Violence in A Clockwork Orange

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Violence in A Clockwork Orange

Remind yourself of Chapter 2 of Part II of A Clockwork Orange.

  1. How does Burgess present violence in this chapter?

This chapter is unusually short; it is probably the shortest in the book. And yet the violence that takes place in the chapter is extremely graphic. It seems more intense because it is concentrated in two ways: firstly, it is limited by the more obvious confines of the prison cell walls; but secondly, it is confined in a metaphorical sense within the “walls” of a very small chapter. Therefore one would expect the chapter to be weak. But instead Burgess manages to cram every shocking image into a small space, concentrating the violence into one large, disturbing image.

Scenes are described such as “the Wall fisted his rot” and “a horrorshow kick on the gulliver”. These are nothing special when compared to some of the actions of the previous chapters. But what makes the entire scene stick in the reader’s mind is how complete the description of it is. Added to the images are the descriptions of sounds, such as “oh oh oh “ and “the new plenny creeched”. Furthermore is the vivid and widespread use of the colour red: there are the usual copious amounts of “dripping red krovvy”; and the entire scene is cast in an ominous blood-like glow from the “red light from the landing”, which almost sounds like a filming technique, even though it is used to good effect here.

As usual, there is an element of comedy in the chapter. Whereas the comedy of the previous chapters has normally been slapstick in nature (such as the unforgettable image of Alex being beaten by a swashbuckling old woman, surrounded by meowing “koshkas”), the characters in this chapter are more developed and have distinct personalities of their own. Some of them, such as “Big Jew” and “The Doctor”, almost sound as if they should be comic book villains. They also have a variety of accents: The Doctor speaks with “A very high like gentleman’s goloss” and Big Jew’s impediment is obvious due to the fact that Burgess only gives him things to say that contain a lot of “S’s” (“Yeth, yeth, boyth, that’th fair”).

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The nature of, and the purpose for, the violence in this chapter is signified by the institution in which it takes place: a prison. These prisoners, presumably perpetrators of terrible crimes, are socially crippled, and are looking for something to provide them with structure within the cell walls: violence is their only escape. When Burgess uses such intensely graphic details, he is commenting on the nature of punishment (the “Question of Punishment” was in Burgess’ day, and is still today, subject to fierce debate). Either Alex and his cellmates do not see the consequences of their actions, or they ...

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