Both books are rife with violence. There is no real reason why either Alex or Patrick have tendencies towards violence, but in both cases they do seem as though they cannot be corrected normally. Both books are also written in the first person, and both Patrick and Alex involve the reader in their horseplay with unforgiving narration. In the extract marked ‘violence’ Patrick, completely unprovoked, attacks and murders a homeless man and his dog. Notice how Ellis uses ‘and’ several times in one sentence. I believe this is to make Patrick’s actions seem as though as they happened in quick succession. Ellis is also very descriptive.
He writes about the homeless man in great detail, describing how he looks, how he smells and how he reacts to Patrick and his actions. Ellis also describes Patrick’s actions in great detail. He uses a lot of similes and adjectives, making the description more graphic – “The wound pours out like red, veiny egg yolk”, “I slit his nose in two, lightly spraying me and the dog with blood”. Alex and Patrick both taunt the homeless men before attacking them. Patrick shows disdain towards the homeless because he doesn’t like the thought that people like the bum are taking other peoples money, however, Alex does not do it for any particular reason.
Although Burgess does not develop it further, I believe the irony of this piece is that Alex is in reality closer class-wise to the homeless man than he is to the upper-class ‘Sophistos’ he believe he belongs to, so is picking on his own kind, so to speak. In both Alex and Patrick’s cases, there is no obvious motivation for their violence. We are given a little bit of Patrick’s past in the book, where he tells the reader of his first violent act, in which he raped and killed the family maid.
We are given no indication of why Alex acts the way he does, but we can only guess that it is because of his poor background, or the decaying society in which he is living in. ‘Video Nasties’ play a part in the violence in both of the books. In ‘American Psycho’, they are not exactly an influence on Patrick, but they do seem to inspire him. He always seems to have videotapes to return, and they are usually of a distasteful manner. He comments that he has rented ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ over 30 times. In ‘A Clockwork Orange’ however, these films affect Alex in a completely different way.
They are used to wean Alex off violence and crime. This is one of the few differences between the characters. Alex and Patrick are both quite obviously psychopaths, but during the day both of them carry themselves as normal individuals. The only difference is that Alex is known as a troublemaker, and has been in trouble with the law before. In ‘American Psycho’ however, there is a lingering doubt present as to whether or not ant of the crimes actually took place, whereas in ‘A Clockwork Orange’, there is none at all.
We know that Patrick is unstable, so the question is ‘did he imagine all, or most of the crimes? ‘ Sex Ellis and Burgess both describe sexual acts, in their own different way. At first glance of the extract of ‘American Psycho’ marked ‘sex’, you would be forgiven for thinking that it was actually taken from a semi-pornographic novel rather than the actual source, because Ellis describes every detail of Patrick’s sordid liaisons with prostitutes and ex-girlfriends in explicit detail.
Notice how Ellis uses slang such as ‘cock’ and ‘pussy’. Patrick believes himself to be a porn star, and the way he acts with the girls shows this. Once again uses ‘and’ a lot in one sentence, with one sentence lasting for sixteen lines! Because Patrick always has consensual sex with girls, the sex is just a prelude to violence, rather than Alex, who rapes women, therefore, is already acting violently. However, for both Patrick and Alex, it is the violence that arouses them both, hence they enjoy it more.
Burgess describes the rape very casually, with Alex describing it as the girls’ ‘education’. The use of Alex’s slang also adds to the horror of the passage, with guttural words describing the deed. Also adding to the horror of the passage is Alex’s indifference to what the girls’ reactions are, as he rapes them they are screaming, but he seems to be more interested with Beethoven’s 9th symphony playing on his stereo. I find the girls post-coital reactions to be rather tame for two girls who have just been raped – “Beast ad hateful animal.
Filthy horror”. At least Alex lets them go. Patrick would have had sex with them, tortured them for a while, killed them, and then maybe had sex with them again! Burgess wrote the book after a nasty incident involving the rape of his ex-wife, and I am surprised he didn’t describe Alex’s deed with more venom and hatred. The language of a ‘A Clockwork Orange’ In ‘A Clockwork Orange’, Burgess has invented his own type of slang, ‘Nadsat talk’, that Alex and his ‘droogs’ use. The slang is a mixture of
“Odd bits of rhyming slang… Bits of gypsy talk, too. But most of the roots are Slav. Propaganda. Subliminal penetration… ” The fact that Alex’s talked is based on Eastern European languages is one way Burgess is comparing the society in the book to communism, because, the book was written at the height of the Cold War and the Cuban Missile Crisis. I think Burgess wrote this as a prediction of what might happen if the Communists won. It is quite difficult to understand when you first start to read the book.
One reason I believe Burgess invented this slang to give Alex and his droogs the appearance of a gang, because the majority of organized gangs of the world have certain words that are unique to them. The slang also adds extra menace, as in the extract marked ‘violence’, Alex describes beating up the tramp. Notice how the word ‘tolchock’ sounds more venomous than ‘hit’ or ‘beat’. Alex uses the word ‘horrorshow’, which does sound bad, but it is Nadsat for ‘good’.
This adds to readers understanding of how violent and nasty Alex is. At the beginning of the book, Burgess does give the reader translations for a while – “Pete had a rooker (hand, that is)… A clown’s litso (face, that is)”. Burgess also uses repetition in the book. The book is split into three parts, each consisting of seven chapters, and in the first chapter of each part, and the final chapter of the third part as well, Burgess begins them with the sentence “What’s it going to be then, eh?
” He then repeats the line three times in the above chapters. Each of these chapters represent a key point in the novel, and Alex’s life. The first time is the readers’ introduction to Alex, the second is the beginning of Alex’s time in prison, the third time is his release from prison, and the final time when he is fully rehabilitated. Every time, this question is being posed to Alex, but in different contexts, but I feel that the question is one directed at Alex about what he will do with his life.
Will it be life or death, freedom or incarceration, an honest life or a criminal one? Unusual Grammar Along with unusually long sentences, in one part of the book, Ellis also changes from first person narrative to third person narrative mid sentence. When writing in the first person, it can be difficult not to slip up with tenses, and it seems strange the first time. Then you realise that Patrick is not completely sane, and it’s as though Patrick has an out of body experience as he steals a taxi and drives around Manhattan.
Another way Ellis extends sentences is by using dashes to break up the words, making the writing more conversational between Patrick and the reader. Burgess uses the same strategy as Ellis to keep the informal approach of the narration, using dashes and the Lancashire ‘like’ at the end of most sentences. Ellis has also used Italics in his writing, to emphasise certain points only, the emphasis seems to be in the wrong place. I cannot see why he has done this, and this, along with the switching of narration, only add to the madness of they story.