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Clockwork Orange, A

alex novel music therapy

a novel by Anthony Burgess, published in 1962. The narrative is by 15-year-old hooligan Alex, using a teenage slang, ‘Nadsat’, invented by Burgess; it is set in an anarchic urban culture of the near future. Alex has a passion for music and hi-fi, and is a drug user. He and his friends embark on orgies of violence and destruction, in one of which a woman dies. In prison Alex is selected as guinea-pig for a form of aversion therapy devised by a social reformer. Considered a successful subject, he is released early. At home he discovers that his music and drugs have been confiscated by the authorities and a stranger is boarding in his room. Listening to Mozart in a record shop he finds that the therapy has destroyed his love of music. He is recognized and attacked by his former victims, who include a writer whom his gang crippled and whose wife they raped. In hospital Alex realizes he is now the centre of a political scandal over the therapy he has been given. The novel ends with Alex the helpless tool of government propaganda, but, enjoying Beethoven's Ninth Symphony and accompanying images of violence, ambiguously declaring himself ‘cured’. The title is taken from a manuscript by the writer Alex's gang assaulted, which rejects the option of treating people like machines. The novel is about moral choice, most explicitly proposed by the repeated ‘What's it going to be then?’ at the head of each of its three sections.

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