The story of Alex is a much-exaggerated representation of how youth culture can rule over the more civilised adult world if left unchecked. Throughout the novel Burgess shows how youths are capable of great evil if they are allowed to do so from an early age and so reminds the reader how important an effective and fair judiciary system really is. On the other hand, we do see several authority figures within the parts one and two of the novel, however, they appear to have adopted the philosophy of “fight fire with fire” because they use violence and humiliation (much the same as Alex) to get what they want.
This happens on several occasions as the police act poorly when they arrest Alex and when they have him in custody and also P. R Deltoid, who was trying to get Alex to stop his bad behaviour, resorts to spitting on him. This shows that, in fact, the adult world cannot seem to come up with any better way of dealing with people than Alex, and his gang, can. So, we are lead (by Burgess) to assume that the role of authority figures as examples for younger generations has played a large part in producing the extremely dangerous gangs that are seen in this dystopia.
In a Clockwork Orange, Burgess uses his own youth culture of the 1950s and 60s to produce a terrifying projection of what is to come. Each aspect which we would associate with youth culture is hugely exaggerated to the point of the gangs not only having a little bit of slang woven in to the English language but having a complete language interspersed very sparingly with recognisable words at times.
This Nadsat language separates the young gangs from the rest of society even more effectively than their being simply violent as it shows their most basic understanding of life and its values are different because the adults do not understand the words they use to convey these values and concepts and this also shows their separation. At times, however, the language is not a sophisticated and meaningful code as in some cases the Nadsat version of a word is simple and childish such as “appy polly loggy” instead of apology or “eggiweg” instead of egg.
These words remind us that at the centre of all their rebellion and violence is in fact a young boy desperate to be heard and understood. The youths in A Clockwork Orange all want to be fighting against an evil oppressor who wants to stop them from doing what they want but it seems that Alex and his gang have free run of the city as they go from place to place raping and pillaging without consequences.
Burgess is saying in this book that the gangs are, in fact, helpless victims of every teenager’s need to rebel against the system and fight the trends that exist within society, however the youths in this book have not been able to provoke such a conflict without breaking the law and ignoring human rights to a massive extent. This is yet more evidence of the almost comical exaggeration factor within this story, however, it does still have a strong and frightening resonance within our society.
Besides breaking rules and rebelling in their behaviour, teenagers also have a tendency to want to listen to a different kind of music and dress in a certain way. Both of these issues are used in A Clockwork Orange as the image-obsessed Alex (also a feature of many modern youths) takes the first opportunity to describe the clothes he and his friends wear and they are, according to Alex, “the height of fashion”.
They are described as looking very odd indeed and so this gives them an added reason to be separate from the rest of society as they can be seen walking down the street in these cloths and other people will know they are young and aggressive, an image most heartily welcomed by the youths. The music is also a very odd choice as Alex has a very deep love of classical music, which he plays to himself in his room on a regular basis.
This music gets his heart pumping faster and makes him ready for fighting and drinking and drugs just as some teenagers today would listen to rap or heavy metal to produce the same effect Burgess has chosen to portray Alex as rather more cultured than the average hoodlum. However, even with the love of classical music Alex still commits awful crimes and shows no remorse or mercy when doing so. The main demographic affected by Alex’s crimes is the adults of a maturing age who, one would assume, just want to go about their daily business without worrying for their safety.
However, at one point in the novel, we see the first real threat towards Alex’s power over this society and, fittingly for the theme of this novel; it comes from a fellow gang leader. This shows that Alex does not have to worry about the police or his social worker catching or punishing him, he only needs to beat “Billyboy” in a fight and order in his life will carry on as usual. This is a frightening thought as one would truly hope that the police would catch these youths for the crimes they commit towards each other let alone the atrocities we see performed on innocent people.
The theme of youth culture is a clear and strong one throughout this book but especially in the first two parts as after these Alex’s treatment has happened and he is no longer able to commit crimes. The ideas raised by many people for many years about the restraint, education or punishment of young criminals are explored in detail in this novel as Burgess evaluates each one and shows us the consequences of their implementation.
However, it is plain to see the first and foremost conclusion that must be drawn from this story is the importance of free will at any age. This does not mean that Burgess approves of a persons free will impeaching upon someone else’s but he does show that the free will of Alex, once sharply jolted back into the realm of the right, does lead him down a happy and lawful path in the end.