Views & Reviews Medical Classics

A Clockwork Orange

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: (Published 13 April 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d1266
  1. David Ingle, core trainee year 3, psychiatry, Yorkshire Deanery
  1. davingle{at}

A Clockwork Orange is Anthony Burgess’s exploration of violence and free will and their manipulation by the state through psychological treatment administered by the medical establishment. It arose from Burgess’s abhorrence of the division of society by the establishment into the “well us” and the “sick them,” and of his contempt for the dichotomous view that some people are criminals and others not, as opposed to a universal inheritance of badness and violence as in the concept of original sin.

The book is narrated by the teenager Alex, who displays conduct disorder and sexual sadism. He misuses drugs added to milk, the first of many perverse learning associations in which the state or the medical profession are culpable.

The reader learns (“insidiously” as Burgess puts it) to like Alex, despite graphic and remorseless acts of violence, including rape, …

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