What function does the artificial slang- "Nadsat"- serve in A Clockwork Orange?

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Nadsat--or teenage--slang sets Alex and his friends off as a subculture. They don't speak standard English, and this helps establish that they look at the world through a different lens. Further, this language continually reminds us that we are in a different, future world that is not our world, reinforcing the science fiction aspects of this novel.

The slang is deliberately disorienting, and it forces us to slow down and really read the words on the page, rather than sliding over them glibly. We have to concentrate and think about what is being said in order to understand it. Often Alex and his friends use a slang term that brings a different connotation to a word. For example, instead of "cigarette," a fairly neutral term, they use "cancer," a much more loaded word that reminds us of the harshest implications of cigarette smoking. This also shows that they see through the pretenses of a world that pretends it is not out to destroy them.

Burgess, who wrote a book called ReJoyce about James Joyce, owes a debt to Joyce's use of vivid slang and invented words. Words such as "barry place" for prison, which play on the idea of prisons as full of bars--bars on windows, bars on the doors of cells--brings up visual images of what being incarcerated is like in a way the word "prison" does not.

The slang is integral to establishing the alternative universe of the novel, a world of teens who do not necessarily want to invite us in.

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I think that Nadsat serves a couple of functions in Burgess' work.  One such function is that it provides a type of vocabulary that only Alex and his clique understand.  It is a form of rebellion against the world as well as a statement of power in that Alex has constructed a language that is relevant to him and something that the rest of the world cannot comprehend.  The use of Nadsat as a language helps to convey the slang element, but also provides a time- oriented context to the novel that prevents it from being dated.  In using a slang that few understand, Burgess maintains the idea that the language that Alex uses is continually in vogue, making it so that the reader too is part of the structure that Alex rebels against.  This helps to maintain the thematic relevance of the novel.  The use of Nadsat helps to establish a form of power that Alex has over the people around him and thus the reader, as well.  In its use, it becomes clearly evident that the slang helps to create an "other- world" quality, one that causes the reader to approach Alex with an understanding that while part of what is happening is adolescent, there is something deeper and more profound at play here.  It is this questioning that becomes one of Burgess' primary motivations as the author.

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