Teaching the Dystopic Novel at

Teaching the Dystopic Novel at Advanced Level English Literature
(Session support notes)

As part of

The dystopic novel evinces a strong theme common in much science fiction and fantasy fiction, the creattion of a future time (usually), when the conditions of human life are exageratedly bad due to deprivation, oppression or terror. This created society or ‘dystopia’ frequently constucts apocalyptic views of a future using crime, imorality or corrupt government to create or sustain the bad quality of people’s lives, often conditioning the masses to believe their society is proper and just, and sometimes perfect. It can provide space for heroism in disrupting the dystopian setting (e.g. John Savage in ‘Brave New World’). Most dystopian fiction takes place in the future but often purposely develops contemporary social trends taken to extremes. Dystopias are frequently written as commentaries, as warnings or as satires, showing current trends extrapolated to nightmarish conclusions.

A brief note on the etymology of ‘Dystopia’
The Oxford English Dictionary reports that the term ‘Dystopia’ was first used in the late 19th century by British philosopher John Stuart Mill. He also used Jeremy Bentham’s synonym, ‘cacotopia’. The prefix caco means ‘the worst.’

Both words were created in apposition to utopia, a word coined by Sir Thomas Moore to describing an ideal place or society.

DYSTOPIA: definition
dys-/dus- (Latin/Greek roots: ‘bad’ or ‘abnormal’) + -topos (Greek root: ‘place’) = ‘bad place’
eu- (Greek root: ‘good’) / ou- (Greek root: ‘not’) + -topos (Greek root: ‘place’) = ‘good/no place’
dystopia n. an imaginary wretched place, the opposite of utopia
utopia n. a place or state of ideal perfection, the opposite of dystopia

Some writers see the difference between a Utopia and a Dystopia often lying in the reader/visitor’s point of view: One person’s heaven being another’s hell.
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Common traits of dystopian fiction (source Wikipedia.com)
The following is a list of common traits of dystopias, although it is not definitive. Most dystopian films or literature includes at least a few of the following:
* a hierarchical society where divisions between the upper, middle and lower class are definitive and unbending.
* a nation-state ruled by an upper class with few democratic ideals
* state propaganda programs and educational systems that coerce most citizens into worshipping the state and its government, in an attempt to convince them into thinking that life under the regime is good and just
* strict conformity among citizens and the general assumption that dissent and individuality are bad
* a fictional state figurehead that people worship fanatically through a vast personality cult, such as 1984’s Big Brother or We’s The Benefactor
* a fear of the world outside the state
* a common view of traditional life, particularly organized religion, as primitive and nonsensical
* a penal system that lacks due process laws and often employs psychological or physical torture
* constant surveillance by state police agencies
* the banishment of the natural world from daily life
* a back story of a natural disaster, war, revolution, uprising, spike in overpopulation or some other climactic event which resulted in dramatic changes to society
* a standard of living among the lower and middle class that is generally poorer than in contemporary society
* a protagonist who questions the society, often feeling intrinsically that something is terribly wrong
* because dystopian literature takes place in the future, it often features technology more advanced than that of contemporary society

To have an effect on the reader, dystopian fiction typically has one other trait: familiarity. It is not enough to show people living in a society that seems unpleasant. The society must have echoes of today (see Rosenblatt; Pike), of the reader’s own experience. If the reader can identify the patterns or trends that would lead to the dystopia, it becomes a more involving and effective experience. Authors can use a dystopia effectively to highlight their own concerns about societal trends. George Orwell apparently wanted to title 1984 1948, because he saw this world emerging in austere postwar Europe.
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Some examples of dystopian literature
* ‘1984’ by George Orwell
* ‘A Clockwork Orange’ by Anthony Burgess
* ‘Anthem’ by Ayn Rand
* ‘Brave New World’ by Aldous Huxley (This could perhaps be considered a utopia, as the people in that society are certainly happy, but it is more generally regarded by critics as a dystopian satire, as the population is actually drugged into happiness.)
* ‘Fahrenheit 451’ by Ray Bradbury (see also the 2004 US politcal movie echo ‘Fahrenheit 911’)
* ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ by Margaret Atwood
* ‘Lord of the Flies’ by William Golding (an example of a dystopia that takes place in the present)
* ‘The Machine Stops’ by E.M. Forster
* ‘Welcome to the Monkey House’ by Kurt Vonnegut

Some examples of dystopian films
* A Clockwork Orange by Stanley Kubrik
* Blade Runner, adapted from Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
* Logan’s Run
* Metropolis by Fritz Lang
* Soylent Green
* The Terminator and its sequels
* 12 Monkeys

Some examples of dystopias in music
* Crime of the Century (1974) by the British band Supertramp depicted and evoked the personal, social and institutional causes and effects of alienation and mental illness in contemporary society.
* Time (1981) by ELO features tracks that may be considered dystopian or utopian depending on your point of view.
* OK Computer (1997) by the British band Radiohead.
* British band Pink Floyd and its film adaptation are considered by many to be the epitome of dystopian music. Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon (1973) and many of their other recordings also explore dystopian themes.
* The Pleasure Principle (1979) by Gary Numan, ex-leader of the Tubeway Army, continued his narratives of a robotic world in songs like Metal.

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Commonly used dystopias

These could be used as introductory exercises for students to identify traits in settings of well known dystopic films, to raise awareness prior to reading.

Totalitarian dystopias
As the name suggests, totalitarian societies utilises total control over and demands total commitment from the citizens, usually hiding behind a political ideology. Totalitarian states are, in most cases, ruled by party bureaucracies backed up by cadres of secret police and armed forces. The citizens are often closely monitored and rebellion is always punished mercilessly. Stories taking place in totalitarian dystopias usually depict the hopeless struggle of isolated dissidents. Totalitarian dystopias have, in general, dark psychological depths and strong political qualities. Hitler’s Third Reich and Stalin’s Soviet Union were real examples of such societies.
Examples: Nineteen Eighty-Four (novel; TV play; motion picture), We (novel), Fatherland (novel; TV movie).


Bureaucratic dystopias
Bureaucratic dystopias, or technocratic dystopias, are strictly regulated and hierarchial societies, thus related to totalitarian dystopias. Where totalitarian regimes strive to achieve complete control, bureaucratic regimes only strive to achieve absolute power to enforce laws. When totalitarian regimes tend to found their own laws, bureaucratic regimes tend to defend old laws. The law always seem to stand in conflict with rational thinking and human behaviour. To change status quo, even everyday procedures, is a long and difficult process for the citizens. It goes without saying such dystopias have strong satirical qualities and to some extent surreal qualities as well.
Examples: Brazil (motion picture), The Trial (novel; several TV plays; TV movie).

Cyberpunk dystopias
A cyberpunk society is essentially a drastically exaggerated version of our own. Cyberpunk is a heterogeneous genre, but most dystopias have the following settings: the technological evolution has accelerated, environmental collapse is imminent, the boards of multi-national corporations are the real governments, urbanisation has reached new levels and crime is beyond control. Important, but not necessary essential, concepts in cyberpunk are cybernetics, artificial enhancements of body and mind, and cyberspace, the global computer network and ultimate digital illusion. Cyberpunk stories are often street-wise and violent. It is debatedly the most influential dystopian genre ever.
Examples: Neuromancer (novel; comic), Blade Runner (novel: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?; motion picture; comic; computer game), Matrix (motion picture), Strange Days (motion picture).
Blade Runner

Crime dystopias
Crime dystopias may have different settings. These societies have been infested with grave criminality and the authorities are about to lose control or have already lost it. This criminality may span from street crime to organised crime, more seldom governmental crime such as corruption and abuse of power. The authorities often use drastic and inhumane measures to fight the moral decay, perhaps out of desperation, perhaps out of necessity. The society is often in imminent danger of becoming totalitarian. Crime dystopias are not seldom political statements, usually of a radical and controversial nature.
Examples: A Clockwork Orange (novel; motion picture), The Last Will of Dr. Mabuse (novel; motion picture), The Escape from New York (motion picture: part of series).
A Clockwork
Overpopulation dystopias
The population of the world has grown dramatically and the limited resources of our planet are exhausted. Mankind is living in dispair and society is in imminent danger of becoming or has already become social-darwinistic. There is an enormous wealth gap between the rich and the poor, and military and police are used to control the starving masses. There are many parallells between overpopulation dystopias and cyberpunk dystopias, especially when speaking of environment and urbanisation. This kind of dystopia is rather rare, which is surprising: it may become an imminent problem in the near future.
Examples: Make Room! Make Room! (novel; motion picture: Soylent Green), Stand on Zanzibar (novel).
Soylent Green

Leisure dystopias
Leisure dystopias are probably best described as utopias gone wretched or failed paradise-engineering projects. In these societies, all problems have been solved, at least officially, and all citizens are living in wealth and happiness. Unfortunately, this is often achieved by suppressing individuality, art, religion, intellectualism and so on and so forth. Conditioning, consumption, designer-drugs, light entertainment and similar methods are widely used in order to combat existential misery. Conformity is encouraged as it makes it easier to control the population. The government’s means of control are always of a very subtle nature and open repression is basically non-exist. Leisure dystopias are not very common nowadays, probably as Utopia is almost extinct as concept.
Examples: Brave New World (novel; TV movie), Demolition Man (motion picture), The Joy Makers (novel), Things to Come (motion picture).

Brave New World
Feminist dystopia
As the name suggests, feminist dystopias deal with oppression of women. The feminist dystopia is built on patriarchal structures and the role of woman has been diminished, e.g. to house-keeping and breeding. The society is often totalitarian or at least crypto-totalitarian, sometimes with more or less obvious parallells to fascism as represented in Mussolini’s Italy and Hitler’s Germany. To one degree or another, all dystopias are patriarchal, but in feminist dystopias it is explicit. This genre is debatedly one of the most innovative dystopian genres nowadays, but have received a remarkably small amount of attention, all too small in my opinion.
Examples: The Handmaid’s Tale (novel; motion picture), Walk to the End of the World (novel), Woman at the Edge of Time (novel), Bulldozer Rising (novel).

The Handmaid’s Tale

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Critical background for teaching about dystopias

Characteristics of dystopias (Source: Wikipedia.com)

Dystopias usually express original and innovative ideas, thus forming a heterogeneous genre. Still, there are some common characteristics.

Dystopian depictions are always imaginary. Although Hitler’s Third Reich and Stalin’s Soviet Union certainly qualify as horror societies, they are still not dystopias. The very purpose of a dystopia is to discuss, not depict contemporary society or at least contemporary mankind in general. Stories like Taxi Driver and Enemy of the State may have dystopian qualities, but they still depict reality, however twisted the prerequisites of those stories might be. Dystopian depictions may borrow features from reality, but the purpose is to debate, critisise or explore possibilities and probabilities.

Dystopia is not really about tomorrow, but rather about today or sometimes yesterday. Nevertheless, dystopian stories take place in the future in most cases. The year 1984 may have past, but George Orwell’s horror story described a plausible future scenario when it was published for the first time in 1949 and it may still come true in a not too distant future. Interesting exceptions from this rule are uchronias, so called What-if? stories, like Fatherland.

Dystopias have always been a powerful rethorical tool. They have been used and abused by politicians, thus making dystopian stories controversial. The anti-totalitarianism in Nineteen Eighty-Four is explicit, but the anti-Reaganism in Neuromancer is implicit. The war-ridden world in the Mad Max triology is obviously a Dystopia, but it would be ridiculous to call it a political statement, although one can claim it is a warning regarding the dangers of anarchy and Social-Darwinism.
The leitmotif of dystopias has always been oppression and rebellion. In Nineteen Eighty-Four, the pseudo-communistic party Ingsoc’s oppression of the people is obvious, but the multi-national mega-corprotions’ oppression of the people in Neuromancer is more subtle. The oppressors are usually more or less faceless, as in THX-1138, but may sometimes be personified, as in Blade Runner.

The oppressors are almost always much more powerful than the rebels. Consequently, dystopian tales often become studies in survival. In Neuromancer it is simply a question of staying alive, in Brave New World it is a question of staying human. In Nineteen Eighty-Four it is even a matter of remaining an individual with own thoughts. The hero, because it is usally not a heroine, often faces utter defeat or sometimes Pyrrhic victory, a significant feature of dystopian tales.

As the citizens of dystopian societies often live in fear, they become paranoid and egoistical, almost like hunted animals. Dystopian citizens experience a profound feeling of being monitored, shadowed, chased, betrayed or manipulated. The factors which trigger this paranoia may be very evident and explicit like in Brazil or more diffuse and implicit like in Blade Runner. The most extreme example of paranoia is probably the Thought Police and the thoughtcrime concept in Nineteen Eighty-four. As a result of this fearful atmosphere, dystopian heroes are not seldom monsters in many respects.
The dehumanisation of society may also be connected to the benefits and hazards of technological progress. Cyberspace cowboys refer to their bodies as “meat” and blade runners hunt artificial, but completely sentient beings like animals. In Dystopia, the borderline of humanity is often blurred and the very concept of humanity distorted.

Finally, dystopian stories tend to explore the concept of reality. Rick Deckard in Blade Runner is not sure if he is a human being or a bio-mechanical replica. Case in Neuromancer sometimes cannot distinguish cyberspace from reality. Winston Smith in Nineteen Eighty-Four is forced to learn that two plus two make five. In many dystopian tales the people in general and the heroes in particular get manipulated beyond reality.
Dystopian stories frequently take place in landscapes which diminish people, like large cities with mastodontic architecture or vast wastelands devastated by war and pollution. Dystopian societies are usually, but far from always, battered and worn-out. They may be colorless like Nineteen Eighty-Four or kaleidoscopic like Blade Runner, but always visually obtrusive.
For uncertain reasons, dystopian movies often use film noir features like dim rooms, rain wet asphalt, disturbing contrasts, symbolic shadows etc. Unproportionaly much of the action takes place during night in many dystopian stories. Possibly, this reflects the thematic relationship between dystopian fiction and film noir.

Generally speaking, the environment plays an active role in dystopian depictions. The environment is not only a fancy background, but emphasises the message. A prominent example is Blade Runner: there can be no doubt in the viewer that USA has become completely commercialised and that the world is in a state of terminal decay.
I receive lots of recommendations from visitors, which is much appreciated. Indeed, many a new dystopia has come to my attention. Quite a few dystopias have a tendency to reappear, though. Thus, I thought it could be advantageous to add a list of all dystopian depictions I’m already aware of.
I have received quite a few somewhat confused letters concerning this list, so a couple of clarifications might be in order.
* A majority of the works in the list are not true dystopias, by any definition. This list should not be regarded as the ultimate list of dystopias, but rather as a smorgasbord of works containing dystopian elements.
* Although one can claim that every utopia is a relative dystopia, only utopias with clearly dystopian tendencies, e.g. the meritocracy and eugenics in Plato’s The Republic, are included. Without this limitation, the list loses its raison d’être.
* Many, and I stress many, of the works in the list are recommendations from Exploring Dystopia’s visitors. Needless to say, I can’t examine all these recommendations thoroughly, and some of them are bound to be questionable.
* The instrumental definition for this list, as well as the whole site, can be found on the Dystopia: definition page. Please read this definition before you make a recommendation or question a work on the list.

Finally, I don’t lay claim to present a complete list, so recommendations and corrections are most welcome. Titles marked with an asterisk (*) are dystopias I have never actually read or seen, but which I have found in other lists or been recommended by visitors. In most cases, I have at least a vague idea of the intrigues and settings.

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Background knowledge of different dystopias

Where do A-level students study dystopic novels?
Current exam. specifications outline the course requirements, content and these dystopic themes:

AQA Specification A for A2 Examination

The areas of fiction set in dystopias are in extrapolation of contemporary themes of crime into future settings.
Unit 5 – Literary Connections
(2 texts compared: at least 1 prose)

Three areas are set for a choice of study:
* Literary Themes (History in Literature or A Woman’s Struggle)
* Time and Place (Visions of the Future)
* Ways of Telling (Reflections or Minds under Stress)
Time and Place
EITHER Visions of the Future
Riddley Walker – Russell Hoban (Picador) and
A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess (Penguin Classics)

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What should A-level students be learning through dystopic novel study?
Students should develop informed, critical and personal readings of literary texts. The curriculum remains focused on a notion of a literary canon. Three principles underpin what is meant by informed, critical and personal readings
Personal readings
* Students ?will give individual interpretations of the novel’s meaning, not passive, second hand opinions
* Students will bring knowledge of the origins of the dystopic settings and themes (e.g. Stalinism in ‘Animal Farm’) echoed in the text in order to interpret its messages or satire

Critical readings
* Students will reflect upon how their own 21st century interpretations may differ form contemporary readings by comparing historical and social difference
* Students will show knowledge gained from peripheral historical and social study that may not be instantly accessible; this knowledge may be different on different occasions and may change when assumptions through discussion
* Students will show understanding of multiple meanings from different readings of a text that can co-exist and are complex

Informed readings of literature in context
* Students will use knowledge of cultural and historical influences in which literary texts are written and are understood. They will acknowledge and balance their understanding of a text’s cultural origins

At A2 students’ readings should be informed enough to evaluate the significance of relevant cultural and historical influences. So they might show they know how a dystopic text, such as ‘A Clockwork Orange’ indicates
* the significance of crime, culture, social conditioning and punishment in constructing the social order of the late 1950s/early 1960s
* Anthony Burgess’s experiences of crime and his wife’s injuries after a criminal attack
* pivotal episodes in the novel that develop the characters through literary language (narrative and dialogic voices)
* how the novel is received in the 21st Century, and how it may have been received in the 1960s. This may recognize different views on social order and conformity; these will show awareness of different literary critical perspectives (e.g. Freudian and Pavlovian interpretations of behaviour).

In all this study students should become independent readers, with an emphasis on their being able to explain their interpretations and support them with close internal textual reference and with informed thinking from other critical sources, be that literary criticism, historical knowledge and/or cultural knowledge.
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Background work to intoduce working with a dystopic novel at A2

Unit 5 – Literary Connections
Time and Place
Visions of the Future
Anthony Burgess’s ‘A Clockwork Orange’
A Clockwork Orange (1962) provides a still bleak vision of a violence-ridden future. It shadows one murderous, Beethoven-loving fifteen-year-old gang leader Alex in a complacent and conformist society. Roving bands of delinquents fight, steal and rape to assert their freedom against the conformity of a clockwork society. It is the classic tale of a grim and terrifying future told through the eyes of Alex.

Written in a first person narrative of Alex the fifteen year old boy and leader of a gang, his Droogs. He and most of his gang members speak in an argot that Burgess himself created, basing it most of of Russian words. This artificial language owes much to Burgess’s uninhibited experimentation with language.

Strong themes of A Clockwork Orange are manipulation and control; these are part of its cultural context. Anthony Burgess comments on the changes he saw taking place in 1960s Britain. He wrote the first draft in 1960, when he was diagnosed with a brain tumour and told he only had a year to live. During this time, he wrote five and a half novels, working under a self-imposed discipline of 2,000 words per day. A Clockwork Orange was the half novel. Having survived the year’s notice, Burgess came back to it, determined to complete the visionary book. He was interested in the cultural changes taking place around him: the advent of coffee shops, the influence of pop music and the emerging power of teenage gangs.

He focuses on a time in the 1970s when teenage violence was a recognised social problem, forcing the government to turn to techniques of negative reinforcement (conditioning/brainwashing).

In 1961, he went on holiday to Russia, when it occurred to him to create a language that would be a mixture of Russian and English, like a Red Square meets Shakespeare and Mods rhyming slang. He called it nadsat: Burgess’s Russianised English slang/argot was to be used by teenagers – a phonetically enjoyable dialect, perhaps the neologism of the future, much like Orwell’s Newspeak in 1984. With words like horrowshow (good), slovos (words), rot (mouth), zoobies (teeth), cancers (cigarettes), gulliver (head), guttiwuts (stomach) and pretty polly (money) – you can begin to see the different types of language that Burgess has drawn upon.

Possibly the most ironic is the word Bog for God, where the repetition of the consonant G/g can still be heard. The status of being a proper noun is preserved, but contempt is created through the meaning and associations we have with the word “bog”, only increased through such an apparent relationship with the original term.

Not surprisingly the name of the narrator is significant in terms of its derivation: ‘a-lex’ means without, or outside of, the law. This provides a useful insight into Burgess’s success. He subverts what we already know. He makes us refer to what we know to be the truth and questions it, practising the technique on us – we become Pavlov’s dogs.

One significant example from early in the book has Alex and his droogs (fellow gang members) tease, rape and attack a couple in their home. This happens in Chapter 2 when Alex is only 15 years old but, importantly, at a point for the reader when nadsat is still relatively new. I read this passage with my students and what we found resulted in a very interesting discussion. It was not the nadsat use that was shocking or seemed to be reflecting the violence taking place, it was the use of Standard English. There seemed to be a number of reasons for this, reasons Burgess presumably intended to intellectually engage the audience in such a way that Alex could not be too alien.

Initially the readers are passive observers, not participant to the rape. But, when they come across phrases in Standard English and realise what is actually taking place, they feel shock, but not enough to stop reading, because they are then waiting for the next piece of Standard English – our shared language – as though completing a puzzle.

Unsurprisingly a frightening element is the fact that the reader also becomes aware, and not at any specific place, that they have understood the nadsat. We looked through and tried to identify the exact place – but could not. Impact? We relate to Alex; we understand his language; he is not alien. You can see why Burgess was so furious when the original American edition carried a glossary. As a group, we discussed in detail the impact this would have on the reader and how it would change your whole relationship with the book, most especially with Alex. With a glossary, you don’t trust your own understanding of words in their context.

Looking up words in a glossary would acknowledge that Alex speaks in another language – his rebellious teenage Argot – rather than an exiting culmination of a distortion of different languages, word meanings, slang and historicism. Alex refers to his friends as “O my brothers” and dresses in apparel that would place him comfortably in court during the time of Shakespeare and Marlowe.

The brutality depicted in A Clockwork Orange emerged after an assault on Burgess’s first wife Lynne in 1943 by American GI’s in London, that resulted in the loss of their expected child. The movie version of the novel, directed by Stanley Kubrick in 1971, encountered heavy criticism – some of its violent scenes were said to have inspired real-life violence by gangs of hoodlums – and was eventually withdrawn by its producers and distributors.

The film ‘Conspiracy’ in which Nazi officials meet to decide the fate of Jews refers to it as ‘cleansing’. Another example of extremist euphemism is Orwell’s vision of ‘thought police’. Many other such euphemisms exist in literature and their ironic impact can be slow to work on a reader but devastatingly corrosive of our sensitivities, replicating the conditioning portrayed in the novel.

Alex’s cure in the book is ‘reclamation treatment’, which involves being drugged, having his eyelids taped open, Beethoven playing (the music he loves to daydream violence to) and being made to watch violent scenes over and over again. He then begins to associate violence with being sick. The wonderful irony of this is that he cannot even contemplate suicide. He goes to the library in search of ways to kill himself but cannot stomach the violence. He turns to the Bible for solace and comfort but is sick at the violence he finds there.

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A note on names

Meaning assigned to the name “A Clockwork Orange”
Burgess wrote that the title came from an old Cockney expression “As queer [i.e. strange] as a clockwork orange”, but that he had found that other people read new meanings into it.

Some have found a secondary meaning of an organic entity, full of juice and sweetness and agreeable odour, being turned into an automaton. The youth of Malaysia, where I had lived for nearly six years, saw that orange contained orang, meaning in Malay a human being. In Italy, where the book became Arancia all’ Orologeria, it was assumed that the title referred to a grenade, an alternative to the ticking pineapple.
(From the prefatory note to A Clockwork Orange: A play with music, Century Hutchinson Ltd., 1987)

The Name of the main character, Alex
The name of the antihero is Alex, short for Alexander, which means ‘defender of men’. Alex has other connotations – a lex: a law (unto himself); a lex(is): a vocabulary (of his own); a (Greek) lex: without a law. Novelists tend to give close attention to the names they attach to their characters. Alex is a rich and noble name, and I intended its possessor to be sympathetic, pitiable, and insidiously identifiable with us, as opposed to them.

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Brief synopsis for classroom use
Set a few years in the future, the book follows the career of fifteen year old Alex. His main pleasures in life are classical music, sex of all kinds, and random acts of extreme violence (“ultraviolence” in Alex’s idiom). He tells his story in a teenage slang called “Nadsat”, which mixes Russian with English slang.

Eventually Alex is caught and “rehabilitated” by a program of aversion therapy, which, though rendering him incapable of violence (even in self-defence), also makes him unable to enjoy his favourite classical music as an unintended side effect.

The moral question of the book is that Alex is now “good”, but his ability to choose this has been taken away from him; his “goodness” is as artificial as the clockwork orange of the title.

Eventually Alex falls foul of some of his former victims, and the political fuss that ensues results in the state removing his conditioning; he gleefully returns to his early habits but finds he has lost the taste for it. The 20th chapter ends the original American edition on a dark note, with Alex listening joyfully to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, and eagerly anticipating his return to creating havoc.

At this point some editions of the book end, but there is a 21st chapter which was dropped at the time of US publication. Burgess claims that the original American publisher dropped his final chapter in an effort to make the book more depressing. The intended book was divided into three parts of 7 chapters each, which added up to be 21, a symbolic age at which a child earns his rights (when the novel was written). There is controversy as to whether the 21st chapter makes the book better or makes the book worse. In the 21st chapter, which takes place a few years after the 20th, we find Alex realising that his violent phase is over, but that it was inevitable.

A few of the old characters are reincarnated as new friends of Alex. He thinks of starting a family, while thinking that his children will be as violent as he was, for a time. The line “What’s it going to be then, eh?” recurs throughout the book, and the first chapter of each of the three parts begins with the line.