A Clockwork Orange - Anthony Burgess

After reading (and liking) Nineteen-eighty-four and Brave New World I felt I ought to complete my list of dystopian novels by reading A Clockwork Orange. The movie is far more popular than the novel but I wanted to read the book first. The movie was a bit of a disappointment, especially because the main actor annoyed me.

The book is about a rebel in a totalitarian state whose primarily interests are sex and violence. Throughout the book he uses a language called Nadsat. Actually it isn't really a language but merely an extra set of words taken mainly from Russian. After being arrested he is chosen to test a new technique for correcting delinquents, well, actually just a brainwashing technique. After being brainwashed he is incapable of violence and gets beaten up by cops. A helpful man shelters him and gives him food. But it turns out that he just wants to use him for realizing his political ideals. The government quickly acts to save its position and reverses the brainwashing technique. When released he comes to realize that he has grown up and is no longer interested in violence and destruction and thinks about forming a family.

The themes in this novel about free will and moral choice are very interesting. According to characters in the book being a human implies having moral choice and thus when someone is incapable of evil he ceases to be human. While philosophers and scientist are ofcourse still debating whether or no humans have free will, it is a very good argument. Especially when one considers that the system of justice is usually based on the principle of free will (if the perpetrator of a crime didn't have a choice it is not fair to fully blame him). But I wonder if today a real government would use methods as obvious as the brainwashing technique in this book. With the advancements of technology and science maybe they are able to control people without taking away their illusion of free will. It's certainly something to make you paranoid.