A Clockwork Orange: Teaching Ethics through a Violent Criminal
Every thirty seconds a new book comes out; in fact, reading just the titles of every book ever printed would take thirteen years (Hornby). Based on those kinds of numbers, deciding what books one should single out and read seems a task of enormous importance. Which books are significant enough that any person—all people being of such limited time—should go to the bother of reading? Which books best enrich the mind? There’s a rather long list of books that most of society has sort of grudgingly agreed meet this caliber. We call them classics. What makes this list? Of course it’s very subjective, but which books have enough power to impact anyone who should read them? It is on this basic question that I base my case for A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess. Though it is not as established as many “classics,” being published a mere fifty years ago, its newness in no way hinders its timeless message. A Clockwork Orange is a classic because of its frightening relevancy and simultaneous ability to transport the reader; because it makes the reader, not only to look at the sort of people society doesn’t like to think about, but to connect to one; because its strong moral overtones force the reader to develop an opinion. In his essay on the dullness of the standard reading curriculum of a student, Stephen Wolk makes this point: “Ask a kid to list the ‘bold’ and ‘fascinating’ readings they have done in school. That is, texts that have encouraged them to question their assumptions and opened their minds to stimulating ideas. That will be a very short list indeed” (13). There is strong morality present in the novel, but Burgess only illustrates evil—the corrupted government and perverse youth battling each other, neither a force of good, neither able to win. Transported into a world we may live in but rarely think of, a world where nothing is purely one or the other, the reader is forced to question...
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Burgess, Anthony. A Clockwork Orange. 1962. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1986. Print.
Calvino, Italo. “Why Read the Classics?” The Uses of Literature. Orlando, Florida: Hardcourt Brace & Company, 1986. 125-134. Print.
Hornby, Nick and Ben Folds. Things You Think (feat. Pomplamoose). Nonesuch Records, 2010. MP3.
Morris, Robert K. “ The Bitter Fruits of Freedom.” Anthony Burgess. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York, NY: Chelsea House Publishers, 1987. 37-49. Print.
Prose, Francine. “I Know Why the Caged Bird Cannot Read.” Harper’s Magazine. Sept. 1999: 76-84. Print.
“The Ultimate Beatnik.” Rev. of A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess. Time. 15 Feb. 1963. Web. 30 Aug. 2011.
Wolk, Stephen. “What Should Students Read?” Kappan. Apr. 2010: 9-16. Print.
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