Sitting in the Korova milk bar, the four droogs prepare for their evening on the town. The dimly lit bar, which served milk spiked with the drug of your choice, was host to the strange and bizarre of London’s criminal subculture. The four outlandish gang members shared a booth, scanning the milkbar, vultures looking for the latest in decayed cuisine. They wore what they deemed “the height of fashion”, black tights, lapel-less waistcoats, and derbies with the mandatory cane accompaniment. After getting their fill of the spiked “moloko”, they leave the bar.
Outside the bar, on the dimly lit street, a slovenly old man lays against a wall. Drunk, he sings out to the night sky like it was his only friend, attracting the attention of the local bullies. In the glow of the street-lamp, they punch and kick him, showing the old man what they think of his drunken display. As they beat him, he hollers out, telling them he has no urge to live in this filthy, corrupt world anyway, so they might as well do him in. They leave him there, bloodied and puking, moving on to the next adventure of the night.
In a nearby wear-house, a rival gang is assaulting a young lady. The wear-house is large and filled with miscellaneous debris and stored items covered with cloth. On the stage at one end, drama takes place, but it is no play. The four droogs taunt the other gang, drawing the attention away from the lady. They commence in fighting their rivals with chains and knives, and any other conceivable dirty means. Easily overtaking the six guys, they set the girl free and cackle knowing that their rival has been defeated.
This strangely clad gang carouses the streets, speaking their strange form of slang and inciting terror on the night streets. They are willing to do anything for that adrenal rush, from stealing and pick pocketing, to raping the defenseless. Throughout the beginning section of the book, Anthony Burgess shows that A Clockwork Orange will be an adventuresome and violent book. The violence isn’t gratuitous, however, like some trashy action novel. Although this may not be apparent at first, further inspection proves that there is a higher purpose in showing the evil ways of Alex and his gang.
The violent tendencies of Alex and his gang rise to sickening levels almost right off the bat in the beginning of the book. This is to show how incorrigible they are, a bunch of old dogs not inclined to learn new tricks. Without detailing their atrocious acts, the characters cannot fully be developed, so Burgess decided not to hold back. The audience that Burgess tried to reach is broad, because the book appeals to different groups of people for different reasons. Teenagers would find the book intriguing for its initial sense of out right rebellion towards society.
The tightness of the gang and their wild mannerisms possesses a very adolescent spirit. Psychologists would appreciate the book for the way in which it looks into the mind of a criminal; both in the stage of corruption, and later in the stage of “recovery”. Criminologists would like the book for its portrayal of crime and its twisted look at the justice system and the idea of rehabilitation. One thing Clockwork definitely proves is that it is a multidimensional book with underlying implications about society in general.
A Clockwork Orange has many made-up words, which give it a very foreign feel, conveying the sense of the gangs’ closeness. The book is written from the perspective of the lead gang member, Alex and takes on a kind of mocking tone, as he apparently doesn’t give a damn about how others perceive him. The jovial, mocking language is embedded with undertones of violence, a smile pasted on a scarecrow. The writing is fast paced, giving the feeling that anything could be right around the corner. The structure of the book is a straightforward narrative written from Alex’s perspective.
Using the slang language of the British street gang, Burgess details the violent lives and wild antics of these gutter punks. He uses shock tactics to convince his audience of the true nature of his characters. Later on in the book, when Alex goes to jail and undergoes “treatment”, Burgess goes deep into the criminal mind and what makes it tick, thus giving his character more depth. By the end of the book, you feel like you have come a long way with Alex and his “droogs”, and you most likely have a different view of justice.