In 1962, Anthony Burgess released his masterpiece: A Clockwork Orange. The novel follows Alex, a 15-year old in a future Britain, as he and his group of friends engage in destructive, violent behavior. In this new world, the slang incorporates Russian words, and the boys’ behavior is called “ultra-violence.” In 1971, Stanley Kubrick directed the film adaptation, which shocked audiences with its depictions of violence and rape. In the US, the film was originally rated X and many believed the movie inspired several crimes. A re-release in 1975 removed several seconds of violence to get an R rating.
There are several differences between the book and film, including the ending, which was actually removed from the American version of the book. In Burgess’ original ending, it’s heavily implied that Alex will give up his violent lifestyle. Kubrick believed that was unrealistic.
Burgess didn’t take the accusations that his work inspired violence lightly. Now, after the discovery of an unfinished manuscript, we get some of his thoughts on society, violence, and culture. While it’s being called a “sequel” to A Clockwork Orange, it’s really more of a response. The Clockwork Condition is nonfiction. In one section, he discusses TV and media in the 1970’s, saying that people are “trapped in a world of machines, unable to grow as a human being…” The “Clockwork Condition” comes upon people when they feel isolated. The mass media, according to Burgess, is at least partially to blame.
If finished, The Clockwork Condition would be structured like Dante’s “Inferno” and contain photographs. While there’s no word yet on if the unfinished manuscript will get published, it is interesting to see how these conversations about media and real-life violence always come up. Today, people talk a lot about video games and how it impacts young people, while extreme violence in movies remains troubling to many audiences. Do books and movies like A Clockwork Orange provoke violence and give “permission” for people to act on their worst instincts? Or would people eventually succumb to their dark sides anyway?