The Mechanical Orange Summary

In the field of contemporary British Literature, the name A Clockwork Orange is known as the original title of A Clockwork Orange to a novel, born from the pen of the writer Anthony Burguess, which was first published in 1962, thanks to the work of the publisher Heinemann.


It is considered a work of great importance, both within British and universal literature, becoming a cult story. It is also catalogued within the tradition of British dystopian novels, where it is credited with being the heiress of works such as George Orwell’s 1984 (1949) or Aldous Huxley’s A Happy World (1932).

This novel also features a film adaptation, which was directed by Stanley Kubrick, and was released in 1971, before Burgess’s novel turned his first decade.


Reflection on the title The Mechanical Orange

Just as the content of the work has been the subject of discussion for decades, the title of this, The Mechanical Orange hasn´t escaped the controversy, being the subject of multiple interpretations, in which however there are at least two that are accepted with greater force, the following being:

One of the currents that bears the most weight over the interpretation of the title of this work is one that is inclined to think that Burgess didn´t use the word orange for the title, but in principle would have intended to use the Malay word orang , which can be translated as “orangutan”. Consequently, those who believe that Burgess actually wanted to title the work to refer to a “mechanical orangutan”.

There is also another current that also supports the thesis of the Malay origin of the word orang (and not orange) used by Burgess, only denying that he has used it with the sense of “orangutan” but with the interpretation that translates it as “man”. In this way, those who believe in this theory claim that Burgess titled the work wanting to refer to the concept of “mechanical man”.

However, a good way to approach the real meaning behind the title of this work may be to repair in the essay Clockwork oranges, published by the author himself, prior to the publication of the novel, and in which he commented that the title Clockwork orange, based on the English expression As queer as a clockwork orange which literally translates as “as rare as a clock orange” would be ideal for headline a novel in which the main theme was the study of Pavlovian conditioning in man.

Mechanical Orange Summary

As for the content of Anthony Burguess’ novel, it begins with the presentation of its protagonist: Alex, who is accompanied by his accomplices and friends: Pete, Georgie and Lerdo. These men are gathered in a dairy bar, called Korova, where they are given the task of ingesting milk-plus, a cocktail made from powerful hallucinogenic substances, such as velocet, drencrom and synthemesco.

However, Alex and his druges do not take these drugs just because of their hallucinogenic power, but because of the disinhibition it causes them, and the ability it has to generate violence in them. Once placed, they leave the bar and almost immediately get their first victim: a man returning from the library, and who is savagely beaten by Alex and his friends.

Subsequently, and wanting to prevent the suspicion of the Law from falling on them, this group of men settle in another bar, the Duke bar, and make sure to treat old women with food and company, in order to make an alibi, in case things get complicated with the man they have beaten, and especially for the crimes they have planned. Once they think they’ve spent enough time at the bar, for visitors to remember, they set off for their next plan: to rob a store.

Upon entering the establishment they plan to steal, they meet the shopkeeper and his wife, so they have no choice but to beat them unconscious. They return to the bar, to close their alibi, and quickly come out again. This time the victim is a drunk man. Those who beat mercilessly until they knock him unconscious.

The violent group returns to walk through the New York suburbs, then meeting the rival gang led by Billyboy, who were trying to rape a girl. Even though his intention isn´t to save the woman, he manages to flee when the two gangs begin to confront each other. However, the fight does not extend much further as the woman has managed to warn the police, who are on their way, and make each group flee.

This adventure causes Alex and his druges to end up on a stolen car, on their way to a village on the outskirts of the city, where this group violently enters a writer’s house and his wife, who will be violently beaten and even raped by the woman. After a long and violent night, each returns home. Alex for his part is unfounded by his social worker, who warns him that he may go to jail, warnings that this man nevertheless dismisses.

In fact, his next adventure leads him to sexually abuse two ten-year-old girls. After comungy his new crime, Alex comes out to meet his druges, to be also uncreded by his druggos, who aren´t very happy that Alex has assumed the position of leader in the group. However, Alex is unwilling to lose his position, so he faces punches with each of them, to prove who’s really in charge.

Once the discussion about each of the members’ papers has passed, Alex and his druges decide their new journey: stealing the house of an older and wealthy woman. For this, they plan to do the same as on the other occasions: let Alex come in, and then let them pass on to their henchmen. However, the woman realizes the situation and calls the police. Despite the warning, Alex and his druggos manage to get in, confronting the woman, with which Alex ends up facing each other, and killing her with blows.

Knowing that the police are on their way, Alex takes the break, but his druggoos take the opportunity to avenge the beating he has given them before, so they then beat him with a chain in the face, leaving him blind and at the mercy of the police, whoever is at the scene and captures him, taking him to prison.

Inside prison, Alex begins to look for ways that will soon get him out of his confinement, so he then approaches the prison chaplain, feigning interest in religion, so he manages to have two years of peace of mind. After an incident in which he kills a prisoner, Alex is chosen to receive experimental treatment: the Ludovico, which consists of conditioning the person to feel unwell when faced with scenes of violence and evil.

In this way, Alex is injected with the substance that will make him react negatively to evil and violence. Considering him cured, the authorities let him out. Alex goes straight to his parents’ house, where he however leaves when he discovers that they have let in a new tenant, who seems to profess much more affection than himself, so he leaves, to wander around the city for a while.

However, he wants the fate that the new Alex goes across some of his former victims, until he meets Lerdo and his old rival Billyboy again, who beat him and abandon him near the teacher’s house that in the past Ales and his druglords attacked .

Even after the attack he has received, Alex is assisted by this man, who, in acknowledging it, decides to use it to plot a plan that leaves the government unwell, in terms of his healing treatments. For this, the writer plans with other friends to lock Alex up and subject him to classical music and scenes of violence, to the point of making him commit suicide.

However, these men fail in their plan to make Alex attack against themselves, and even manage to get the government to cure Alex, who by the end of the novel agrees to have no trace of Ludovico’s treatment.

Chapter 21 begins, which is not included in all translations or editions, and where Alex appears again in the dairy bar with his drugos, whom he sees beating an individual when they leave the establishment.

However, Alex claims that he is no longer attracted to violence, attributing this change to maturity. Alex also understands that perhaps what he needs in his current life is to get love and companionship, through a wife. Alex has changed, and thus dismisses the reader, who yet asks him to remember him as the boy at the beginning of the novel, that is, the violent and adventurous Alex.

Picture: portrait of Anthony Burguess, author of the novel The Clockwork Orange / Source: wikipedia.org

The Mechanical Orange Summary
Source: Education  
September 30, 2019


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