Critical Context

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Last Updated on May 13, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 162

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The Right to an Answer was overshadowed by The Malayan Trilogy (1956-1959; published in the United States as The Long Day Wanes) and A Clockwork Orange (1962). This tragically comic novel, although reviewed favorably, has gone largely unnoticed in the canon of Burgess’ greatest works. For Burgess, however, it was another step forward in his commitment to the novel and another chance for him to experiment with technique, character, and language.

In The Right to an Answer, Burgess shows his growing ability at satire and “black humor,” thus the tragic becomes all the more tragic. He furthers the development of the twentieth century antiheroic protagonist who, even though he retains free will, ultimately fails or remains immobilized. As for language, Burgess cleverly and subtly manipulates words and their meanings so that there occurs a blur between “communionism” and “communism,” while the phrase “a bit of fun” evolves literally and figuratively into “bitter fun,” a fitting expression for one of Burgess’ most satiric novels.