'We are not encouraged to find much sympathy with the characters in A Clockwork Orange

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We are not encouraged to find much sympathy for any of the characters’. Explore the methods Burgess uses to develop sympathy in ‘A Clockwork Orange’.

Anthony Burgess uses a number of devices to evoke both sympathy and empathy from the reader, most notably in the direction of the novella’s protagonist. Alex’s first person narrative thrusts the reader into the dystopian world Burgess creates and the twisted actions he undertakes as a part of his drug-fuelled ‘ultra-violence’. Despite this, the reader is also forced into grasping the understanding of the morally disturbed character and Burgess cleverly manipulates Alex as a representation of the young and troubled generation. The plot itself equally contributes to the readers feeling towards Alex as he additionally becomes a government subject; torturing his mind to remove any capacity of evil and the subsequent downward spiral his life takes. But Burgess continually begs the question: is it possible to feel sympathy for a character capable of the most disgraceful crimes?

Structurally, Burgess uses the formation of the novella itself and the division of the parts as a method of finding empathy for Alex. Each part begins with the same question to the reader: “What’s it going to be then, eh?” which at the start appears innocuous as they decide on their night’s dwellings. But this is repeated in the beginning of the second part as Alex is imprisoned; the same question now has an alternative meaning, his future looks bleak and he is sentenced to a stint in prison because of the murder he commits. Instead of an innocuous question, it now is a meaningful question in the readers head evoking empathy by the uncertainty of his punishment and the impending circumstances of the ‘staja’. Yet the final repetition of the question in the concluding part of the novella enforces the most empathy. Firstly the cyclical nature of the question as it refers right back to the beginning suggests to the reader that perhaps Alex is now actually faced with a choice to either improve his life or to continue to neglect his obvious intelligence. What evokes perhaps the most empathy is that because of his torturing under the Ludivico Technique, he no longer has the capacity to commit evil and free will is ripped away from him. The reader is forced into a moral dilemma through Burgess’s manipulation of the structure which confirms the fear that he has become ‘A Clockwork Orange’.

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One of the most effective methods Burgess uses is the first person narrative of Alex. First person becomes a tool in the novella which allows Alex to convey his deepest thoughts to the reader, and the perspective of events. Because Burgess uses first person narrative, the reader is forced into the mind of Alex, giving an excellent insight into the absence of morality in the main character. Alex says: “where was I to go, who had no home and not much cutter?” despite being a criminal, the first person narrative immediately changes the viewpoint for the reader who now sympathises ...

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The Quality of Written Communication is very good. There is an excellent use of syntax to ensure clarity and makes the essay stand out amongst thousands of others - something examiners will really value. The spelling, punctuation and grammar are all perfect and goes to show how a spell-check and proof-read can really improve the quality of an essay.

The candidate delves to a deep level of analysis here. There is a good appreciation of the different literary techniques employed by Burgess in order to instil sympathy for Alex. As the question suggests, these are very subtle literary impulses such as the use of first person narrative ("O, my brothers", "Your Humble Narrator") which includes some very effective language analysis from the candidate, showing they are competent analysers of individual words, such as "brothers" and the submissive "Humble". The candidate could improve by adding a more contextually-orientated paragraph, which in the example of this essay would tie in with the penultimate paragraph about Alex's love for classical music. Burgess said that he did not want to turn Alex into a conventional thug and to have him enjoy music such as Ska, Punk, Rock and other popular music trends of the time would eventually fossilise him in a certain time period. By making him so besotted with classical music makes him a timeless character that transcends time periods; his thirst for ultra-violence is therefore reflected as something that is not solely a part of one/few person/s, but in fact a part of every man, regardless of their intelligence and morality.

This is a truly excellent response to the question from the candidate, which concerns Burgess' characters development, plot development and language as well as others things, to analyse how sympathy is created for the book's protagonist, Alex. There is an effective analysis of the second person address (this is the best part of the essay because it's the only part that explicitly relates t the creation of sympathy; all other points revolve around empathy or a more implicit sympathy). The structure is also good, with a clear introduction, middle and conclusion; the conventional essay structure helps convey information clearly and precisely.