Use of nasdat in Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange
“And, my brothers, it was real satisfaction to me to waltz-left two three, right two three-and carve left cheeky and right cheeky, so that like two curtains of blood seemed to pour out at the same time, one on either side of his fat filthy oily snout in the winter starlight. ” –Alex, A Clockwork Orange
Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange is set in a futuristic city in a time, not too far off in the future. In this futuristic society, normal citizens have fallen into complacency and are oblivious to the growth of a violent youth culture. Alex, the narrator and protagonist of the story, is a teenage boy who speaks in a contrived slang called nadsat. Nasdat is a contrived language that incorporates elements of Russian and Cockney English. The use of language in the novel helps illustrate and set the scene as Alex leads a small gang of peers, friends and fellow criminals - Dim, Pete, and Georgie - through the streets, robbing, beating men, raping women and committing random acts of violence. Alex is the sole narrator of A Clockwork Orange. Every word on the page is his, and as readers, we experience his world through the scenes he describes and the experiences, suffering and pleasure he encounters. The function of nadsat in A Clockwork Orange, are many. Most immediately, the use of unusual language forces the reader to actively think about and use the language of the book. Because nasdat isn’t common-place, readers must pay attention to and force understanding of the words on the page. The act of comprehending and understanding the language as it is written prevents readers from making judgments about the characters. In this way, nadsat insulates us from many of the harsh and violent realities in the book, allowing us to develop a rapport with Alex and ultimately grow sympathy for the character. To better understand why the language in A Clockwork Orange draws the reader to empathize with the main character,...
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