A Clockwork Orange

The Wikipedia article on A Clockwork Orange worried me a little when it described one of the characters in the book: “Pete: The more rational and least violent of the gang. He is the only one who doesn’t take particular sides when the Droogs [meaning friends in the book’s language] fight.” This should really be the most rational and least violent of the gang, but let’s ignore that. Let me first say that I agree with the second statement in the quotation – Pete is easily the quietest member in Alex’s gang, intervening only minimally in its affairs. The most extreme role that I see him play is that of a mediator, reconciling the dispute between Alex and Dim. (I’m avoiding quotations here because the language is difficult to understand for first-time readers) Yes, he is probably the least violent in the gang.

Does this, however, mean that Pete is one of the more (alright, maybe it isn’t saying that he’s the most rational) “rational” of the gang? I mean, I wouldn’t draw a direct link between passivity and rationality, even in Burgess’ dystopian society where every relevant bit of speech or action (that is therefore included in the book) seems to incriminate somebody. Being inactive and/or insignificant in the book might just be a sign of one’s inability to critically think or act. If this applied in Pete’s case, it would disqualify him from any serious criterion that we’d use to define “rational”. After all, Pete’s continual “choice” (note: it might not even be a choice) of the “middle ground” may be so much less “rational” than a conscious (though biased) choice by Georgie or Alex!

Pete arguably only becomes important to our understanding of the novel when we go into the third Part, where Alex sees him with his wife – this expedites Alex’s process towards maturity. (i.e. he only becomes important because of his impact on another character) Perhaps it can be said here that his current condition (married, speaking in an educated manner, settled down) gives us some comfort against Alex’s horrifying experiences – but then again I fail to conclude that this makes him one of the more rational members of the gang. What’s more, in other instances, he is usually mentioned with another character in the gang i.e. Georgie, which casts a greater doubt over Burgess’ intention to portray him as a “rational” character capable of independent thought!

Burgess might really, in his portrayal of Pete, be trying to mirror the apathy of the general population – similar to Alex’s “pee and em”, who are law-abiding citizens forced into escapism, taking sleeping pills to avoid the problems facing their child. After all, Pete never really deviates from the “societal norm” that appears so biologically determined in the story, which further suggests Burgess did not intend to portray him as one of the more”rational” members within the gang.

Sorry for those who don’t understand a word of the post – I’ll probably post something about useful computer software next time round (I’ve spent a lot of time on this), followed by a Scrabble post if I can work my brains around it.

P.S. R.I.P. Richard Wright

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