A Clockwork Orange | Critical Review by Julian Mitchell

This literature criticism consists of approximately 2 pages of analysis & critique of A Clockwork Orange.
This section contains 569 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
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Critical Review by Julian Mitchell

SOURCE: "Horrorshow on Amis Avenue," in The Spectator, Vol. 95, No. 6986, May 18, 1962, pp. 661-62.

Mitchell is an English novelist, playwright, and critic. In the following positive review, he lauds A Clockwork Orange as a brilliant mixture of horror and farce, calling Burgess's use of language an "extraordinary technical feat."

Anthony Burgess must have garnered some excellent reviews in his short, busy writing career (A Clockwork Orange is his eighth novel since 1956). No one can match his skill at anguished farce about the end of empire. His characters seem to be trapped in a tent whose pole has just been sawn in two by an over-enthusiastic administrator doing his part in a campaign to save wood. It is hilarious to watch their frantic heaving and humping beneath the spoiled canvas, to hear their absurd multilingual pidgin groans. But as we wipe away our tears of laughter, we notice that someone has just thrown petrol over the collapsed and writhing tent: frozen with horror, we see him strike a match.

If Mr. Burgess is, in some ways, a pupil of Mr. Waugh, he yet has an originality of manner and subject which place him, to my mind, among the best writers in England. Yet he has never received the critical attention granted to Angus Wilson and Kingsley Amis, with whom at least he deserves to rank. Certainly his prose is more attractive than either's, and he is prepared to take risks which they are not. And if his novels seem rather hollow and heartless at times, from a tendency to move his characters about to illustrate his points instead of letting the characters find their own way to making them, the points are major ones about our times.

A Clockwork Orange is set in the future, in an England where the streets are called things like Amis Avenue. It is narrated by Alex, a beguiling adolescent gang-leader with ultra-violent tendencies and a passion for classical music, in a teenage slang which takes a few pages to grasp. A splendid slang it is, though, full of stuff like 'yarbles' and 'profound shooms of lip-music brrrrrr' and 'droog.' The key praise-word is 'horrorshow,' for Alex's world is horrible and sadistic, and he is one of the toughest juvenile delinquents one could hope to meet. Very properly gaoled for killing a cat-loving old lady, Alex is subjected to a new cure for criminals, similar to that for alcoholics: he becomes sick and faint at the thought of violence or the sound of classic music (connected by him with violence). Released, he finds himself the victim of the entire world, at the mercy of policemen, old professors and politicians. His responses are no longer his own.

Mixing horror with farce in his inimitable manner, Mr. Burgess develops his theme brilliantly, though there is a certain arbitrariness about the plot which is slightly irritating and I find it difficult to accept the contention that being young is like being a clockwork toy—you walk into things all the time. But the language is an extraordinary technical feat, and the whole conception vigorously exhibits Mr. Burgess's great imaginative gifts. No doubt ignorant and anonymous reviewers will criticise him for 'experimenting' (as John Wain was recently and absurdly criticised): they will be merely exhibiting their ignorance and anonymity. Mr. Burgess is far too good and important a writer not to go in any direction he chooses.

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This section contains 569 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by Julian Mitchell
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