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'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. ...read more.


despite being a criminal, the first person narrative immediately changes the viewpoint for the reader who now sympathises with Alex who is seemingly helpless and abandoned. Burgess successfully uses this narrative to ensure that the reader's reaction is maximised; the closer to the action the reader is, the more likely they are to feel emotion for the character involved. In the context of the novella, this is following from his family's rejection of him who have replaced him with 'Joe'; adding to the sympathy from the reader because family is supposedly the main body of support in life and when your family fails you, that renders you helpless. Alex's narrative certainly includes numerous examples of emotive language "I've suffered and I've suffered and everybody wants me to go on suffering" here the repetition of the word "suffering" cements the idea to the reader that this is a character who has faced adversity and has appears to have the world against him. The first person narrative immediately sides the reader with Alex, defending his actions when everybody else turns on him. The word "suffering" suggests the pain Alex has been through, which Burgess conveys to the reader in order to connect with the character in spite of his sickening acts. ...read more.


In relation to a 1960's audience when classical music was perhaps more common in society, Alex's preference would have certainly be shared with many people of the era. The effect this has is that both the reader and the main character have a shared taste, a common ground, linking them. Here, sympathy is created by Burgess as the readers feel closer to Alex through his love of classical music, giving him a more human side despite his violent tendencies. In conclusion, the novella on the whole culminates to evoke sympathy for the main character. Burgess main device of achieving so is certainly the first person narrative in which the audience is given the clearest insight into the protagonist's actions and thoughts; making a strong bond from the beginning. Rather than 'not encouraging to find much sympathy' indeed it is actually hard to not find sympathy in the character of Alex. Ultimately the audience's moral dilemma of feeling sympathy for a character capable of the most sinister acts is overridden by the embedded human nature of nurturing and rehabilitation; even the most evil of criminals can be put on the right path and change their ways. Nathan Wilgoss ...read more.

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Response to the question

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 ...

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Response to the question

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.

Level of analysis

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.

Quality of writing

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.

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Reviewed by sydneyhopcroft 06/07/2012

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