The Characters (Masterplots II: British and Commonwealth Fiction Series)
The fact that Alex is one of the most menacing figures in all modern fiction does not prevent him from also being one of the most fascinating. Because the story is told completely from his point of view, the reader may tend, if not to sympathize with him, at least to suspend judgment of him. Alex is no ordinary juvenile delinquent, sullen, mindlessly destructive, and uncommunicative. He is, on the contrary, extraordinarily bright, passionately alert, and a master of expression. One of Burgess’ great achievements in A Clockwork Orange is his creation of an imaginary dialect for Alex, a brilliantly contrived amalgam of rhyming slang, Russian root words, and modern teenage rhythms and abbreviations. This language can be self-explanatory—for example, the reader needs no interpreter to understand what a “cut throat britva” is, which Alex wields when he and his “droogs” are out doing battle with other “malchicks”—but even when it is not readily understandable, the reader cannot help but be overwhelmed by Alex’s linguistic vitality. In many places, Alex is not so much a narrator as a jazz performer, and even at its most confusing, his talk is dazzling. Burgess’ inventive wordplay links him with other masters of imaginative prose satire such as Jonathan Swift and James Joyce, but “nadsat” talk is by no means simply a stylistic tour de force: Alex’s playful language frequently distances the reader from a full awareness of the violent acts...
(The entire section is 559 words.)
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Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Alex, the narrator, who speaks in “nadsat” (a teenagers’ slang incorporating elements of Elizabethan English and modern Russian). At fifteen years of age, he is the leader of a gang made up of himself and three “droogs” (droog is Russian for “friend”), each a year or two older than he. Three years later, he will lead three droogs, each younger than he. His pleasures consist of violence—theft, mugging, vandalism, and rape—and classical music, especially that by Mozart and Beethoven. His droogs—Georgie, Pete, and Dim—become disaffected under his leadership and betray him by leaving him to be captured by the police. He spends two years in prison, where he undergoes psychological conditioning (the Ludovico Technique) that leaves him physically incapable of violence and enjoyment of music. Unable to make a moral choice—that is, to choose either good or evil—and capable only of acting in accordance with what society considers good, he is released from prison. He is victimized and abused by society until, restored to his true self at the age of eighteen, he undergoes a transition to responsible maturity.
F. Alexander, the middle-aged author of a sociological work titled A Clockwork Orange, referring to the modern world’s tendency to translate humans into vegetable-like automata. His wife dies after being beaten and raped by Alex and his gang. He takes in and...
(The entire section is 856 words.)
Alex is the fifteen-year-old narrator and protagonist of the novel. Like his "droogs," Dim, Georgie, and Pete, he speaks in Nadsat. He is witty, charming, intelligent, violent, sadistic, and totally without remorse for his actions. He leads his gang on crime sprees, raping, beating, and pillaging, and becomes upset when his gang does not engage in their crimes with style. Alex's love of music, particularly Beethoven, marks him as an aesthete, and this attitude carries over to the way he "performs" his violent acts, often dancing. His attitude towards others is primarily ironic; he calls his victims "brother" and speaks as if with a perpetual smirk. The extent of Alex's evil nature is evident in his fantasies. For example, he dreams about nailing Jesus to the cross. Authorities are perplexed as to how Alex became the way he is. His guidance counselor, P. R. Deltoid, asks him, "You've got a good home here, good loving parents, you've got not too bad of a brain. Is it some devil that crawls inside you?" Alex remains his evil self, even after two years in prison and Ludovico' s Technique, though he behaves differently. In the last chapter, however, Alex matures and begins to weary of his violent ways, fantasizing about having a wife and children. Burgess notes that among other things, Alex's name suggests nobleness, Alexander meaning "leader of men."
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F. Alexander—whom Alex describes as "youngish" and with horn-rimmed glasses the first time he sees him, and "a shortish veck in middle age, thirty, forty, fifty" the second time he sees him—is a liberal and a writer, outraged at the government's repression of individual liberties. Ironically, he is writing a book called A Clockwork Orange, which addresses "[t]he attempt to impose upon man, a creature of growth and capable of sweetness ... laws and conditions appropriate to a mechanical creation." In the novel's first section, Alex breaks into Alexander's house, where he and his gang beat him and viciously rape his wife. Beaten almost to death by Billyboy and Georgie in the third section, Alex winds up back at Alexander's house. At first, Alexander wants to use Alex as an example of the government's repressive policies, and he befriends Alex, who considers him "kind protecting and like motherly." However, when Alexander realizes that Alex is the person responsible for beating him and raping his wife a few years past, he plots revenge. Along with his liberal friends, Alexander locks Alex up in an apartment, and plays classical music loudly on the stereo. Alex, who has been conditioned by Ludovico's Technique to become violently ill when hearing the music, attempts suicide by jumping out a window. He wakes up in the hospital badly injured. The suicide attempt leads government scientists to remove Ludovico's clockwork from Alex's brain. In an ironic reversal,...
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Alex's parents, whom Alex sometimes refers to as "pee and em," are passive though decent people. They behave in loving, if stereotypical, ways. His mother, for example, prepares meals for him to have when he returns from his adventures. They are afraid of Alex, though, and show no interest in knowing what he really does when he goes out with his friends. Although they do not take him back when he is released from prison, their interest in Alex returns after his suicide attempt and after the newspapers run stories about how he is a victim of government repression.
Billyboy leads a rival gang with whom Alex and his droogs battle. In the first section, when Alex, Dim, Georgie, and Pete come across Billyboy and his thugs attempting to rape a young girl in a warehouse, Alex's gang routs them. Billyboy's ugliness upsets Alex's aesthetic sensibility. Alex says of him: "Billyboy was something that made me want to sick just to viddy [see] his fat grinning litso [face]." In their new capacity as police, Billyboy and Georgie beat up Alex after he is released from prison and leave him for dead.
Dr. Branom works with Dr. Brodsky to rid Alex of his free will and humanity through Ludovico's Technique. He is friendly but insincere.
Dr. Brodsky is the psychologist in charge of administering Ludovico's Technique on Alex. He is a hypocrite and in many...
(The entire section is 1185 words.)