This article discusses subjects of violence, sexual assault, and suicide.
The unique language and dialogue in
A Clockwork Orange
help establish the dystopian setting and separate the brutish criminals from other characters.
- The juxtaposition of violence and classical music in the film enhances the disturbing nature of Alex DeLarge’s character.
The distorted reality and manipulation of truth through contradictory dialogue is a common theme in dystopian literature and film, as shown in
A Clockwork Orange
The film A Clockwork Orange features unusual dialogue that is indicative of the dystopian British setting on which it is based, and through the scripting choices, it enriches the story and delivers some great quotes. Based on Anthony Burgess’ novel of the same name, A Clockwork Orange was released in 1971, written and directed by horror legend Stanley Kubrick. Starring a young Malcolm McDowell, the film follows a group of criminals led by Alex DeLarge in a twisted futuristic world.
The language of the characters is unique and simplistic, as they skip over connecting words and use slang to communicate with one another. The language helps establish the dystopian setting and distinguish the brutish criminals from the more academic figures within the movie. In connection with the bizarre world, unusual furniture, and the new methodologies for criminal reform, A Clockwork Orange feels like something set in the future but weighed down with archaic and anarchistic practices of the past. This sets A Clockwork Orange apart from most other movies.
10 “This Would Sharpen You Up And Make You Ready For A Bit Of The Old Ultra-Violence.”
When Alex DeLarge and his gang of Droogs are introduced, they find themselves in an unusual bar that appears to primarily serve milk. This milk is laced with different drugs, and the gang makes the most of their enhanced state by enacting terrible crimes of violence around the city. The quote references the plans that Alex has for his evening. The terrifying reference to “ultra-violence” invokes a sense that this is a sport to the boys, all of whom derive pleasure from their cruelty. The attitude also adds to how eerie and chilling these cold-hearted characters are.
9 “What I Needed Now To Give It The Perfect Ending Was A Bit Of The Old Ludwig Van.”
This quote is said following an evening during which Alex breaks into a couple’s home and violently assaults them. The gang also gets into a gang war with another group and assaults an elderly unhoused man on the streets. This line once again highlights how common such events are for the group as Alex stumbles into his home at the end of the night and plays some Ludwig van Beethoven to relax and cap off the evening.
The brutality of the Droogs’ actions contrasts with the pleasure young Alex DeLarge derives from listening to classical music, and the juxtaposition of these interests make his character all the more sinister. Beethoven’s music also plays a larger role in the movie, as it is used in the videos that condition Alex out of his negative behaviors in A Clockwork Orange. While violence and music are originally two things that give him great satisfaction, both are turned into weapons used against him, leading to his attempted suicide later in the movie.
8 “Oh, It Was Gorgeousness And Gorgeousity Made Flesh.”
While Alex is listening to Beethoven’s Ninth, images of violence and horror play out in his mind, and he describes them as being extraordinarily pleasant. For him, both images are intrinsically tied together, and he relives his violent escapades with the aid of his musical promptings. The language used is subversive and contrary when used to describe the things he envisions, but he does so with the music playing loudly. The lines between violence and beauty are clearly shown to be blurred in his mind.
7 “Initiative Comes To Thems That Wait.”
Alex is a cruel and violent leader, and he does not withhold his disdain when addressing and interacting with his accomplices. Alex’s Droogs do not share the same appreciation for music as Alex, and when his horrific henchman Dim attempts to interrupt and talk over an impromptu performance at the milk bar, Alex savagely hits him with his cane. It becomes clear in moments like this that Alex is separate and distinct to his colleagues despite their shared adventures.
The following day, one of his crew attempts to assert his own will by telling Alex that he has a plan for what their day’s activities should be. Alex plays along and appears to respond graciously. In response, he declares, “Initiative comes to thems that wait.” Contradiction plays a big part in A Clockwork Orange, and this statement appears to reinforce that. By definition, taking initiative means acting and making a choice to move forward in some way. However, Alex declares that in this world, the opposite should be true. In dystopian literature and film, this distortion of truth and manipulation of peers through contrary dialogue is very common.
6 “Our Brief Govoreet Through The Letter-Hole Was Not, Shall We Say, Satisfactory, Yes?”
Following the altercation with his crew, Alex decides to act on the idea of his accomplice anyway. However, he takes credit for the idea rather than giving it to those who serve him. Alex breaks into the home of a wealthy cat lady with the aid of his gang to reach a high window and assault the sole resident there. This is whom he directs the quote to, referencing his attempt to get in through the front door. In a cruel twist of fate, Alex’s gang hatches a plan to leave him to claim the spoil alone as police sirens ring and law enforcement approaches.
Alex lashes out at the woman and kills her. Upon hearing the sirens, he tries to make a quick escape and is assaulted by his own Droogs, who shatter a milk bottle across his face. Alex’s actions finally catch up with him, and he spends the following two years imprisoned with foul murderers and convicts. This is when everything in Alex’s life starts to go in a very different direction, all marked by a simple encounter that he chases due to his lack of satisfaction.
5 “It’s Funny How The Colors Of The Real World Only Seem Really Real When You Viddy Them On The Screen.”
This quote from A Clockwork Orange provides some insight into the warped mind of Alex, as he describes his inability to accurately perceive color in real life. Alex is unable to see things clearly, raised in a world where ultra-violence is a common sport for growing boys in school. One particularly harrowing scene in A Clockwork Orange sees him becoming the subject of an experimental treatment to condition his brain to perceive violence as something vile that makes him ill. Those experimenting him are attempting to help him see the real world more accurately.
4 “You’ve Proved To Me That All This Ultra-Violence And Killing Is Wrong, Wrong, And Terribly Wrong.”
It isn’t until Alex is subjected to these terrifying films of violence and cruelty — set to the songs he perceives as beautiful — that his treatment makes its full impact. Alex watches in absolute horror as the music he loves and values so much is tainted with the violent images that once gave him pleasure. This sequence shows how far Alex is coming in his treatment and how the scientists are thoroughly torturing him to develop a connection between violence and suffering.
3 “Well, Put It This Way, I Feel Very Low In Myself.”
After Alex completes his treatment in A Clockwork Orange, he reenters the general population and finds himself completely disconnected from everyone he knew. His parents reject him, as they fear the monstrous deeds he committed. Meanwhile, his old friends are now in a position of power and able to abuse him without any repercussions. The victims of his attacks who remain alive also attempt to beat and torture him. When asked how the treatments worked and what he endured, Alex discusses his suicidal feelings, which the inquisitors then push to their limit by forcing him to endure more torture.
2 “I Was Cured, All Right!”
At the ending of A Clockwork Orange, Alex winds up in a position not unlike the one he started in. The government, which experimented on him to exorcise his violent and lustful passions, have cured him. Alex is then greeted by a government minister who personally apologizes and offers Alex a job more suited to his unique talents. The ominous concluding line sees Alex back to his old self as a cured man, but now his violence is government sanctioned.
1 “Goodness Is Something To Be Chosen. When A Man Cannot Choose He Ceases To Be A Man.”
In the middle of A Clockwork Orange, one of the most poignant quotes is uttered by a priest who rejects the horrific practice of indoctrinating Alex and brainwashing him. He declares that the cure offered up by the experimental practice is no cure at all. Alex is conditioned to reject violence based purely on his compulsive feelings of illness when confronted with violent or sexual acts. As a result of the treatment, Alex is unable to live freely and unable to choose between right and wrong.
Alex may be back to his old ways as the film concludes, but A Clockwork Orange asserts that freedom is better than a world stripped of free will — even when it results in horror and brutality. The prison chaplain, a notable figure of religion and morality, is the one character to assert this truth while others take advantage of a brainwashed and neutered young man. While the conclusion sees Alex returning to his old, ultra-violent self, he finds acceptance and an audience willing to pay him for his misdeeds in A Clockwork Orange.