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What is A Clockwork Orange? A Summary of the Movie

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Edited by Lyndzey Kay Maness

Edited by Lyndzey Kay Maness

Edited by Lyndzey Kay Maness

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A Clockwork Orange is both a novel by Anthony Burgess and movie directed by Stanley Kubrick. Originally published in 1962 and adapted to film in 1971. This is the description that Google gives for the movie –

“In an England of the future, Alex (Malcolm McDowell) and his “Droogs” spend their nights getting high at the Korova Milkbar before embarking on “a little of the old ultraviolence,” while jauntily warbling “Singin’ in the Rain.” After he’s jailed for bludgeoning the Cat Lady to death, Alex submits to behavior modification technique to earn his freedom; he’s conditioned to abhor violence. Returned to the world defenseless, Alex becomes the victim of his prior victims.”

If you’re wondering why it’s called “A Clockwork Orange,” according to Anthony Burgess via The New Yorker it is because he heard an old Cockney phrase in a pub. What was the phase? Twas “As queer as a clockwork orange.” He took it and ran.

 

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Photo of Alex, Courtesy of  thesevenhart.org

Now for our protagonist, Alex Delarge. In the novel, Alex is a violent 15 year old. In the movie he is older by a few years, but he keeps his juvenile nature along with, of course, the ultraviolence. He has what you could say are minions in a way. He calls his fellow gang members his “Droogs” and he calls his droogs and other people by “O’ Brother” and “O’ Sister.” In reality, Alex is no higher in class than his fellow gang members. But, he wants it to be known among them that he is in charge.

In the beginning of the movie, Alex is just enjoying himself by slacking off from school and committing crimes at night. He commits these crimes with and only with, his droogs. That night, they fought another gang and broke into a couples house, murdered the wife and crippled the husband while singing “singin’ in the rain.” The next day when his droogs go behind his back, Alex pushes his “rebelling” gang members into water on the side of the docks, where they were strolling in broad daylight. But, they get their revenge.

Later on that night when they went back to their usual house entering activities, Alex’s droogs take their revenge by smashing a milk bottle in his face and running, letting the cops lock him up. After that, Alex is taken to jail for that single instance of breaking and entering(even though he pleaded innocent). The government/cops don’t know of the atrocities he’d committed previous to then.

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Milk Bottle Attack, Courtesy of Pintrest

While in jail, Alex acts like a good person to get out faster. Although he has gained approval of the jail’s priest, he has not gained any other approval of that of the guards. Soon, a rumor becomes of the prisoners, a sure and fast way to get out of prison. Although Alex doesn’t know what it is, he wants out and will do anything to get out. He ends up talking to the priest about it, but he advises against it, as he believes it is wrong.  Alex, not knowing what it is, wants to do it anyway.

One day, the minister of the interior comes to the prison to gain a prisoner to subject to testing aversion therapy. He ends up picking Alex and as a result he is stoked. He gleefully leaves the prison to become a free and good man in about two weeks time. But, in leaving the prison and being sent to the testing facility, some weird things happen. Alex has to sign away his rights and take anonymous medicine. He doesn’t care a single bit and happily goes with everything.

Soon, he ends up in a theater with scientists and doctors in the back row. While he sits in the front row, a doctor puts eye opening devices on his eyes, so that he cannot blink. The doctor begins putting eye drops into his eyes. Then, on the screen in front of him, horrid acts and scenes start playing out. It starts out easy for him, and even as it gets more graphic he’s still okay. But, he starts feeling sick and wonders why. He’s not turned off by the images placed in front of him. So, what could it be? It wasn’t the visuals. It was the audio, he realized. His favorite song by Beethoven was playing, 9th in d-minor. Now, he feels even worse. He starts yelling out, “NO” and “STOP,” but the doctors pay no attention to him.

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Alex being brainwashed, courtesy of  goodreads.com

The story skips to when he is done with his “treatment” and is ready to join society again. Before he is allowed to leave, he basically has to do a “performance” simulating how he would act in negative situations from now on in the real world. He is put on a stage and humiliated, but he doesn’t care, as long as he gets out of there in the end. Even though he kept feeling sick, he pulled through. Once Alex is now sent into the world, he naturally goes home. At least, it was his home.
When Alex enters the house, he is greeted to a cheery song on the radio, which counteracts what happens in the next scene. Alex entered the living room, where the music was coming from. As he accessed this room, he saw three faces, a strangers face, his mother’s, and his father’s. One was angry and two were frightened. In his absence, Alex’s parents rented out his room to a man named Joe. Joe was angry at him for making his parents grieve, but Alex didn’t know who he was. As Joe spoke out about his parents misery, Alex started breaking down. When he was done hearing this out, he asked where he would go, where he would call home. Joe spoke again, and his parents backed him up, although they seemed a bit disheartened. Alex ran out, upset and teary eyed, even wanting to go back to prison. He walked around the streets for a little while. He decided he wanted to listen to his favorite music, but in trying to listen, he remembers that the brainwashing made him hate classical music. All he had was gone.
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Alex returning home, courtesy of Academy Award Best Picture Winners.
Put into the world brainwashed to not fight and not give in to certain urges, he could not defend himself. He ended up beaten up by a previous victim and his friends, an old man homeless and singing while drunk on the streets. He tries to fight or at least run, but he’s not able because he just keeps feeling sick from the brainwashing. It ends up that he’s saved by two cops. But, these cops knew him from somewhere. They were droogs. Alex is now living in a hell even further. He can’t do anything and now these cops/droogs were dragging him somewhere random, where they can drown him. They succeed in beating and almost killing him, but he is still living. The cops left and soon Alex was running, he didn’t know where to, but he was running.
Unrecognizable, Alex now is taken inside of a familiar house. Another previous victim. It was the man who was crippled from the waist down and lost his wife thanks to Alex and his droogs. On that occasion though, Alex was wearing a mask. He said that he was beaten up by cops, so the man took good care of him and wanted to tell the press about it to support his belief that police brutality is happening and needed to be stopped. But, while on the phone and Alex was taking a bath, Alex started singing “singin’ in the rain”.
A few people come to the house to “interview” Alex while he was eating. They found out that Alex couldn’t stand Beethoven’s 9th, that’d he’d felt like he wanted to die every time he heard it and how that pained him greatly as it was his favorite song. Apparently, the crippled man had added someone medicine or something to his food or drink to knock him out. So, he fell face first into his pasta. When he woke up, he woke up to the sound of Beethoven’s 9th. All that he dreaded brought him into a panic as Beethoven played on and on very loudly. Alex became so much in pain that he wanted to die, feeling like his brain was exploding 10x a second. And so, he jumped out the window.
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 Alex tortured by the presence of the song, 9th in D-minor, courtesy of Trivia
Alex woke up in a hospital bed, confused but happy that the pain was gone. He even seemed invigorated in a way, like he wasn’t brainwashed anymore. The man who submitted him to the brainwashing earlier(Minister of the interior)made an appearance at the hospital to “check on” Alex. The man brought in expensive items and the press waited outside the room doors. Apparently, he had been all over the news for a failed experiment. The news wrote about the man being in charge of torturing Alex and that he was a victim and not a criminal. The man who came in wanted Alex to say good things about him to the press and he bribed him to do so. Alex, being himself, agreed because he got a payed for life in return.
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Stanley Kubrick and Malcolm Mcdowell(Alex Delarge), Courtesy of cranes are flying.
This is ending to the movie, Alex reverts to his old ways. The ending in the book is that Alex does not revert back to his evil ways, but lives a happy, clean life. Altogether, A Clockwork Orange is an amazing book and movie. Whether you end up liking Stanley Kubrick’s movie adaptation, Anthony Burgess’s original book, or both, A Clockwork Orange is a classic in literature, movies, and visuals in general. At first, this movie was criticized by the public for being too violent and Stanley Kubrick even got death threats. Nowadays, Burgess and him are praised for such a fantastic piece of work and it has become a cult film. How do you feel about this movie? What is your interpretation and perception of what happens in this story? Either way, it’s a classic.
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