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Meat Powder or Murder: Psychological Principles in a Clockwork Orange

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Brad Schaffer

9 February 2004

General Psychology



Meat Powder or Murder: Psychological Principles in A Clockwork Orange

Anthony Burgess novel, A Clockwork Orange, takes place in the near future where the

city of London is understaffed with cops and overrun with gangs and crime. The main

characters, Alex and his doogies, Pete, Georgie, and Dim, are just one of these gangs. They

stage their nights events at a local place called the Korova Milkbar. A typical night for the gang

includes beating the elderly, raping women, and murdering anybody who gets in their way.

These events have been going on along time without anyone falling into the hand s of the police.

Their luck, however, doesn’t last forever. One evening, Alex has an altercation with Dim

and Alex to punches him. The rest of the group thought it was inappropriate especially when

Alex claimed he had the right to punch Dim because he was the leader of the group. This left

Dim seeking revenge which he got during one night’s routine attack. The group breaks into an

elderly ladies house and Alex beats her up. Shortly after, they heard the cops coming so Dim

waits outside and chains Alex as he comes running through the threshold. When Alex awakes

from his beating, he finds himself in the police station only to be told that he would be serving

fourteen years in prison because the women he attacked had perished.

After only serving two years of his sentence, Alex is given the opportunity to participate

in a new treatment called the Ludovico Technique. This technique involved taken the inmate

and forcing him to watch ultra violent movies directly after injecting them with a nauseainducing

drug. The idea was that of classical conditioning. Alex later says of his treatment,

“And what, brothers, I had to escape into sleep from then was the horrible and wrong feeling that

it was better feeling to get hit than give it. If that veck had stayed I might even have like



presented the other cheek.”(Burgess, 121) Ludovico’s treatment, a text-book example of

classical conditioning, had accomplished its task; it had effectively paired the stimulus, violence,

with an aversive response, nausea.

Upon the completion of the highly controversial program, Alex was released from prison

and thrown back into the real world. During his exit, the prison Chaplain spoke with him and

raised this question: “What does God want? Does God want goodness or the choice of

goodness? Is a man who chooses the bad perhaps in some way better than a man who has the

good imposed on him?” Even though Alex pays little attention to the Chaplin, this quotation

ends up being the main essence of the novel. In the introduction to the novel, Burgess points out

that if a man can’t use his free will to choose between good and evil and can only be one hundred

percent good or one hundred percent evil, then he is clockwork orange, having “the appearance

of an organism lovely with colour and juice but is in fact only a clockwork toy to be wound up

by God or the Devil or (since this is increasingly replacing both) the Almighty State.” (Burgess


At the beginning of the novel, the reader is bombarded with a foreign language called

Nadsat. At first this makes the novel very unclear and hard to read. However, after reading the

first chapter twice or maybe even three times, the reader begins to learn the new language. After

reading several chapters of the book, the Nadsat is almost second nature and becomes essential to

the book. The language, though confusing in the opening chapters, is necessary for several

reasons. The first was to force the reader to read in a more alert and interactive way than he

usually would. Secondly, the slang conveys the youth culture of the time in a very descriptive

manner. But, most importantly, it creates a buffer to



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