”, however, Vincent Camby of the New York Times saw the film as being crucial, and recognised that it “makes real and important the kind of fears simply exploited by other, much lesser films”. Contrasting this, Roger Ebert included Richard Brook’s adaptation of In Cold Blood on his prestigious ‘great movies’ list, and commented upon the controversies that both the film and the book received, disagreeing with those who believed that the film glorified the crimes of Hickok and Smith. Roger Ebert commended the morals of the movie, stating that “essentially the film finds, as the book did, that the Clutters died for stupid, senseless reasons”, whilst also believing that the film did generate sympathy for the killers because of their underprivileged backgrounds. The unnecessary censorship of both adaptations of A Clockwork Orange ironically portray their respective governments as withholding and restrictive, a usual key feature in an anarchistic society.
The murdering of The Clutters electrified and somewhat excited the minds of the simple people of Holcomb, who were stuck in a bored, superficially optimistic America in which men felt they no longer had purpose, being trapped in a time wedged between the second world and Vietnam war. The murders grew much grim interest and unwanted attention, and acted as a disruption to the glorified relatively new idea of the American dream that many had already begun to grow tired of. After the killings, Holcomb soon becomes a bitter place once the crimes are briefly left unsolved. The citizens of the country town become wary of their neighbours. Mrs Hartman, becomes the overseer of such gossip, as the owner of the local cafe, is a key witness to the cruelty of the town. Without its superficially perfect image, Holcomb is revealed to be a duplicitous town, with a dark hateful underbelly. Families start locking their doors at night, and it seems that people have found purpose in trying to figure out who killed the family primarily out of their own grim interest. On the other hand, Alex’s killing goes somewhat unnoticed, as once he is incarcerated he is replaced in all of his previous ongoing situations. He loses his identity in prison, being reduced to the number ‘6655321’. Now that he has been overthrown in his gang, Georgie, whom Alex had previously been paranoid of trying to assume his position, does so. The government takes his possessions from his home, and in the empty space his parents let a lodger named Joe live there. It is as if nothing happened, and once Alex is free of prison, even though he is literally incapable of committing violence, he finds that society has no longer a place for him. He can no longer enjoy listening to his refined music and is even mocked for attempting to do so, discovering that the only thing he can still enjoy is taking drugs. Because of this, Alex decides the only option left for him is to take his own life. This is comparable to the way in which the United States Army would abandon discharged soldiers, a convenient example being Perry Smith, who, after receiving honorable discharge in1952 after serving in the korean war, struggled to find a job and a home for himself. The brutal effects of anarchy in any setting including real life warfare on its immediate victims are undeniable, however, a similarly brutal and somewhat melancholic effect is shown in its slow aftermath; the whispers of ghost stories from the Clutter household decades later, and the loneliness, isolation and lack of purpose Alex unjustly experiences once he is cured.