‘A Clockwork Orange’ by Anthony Burgess and ‘Brighton Rock’ Graham Greene, portray themes of good and evil. The texts utilize different literary devices to represent the central themes. There are similarities between portrayals but the authors use contrasting themes and techniques to portray good and evil portrayed through religion, power and innocence.
Evil portrayed by desire for power is explored throughout both ‘A Clockwork Orange’ and ‘Brighton Rock’. In ‘Brighton Rock’ the protagonist, Pinkie, uses violence to gain power. The use of “razor blade” throughout the novel highlights his violent nature, as Pinkie is always armed with a potentially dangerous weapon. This is further expressed through the symbolism of Pinkie “tickling the vitriol bottle” revealing his psychotic tendencies along with the pleasure he gains by having control over others. Similarly, in ‘A Clockwork Orange,’ Alex is always armed with a ‘cut-throat britva’ that he shows he is willing to use his weapon against others to gain power, even his own gang when they threatened his authority “I am your droog and leader.” Alex’s evil is displayed by his actions as he is a violent youth that as a 15-year-old has already committed murder “I’d done the lot now” shows that he feels a sense of power because of his actions and further portrays his evil nature. Similarly, Pinkie says “you know I killed Spicer” revealing his violent desire to obtain power by murdering anyone who could potentially stop him from achieving this. Pinkie’s psychotic nature is displayed further as the word “murder” meant no more to him than “box” or “giraffe.”
The theme of ‘good’ is portrayed in varying ways throughout both texts, ‘A Clockwork Orange’ and ‘Brighton Rock’. In ‘A Clockwork Orange’ Alex is shown to be good as well as evil. Burgess explores the protagonist as good through the theme of maturing “I am not young, not no longer”. As Alex matures he no longer has the desire to be part of a gang displaying his past as a phase which further emphasizes the theme of good by maturing. Contrastingly, Greene uses irony of “you know I don’t drink” to enhance Pinkie’s immaturity as he believes that he is strong and mature by not drinking alcohol, but in reality, this portrays him as immature. In ‘Brighton Rock’ it is Ida that is symbolic of good as she is portrayed as a strong motherly figure with maternal tendencies “big blown charms” refer to her breasts, which are a metaphor of new life.
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Throughout both ‘A Clockwork Orange’ and ‘Brighton Rock’ a range of stylistic features are used to develop the theme of good and evil. ‘A Clockwork Orange’ uses a first-person narrative so the story is told from Alex’s viewpoint. This creates a sense of pathos towards Alex, as the reader is exposed to his perspective and become attached. Contrastingly, ‘Brighton Rock’ is a third-person narrative which provides insight into all characters. Greene distances the reader from Pinkie by calling him other names, predominately “the boy” to avoid pathos therefore displaying him as pure evil.
In both stories contrasting language is used. In ‘A Clockwork Orange’ characters speak using a form of Russian influenced English slang “Nadsat” using words like britva to describe a razor. Similarly Greene in ‘Brighton Rock’ uses London Cockney slang dialogue with Pinkie, Rose and Ida, describing a young woman as a “polony”.
Alex, discontent with his lifestyle sees how happy his old friend Pete and his new wife are and resolves to lead a “normal” life with a wife and son for himself as well. “There was something happening inside me” “I knew what was happening, O my brothers. I was like growing up.”
In Brighton rock, the representation of good and evil can be shown from two major characters pinkie brown and Ida Arnold. Pinkie represents evil and Ida represents good. The book opens with a statement, “Hale knew before he had been in Brighton three hours that they meant to murder him” (Greene, 2011). This shows that the theme of evil was dominant in the book and it was better shown by pinkie in the story. Pinkie believes that hell is all around him and that it was waiting for him after his death.
According to Pinkie, heaven was just a word and hell was something he could trust. This shows how evil he was in the book. Pinkie is able to accept the various teachings of the roman catholic church of existence of heaven and hell in a perverted way. Although there was heaven, Pinkie could not form any sort of ideas of the existence of heaven and hell. Ida, on the other hand, doesn’t believe in the existence of heaven and hell but she believes in the existence of ghosts. However, she knows the difference between right and wrong and she embraces her ideologies concerning the same. Similarly, Burgess is able to aspects of good from Alex who was seeking the concept of understanding the truth about the corruption of the state. Alex was seeking for the truth within his gang and also independently through religion and morality.
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Alex in a clockwork orange has innate evil characters within himself and he confesses that he commits evil because he enjoys doing evil. This can be effectively be shown from the quote where he said,” I am serious with you, brothers, over this. But what I do I do because I like to do” (Burgess, 2012). This shows that Alex has the love of doing evil and it can be shown from the way he loved power and violence. This shows that good and evil can be natural to several people. Similarly, pinkie displays evil in Brighton rock. From the quote, “Trust takes years to build, seconds to break, and forever to repair. If it’s lost it’s not easily found and if it is found it’s never the same again”, it suggests that pinkie was familiar with evil and hell. The evil nature of pinkie can be further supported by the quote, “This was hell then; it wasn’t anything to worry about: it was just his own familiar room” (Greene, 2011). All these show the evil nature of pinkie.
There are some contrasts in ideologies and character shown by Burgess and Greene from their books. Pinkies appearance of claiming to know more about his religion is contrasted with the reality. He is taken as a person who does not understand himself. The same is shown in a clockwork orange whereby Alex confesses he knows his moral beliefs of selecting what is right and what is wrong.
The aspect of good and evil is contrasted in Brighton Rock and A Clockwork Orange. Greene is able to represent most of the discrepancies through the use of contrasting imagery from the theme of reality versus appearance in the book while Burgess is able to display this through Alex’s thoughts on how the world works as well as his beliefs about the true nature of the world.
- Burgess, A., 2012. A Clockwork Orange (Restored Text). London: W. W. Norton.
- Greene, G., 2011. Brighton rock. London: Vintage.