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View Full Version : "A Clockwork Orange". Why is it named like that?


Zombie33
08-29-2002, 01:00 AM
I havent read the book, so, could someone please explain me what is the relation between the title and the story? Thanx

sundog66
08-29-2002, 01:14 AM
As for the origin of the expression, "clockwork orange" is Cockney slang for "fool". The reason the book is named this, however, is that the book deals with somebody who is brainwashed by the government to conform. But was it his choice to conform? Or is he like an orange? An orange may look pretty, but it has no personal say in how it looks. It is merely governed by the clockwork of God or nature. Thus, a clockwork orange.

Wolfian
08-29-2002, 01:23 AM
The way I've heard it explained goes like this: the title comes from the Cockney expression "As queer as a clockwork orange" which means something perfect when it shouldn't be (why should an orange be like clockwork?), which makes sense when one thinks about Alex or any human being as "perfect." YMMV. That's just a theory I've heard. As with anything, there are bound to be many theories, none necessarily more right than the next.

Welcome to the boards, Zombie33! Its' always great to see another Kubrick fan around. Then again you didn't mention liking the film. Oh well, whatever.

Genseric
08-29-2002, 03:01 AM
To expand a bit. An orange is a natural thing. A clockwork is a man-made machine. The implication is that Alex, a natural thing, has been made, via the Ludovico treatment, into something more like a man-made machine, i.e. a clockwork orange.

Skeezix
08-29-2002, 03:04 AM
One other thing:

The bit of story responsible for the title, isn't in the movie; at least, not for more than a second or two. I read the book years ago, now, so I may be a little off target, but...

The author (the guy who Alex and his droogs tie up, before they rape his wife, Singin' in the Rain) is writing a book, with that very title: A Clockwork Orange. He's a political activist of some type, expounding (in the book in question) on the themes our canine Dopers above allude to.

Sorry, my wit's diseased, sundog, Wolfian. I just hadda say it. :D

Mr2001
08-29-2002, 04:01 AM
From Kubrick Web (http://kubrick-web.co.uk/clockwork.htm):A pivotal moment occurs when [the main character] and his gang break into an author's home – the book he is writing (called A Clockwork Orange) is a plea against the use of aversion therapy, on the grounds that it turns people into Clockwork Oranges (ourang is Malay for man); that is, the way that they react to stimuli is no longer their choice.

Hail Ants
08-29-2002, 06:11 AM
I think everyone is missing an important piece of the phrase 'Clockwork Orange'. Clockwork is the british term for wind-up, as in what we Americans call a wind-up toy would be a clockwork toy.

So the idea is that a 'clockwork orange' is a completely artifical, and more importantly, completely useless thing. An orange doesn't walk or do anything, you squeeze it and get juice and a clockwork orange can't even do that.

And that's what they turned Alex into. Right or wrong, he was born a homocidal sociopath and stopping him from being what he was born to be didn't make him normal, it made him nothing. It made him completely useless (i.e. a wind-up orange). It would have been better to keep him in prison, or even to have executed him rather than to try and pretend that he could be a productive member of society.

Of course, the film is also one huge satire, so don't get too wrapped up in it's morality...

CurtC
08-29-2002, 09:33 AM
the way that they react to stimuli is no longer their choice.I get this picture of Bart reaching for two cherry-topped cupcakes, before he collapses into the fetal position. I'm sure Hail Ants thought the same thing.

handy
08-29-2002, 12:00 PM
It probably won't come as a surprise to anyone, but you can get futher info at:
http://clockworkorange.com/

Great Dave
08-29-2002, 01:12 PM
Isn't there also something about an orange being sweet? As in they turned Alex into an empty, sweet automaton.

Johanna
08-29-2002, 06:59 PM
Anthony Burgess (one of the great all-time writers, and an especial favorite of linguists like me, since his writing is powerfully informed by interesting linguistic stuff), among his many linguistic adventures, once taught in Malaysia and learned to speak Malay.

The Malay word for 'person, human being' is orang. There you go.

Multilingual puns are just the sort of wordplay where an Anthony Burgess would excel. Like James Joyce's Finnegans Wake — in fact, one of Burgess's books, on the appreciation of JJ's writings, is titled ReJoyce.

Burgess also was friends with the great Argentinian author and linguistic wizard Jorge Luís Borges, and they considered themselves distantly related, since their names linked up etymologically. Both had learned Old English (Anglo-Saxon), and once at an Argentine embassy party they held a conversation in Old English to evade the snooping ears of the Argentine dictatorship's secret police. You gotta love these guys.

ZipperJJ
08-29-2002, 09:03 PM
Why don't wee see what Anthony Burgess (http://geocities.com/Athens/Academy/1974/main.html) has to say about the matter?

(Dammit I posted this last night right after the OP and it got ATE.)

Walloon
12-16-2002, 12:43 PM
For those too lazy to click to a hyperlink, here is author Anthony Burgess on the title:
I don't think I have to remind readers what the title means. Clockwork oranges don't exist, except in the speech of old Londoners. The image was a bizarre one always used for a bizarre thing. "He is as queer as a clockwork orange" meant he was queer to the limit of queerness. . . I mean it to stand for the application of a mechanistic morality to a living organism oozing with juice and sweetness."

Olentzero
12-16-2002, 12:53 PM
Originally posted by Hail Ants
And that's what they turned Alex into. Right or wrong, he was born a homocidal sociopath and stopping him from being what he was born to be didn't make him normal, it made him nothing. It made him completely useless (i.e. a wind-up orange). It would have been better to keep him in prison, or even to have executed him rather than to try and pretend that he could be a productive member of society.Did you ever read the "lost" twenty-first chapter? Blows your theory right out of the water.

Spectre of Pithecanthropus
12-16-2002, 01:47 PM
Just to further clarify the phrase clockwork orange, isn't clockwork a mainly British expression for something that you wind up and let run, like some toys? I've seen the phrase in old novels but I don't know if it's still in use.

I remember that Mad Magazine satirized A Clockwork Orange as A Crockwork Lemon. Damn they were good at that sort of thing...their version of the title still makes me chuckle.

everton
12-16-2002, 02:33 PM
Originally posted by javaman
Just to further clarify the phrase clockwork orange, isn't clockwork a mainly British expression for something that you wind up and let run, like some toys? I've seen the phrase in old novels but I don't know if it's still in use.
Hail Ants already made that point.

It's important to remember that "a clockwork orange" was already a slang term before Burgess wrote his book - he didn't coin it or base it on his linguistic knowledge or the traits he wanted Alex to embody. The original expression was "as queer as a clockwork orange" (queer as in strange/unnatural). The Burgess quotation Walloon cited above ought to have made that clear.

There are lots of similar phrases in use on both sides of the Atlantic - nine-dollar bill, chocolate teapot etc etc.

The fact that it can also be made to work on all these other levels was just a convenient bonus for Burgess.

barbitu8
12-16-2002, 04:36 PM
Originally posted by everton
[b]There are lots of similar phrases in use on both sides of the Atlantic - nine-dollar bill, chocolate teapot etc etc. On this side, we say a three dollar bill. But nine works as well. Do they even have dollar bills over there?

everton
12-16-2002, 08:27 PM
Originally posted by barbitu8
On this side, we say a three dollar bill. But nine works as well. Do they even have dollar bills over there?
Not for spending. Nine was just a WAG, but I knew you'd have an expression that would work.

Spectre of Pithecanthropus
12-16-2002, 08:30 PM
Originally posted by barbitu8
On this side, we say a three dollar bill. But nine works as well. Do they even have dollar bills over there?

NO!!

Only in the U.S. do we still insist on using paper money for such a piddling amount.

martin_ibn_martin
12-16-2002, 10:48 PM
Originally posted by Olentzero
Did you ever read the "lost" twenty-first chapter? Blows your theory right out of the water.

I just bought a copy with the lost chapter...

Damn, what a flip-flop from the original US publication.

Martin

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