Anthony Burgesses novel, A Clockwork Orange, is a dystopian novel comparable to Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Brave New World is ultimately about the depersonalisation of human characteristics and the loss of humanity in the face of instant gratification while A Clockwork Orange explores the life of violent teenager Alex and the States determination to control him. Both Huxley’s and Burgess’s novels explore the social issue of drug use in order to escape from reality and the oppression of individuality within totalitarian societies.
Both authors dystopian societies illustrate the extreme conventions that the government utilises to oppress free will but do so for different purposes. Brave New World and A Clockwork Orange both explore the theme of drug use in relation to how citizens use drugs in order to disconnect from reality. This is exhibited in Huxley’s dystopian society when the pharmaceutical drug ‘Soma’ is utilized in order for individuals to avoid emotional distress. In Huxley’s society, the government issues the use of Soma in order to stop individuals within the World State from questioning its social order.
Soma alleviates emotional distress so that citizens within the World State can continue with the mundanity of daily life; “”I don’t understand anything, she said with decision, determined to preserve her incomprehension intact. Nothing. Least of all, she continued in another tone, why you don’t take soma when you have these dreadful ideas of yours. You’d forget all about them. And instead of feeling miserable, you’d be jolly”.
The use of drugs within the World State however contrasts with the use of drugs within Burgess’s society. The ‘moloko plus’ is laced with an amphetamine in order to encourage violence “The Korova milkbar sold milk-plus, milk plus vellocet or synthemesc or drencrom, which is what we were drinking. This would sharpen you up and make you ready for a bit of the old ultraviolence”. Citizens within Huxley’s World State utilise soma to ignore emotional discomfort and to continue working in mundane occupations.
Conversely Burgess’s ‘moloko plus’ is used by citizens to experience the exhilaration of committing ultra-violent acts. Significantly the Government in Burgess’s futuristic ‘Britain’ does not produce or actively promote the drug but rather bans its use. Conversely the ‘world states’ Soma is produced, promoted and systematically administered to its citizens in order to maintain the power structure within that society. Huxley’s and Burgess’s respective dystopian societies explore the oppression of individuality by the state. This is exhibited in ‘Clockwork Oranges’ as his beliefs are vastly different from mainstream society. He believes that evil is as valid and worthy as socially accepted behaviour and that the state should not be allowed to deprive him of his freedom in order to “attempt to impose upon a man, a creature of growth and sweetness…to attempt to impose, I say, laws and conditions appropriate to a mechanical creation, against this I raise my sword-pen”. This ‘mechanical creation’ refers to Alex’s later reformation regarding the values of the state and his willingness to behave in a socially acceptable manner. Conversely citizens within Huxley’s ‘world state’ are subjected to a caste system, manufactured to fit the needs of society. Individuals are programed to like their work and are prepared for the aptitudes required for their roles within society as an embryo.
The caste system aids the World State in depriving people of their self-determination because citizens are inhibited from changing career, “I’m really awfully glad I’m a Beta, because I don’t work so hard. And then we are much better than the Gammas and Deltas. Gammas are stupid. They all wear green, and Delta children wear khaki. Oh no, I don’t want to play with Delta children. And Epsilons are worse still”. Brave New World expresses the theme of the depersonalisation of individuals through the premediated roles that citizens are subjected to pursuing. Both novels express the concept that an individual’s thoughts are manufactured by the state in order to depersonalise individual human characteristics so that the power structure within both respective societies remain the same. The difference however is that Brave New World depersonalises people in order to keep them working within confined rules for the ultimate purpose of maximising profit within that society. Clockwork Orange does so with the purpose of curtailing violence.
Additionally, both novels express the theme of control within society. This is exhibited in Brave New World though the World States teachings of hypnopaedia. Conversely, Clockwork Orange expresses control through the technique of Ludovico which forces a patient to watch ultra-violent images for long periods in order to induce nausea and paralysis. The aim of the technique is so individuals experience severe pain when thinking about violence. The state supports this technique to program the protagonist to reject his violent tendencies and control his antisocial impulses “Choice, rumbled a rich deep goloss… He has no real choice, has he? Self-interest, fear of physical pain, drove him to that grotesque act of self-abasement. Its insincerity was clearly to be seen. He ceases to be a wrongdoer. He ceases also to be a creature capable of moral choice”.
In Huxley’s novel the World State programs citizens to be happy with their life via hypnopaedia so that the state can continue to control them; “And not the child’s mind only. The adult’s mind too-all his life long. The mind that judges and desire and decides-made up of these suggestions. But all these suggestions are our suggestions.” Huxley and Burgess’s respective dystopian societies express the extreme methods that each state utilizes in order to control their citizens. Despite the extreme nature of Burgess’s Ludovico brainwashing technique, the result of hypnopaedia and Ludovico are the same in that citizens are controlled for the benefit of those that control their respective societies. Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and Anthony Burgess’s dystopian novels share the overriding themes of control, drug use and the oppression of free will.
While both novels explore similar themes Huxley’s ‘World State’ depersonalises and controls individual’s through drug use and social conditioning in order to maximise profit for the State. Conversely Burgess’s Clockwork Orange curtails an individual’s self-determination in order to inhibit violence and free will. Huxley’s ‘soma’ is actively promoted and administered to assist in the control of the state, while Clockwork Orange outlaws the use of drugs because of the consequences of Amphetamines. The novels criticize the correlating use of drugs, the abolition of human uniqueness and the forms of brainwashing utilised in order to manufacture drones or mechanical creatures for the profit of their State.