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This work, by Anthony Burgess, on one level is a portrait of one man, Alex De Large, obsessed with violence and sexuality, and his “cure” (or failure to be cured). But it can be argued that it would not have taken its place in important literature if that were its whole impact. On the sociological level, the novel, set in the near future, examines the connection of our animal self and our social self—to what degree are we, as social beings, simply caged in or restrained by social mores, kept away from our animal instincts by the restraints enforced by society for its own preservation. This is a major sociological concern, manifested in studies of gang cultures, sex offenders, and even youth sexuality. A second sociological focus in the novel is the state’s right to “cure” these impulses (dramatized by Alex’s “voluntary” submission to state-sponsored experimentation). The outcome of that experiment is at the center of the sociological question of individual rights vs. state’s rights, to say nothing of the questionable value of psychological intervention in the “cure” of deviant behavior of any kind. Burgess would also point out the existential complications of society’s forcing conformity and, by extension, mediocrity on individual members of society. It can be argued that no sociologist’s education is complete without having read this novel, a projection of what could happen if the balances between instinct and restraint, between individualism and commonality, are not addressed.
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