“I first read this when I was in sixth grade, and I must have read it again in high school. What I remember the most about it from those readings was the violence and the language. It has been fascinating to read it from an adult perspective.
After initially feeling disgusted by Alex and his friends and their addiction to violence, I found myself feeling sorry for Alex when he was subjected to experimentation and mind control. I agreed with the chaplain: taking away a person's free will does not make them a better person or a complete person. It simply makes them an automaton, their behavior dictated by chemical reactions. (While behavior IS dictated by chemical reactions to a certain extent, the presence or absence of moral compunctions is equally important, in my opinion.) The free will aspect of this book was fascinating, and was probably a hot topic when this was first published in the early '60s.
Alex's release from prison also bothered me. I find that it echoed our own prison system in a very uncomfortable way. Throw 'em in, let 'em do their time, get 'em out, with little to no attempt at true rehabilitation and little post-prison support. So I was feeling decidedly sympathetic towards young Alex at this point.
I found it interesting that the original American edition of the book did not include the last chapter, in which Alex realizes that he's lost his taste for ultra-violence, and is growing up. The American publisher felt that America audiences would prefer the darker version, in which Alex returns to his violent ways. Although the restored ending might have been a little anti-climactic, I found it to be satisfying. Alex was never a stupid boy, and it stands to reason that he would be self-aware enough to grow bored by the mindless violence and to want a better life for himself.
As for the language, I was intrigued to realize that not too far in, I was understanding almost completely the nonsensical words of Nadsat. I recall being quite taken by some of the language when I first read it (I believe a friend and I even began using words like 'eggiweg' and 'baddiwad'), and I found it fascinating that when in context, they become very understandable. The combination of Slavic and Cockney terms (at least, that's what it seemed like to me) and the archaic way of Nadsat speaking had a certain lyrical charm. It also leads one to wonder just what has happened in this futuristic, dystopian England. Was there a Soviet occupation at some point? In influx of Russian immigrants? No answers to that are given, so it's up to us to speculate.
Very happy to have read this again, and I enjoyed it much more than reading it in my youth. Sometimes a little adult perspective is a good thing. I suspect that young Alex would agree! ”
Beth R wrote this review Wednesday, March 6, 2013.