Anthony Burgess, Selective Individualist It is often said that life is full of choices and the choices you make is what makes you yourself. Society, however, has since the dawn of time tried to control the thoughts of individuals by forcing ideas upon them that destroys the person on a mental and emotional level while crushing their physical well-being. With the thoughts of a perfect world, people often forget that when you force a society to conform to standards you also kill the society’s existence in the process, making it more machine that human. It takes a strong and educated person to realize these mistakes made by society and try to show others why it’s wrong to try force conformity. Anthony Burgess’ belief that “a man who cannot choose ceases to be a man” is exemplified in most of his works, but most notably in A Clockwork Orange in which a so-called good society tries to change the psyche of a troubled Born John Anthony Burgess Wilson, Anthony Burgess is a man of great stature and respect.
“A big man of sturby, ramshackle appearance, with a blunt disarming manner and awesome energy (Clemons 56).” He loved life and expressed it in his works of literature. Born in Manchester, England during the influenza epidemic, during which his mother and sister passed away soon after his birth, Burgess’ was ignored by his father who he received little to no attention from. This, however, allowed him to create the thoughts and ideas which he preaches. He was a man of little religious belief because he questioned why man was put on earth.
Burgess believed that people should live life in the present not for the future, which labeled him an anarchist by the church of England. He didn’t mind the accusations though, he was content with the life he led. (Clemons 56) Anthony Burgess was a frail child, secluded from the world. At the age of four he used his time to try and discover a talent in the arts. He highly enjoyed drawing, writing poems, and essays but was always searching for the one medium that he would succeed at. Burgess found music to be a art form he enjoyed the most and studied it up to college were he was forced to study English because he had a lack of qualifications.
Although a little unappreciative at first Burgess soon found a new love in English and obtained a BA degree with honors in 1940 from Manchester University. He Jumped from job to job teaching English soon after, always trying to find happiness. Burgess worked in many diverse areas ranging from a English master in a grammar school near oxford to an education officer for the colonial office an Malaysia. Burgess used his free- time to write, but didn’t expect too much to come from it because of a doubt in his talent. It was in Malaysia where he had his first novels, The Malaysian Trilogy published. Burgess soon returned home, however, in 1959 he was diagnosed with a brain tumor and was told he only had a year to live.
At this point Burgess began to write novels to support his widow-to-be wife. This was how the world came to know him, and the reason Burgess started to write as a profession. (Clemons 57) Anthony Burgess acquired a fine taste for writing and was relieved to here the news of a medical error in his diagnosis. Burgess saw a sign, a blessing telling him to live life and do what you want to do not what your told to do. This was the whole basis of his belief that people should be themselves and it was seen in his writings from that point on. “Instead of writing about the same topics as other writers of the same time period, Burgess concentrated on the themes of the danger of loss of individuality (Tilton 55).” However, Burgess was criticized about his ideas because they didn’t follow the churches ideas about thinking in terms of your afterlife.
This got him in some muddy water, but only fueled the Challenging the church was a hard task. It seemed like it was Burgess against the world in his effort to prove his point, but it didn’t phase him just helped him get ideas for writing more controversial material. In the late 1950’s Burgess started to work on the one piece of literature that was to share his belief of individuality with the world. A Clockwork Orange was written because of the criticizing of the church and was to be the pinnacle of Burgess’ career in as a writer. Burgess once said, “My god, I had to write A Clockwork Orange in a state of near drunkenness, in order to deal with material that upset me so much.” Burgess’ literal value was often doubted because of his well known alcoholism, and critics question the integrity before it’s release.
Upon it’s release, however, all the skepticism stop because the critics were shocked at Burgess’ war against the A Clockwork Orange was perhaps one of the most controversial novels of the early 1960’s. Published in 1962, by Heinemann, it focused on “Burgess’ horrifying vision of the future of England (Gaduer 84),” and explains how spiritual life could lead to ones damnation. In the story, the main character, Alex Delonge is a troubled youth that seeks, but just for an escape from prison, treatment that ultimately destroys his well-being. Alex’s character is written from the point of view of Burgess, and the way he feels.
Alex has chosen a very evil life to live but is spiritually content because he hasn’t conformed to the world that he hates with a passion. “The story compels the readers to like the violence that is committed because it shows the true nature of Alex (Tilton 105).” After being arrested for violent acts upon the conformist, society, Alex is put in prison which he would do anything to get out of. He is offered a means of escape by going through an experimental treatment process that alters his life by forcing him to conform to the way of life he despises through means of mental control techniques. This makes him seem empty and emotionless.
“The final chapter shows Alex as a sincere person but he likes it, he begins to question god wondering if god wants people to be good or if he wants people to be themselves The novel brought an uproar from the church and the religious community. “non-augustinan Christians as well as conventional progressives objected to the extremity of Burgess’ pessimism, as well as his basically romantic conception of evil (Bergonzi 85).” On the other hand, Burgess gained the respect from people all over the world. People saw that A Clockwork Orange had “philosophical as well as literary importance (Bergonzi 85).” Anthony Burgess had got the response he was looking for, he shared his ideas with the world and it was In 1971 Stanley Kubrick adapted A Clockwork Orange into a film which only helped Burgess gain even more respect. However, due to Burgess’ use of an artificial language “nadsat”, which is a combination of Russian and American slang, Kubrick was forced to reject Burgess’ original script for the film version.
“Kubrick took out a mass majority of Burgess’ ‘nadsat’, but tried to make up for it in visual equivalent but failed and is no way as good as the novel itself (Gaduer 84).” Burgess believed that the film failed to convey the themes of the novel and urged people to read the book to better understand the concepts he wrote about in A Clockwork Orange. (Tilton 57) With his new found popularity Burgess continued to write novels but, also, experimented in other forms of literature. During the 1960’s Burgess turned to journalism to make a living. He wrote many articles for various newspapers all throughout American and Britain. Along with journalism Burgess tried to produce at least one novel a year even though he was a very busy man.
In 1969, Burgess went back to teaching writing courses in creative arts at Princeton University, and Columbia University. In 1971, Anthony Burgess gave up teaching to try and produce an adaptation of his own work Cyrano De Bergena which was praised for his translation from the original work at the summer festival in Tyrone Guthrie Theatre. Thus, started a career in playwriting. He successfully adapted novels of his own to film versions. His plays were strongly influenced by James Joyce, who was known for his word play, riddles, and puns.
Burgess continued to write and produce plays for three years, and has since then turned back to writing articles for newspapers. (Clemons 58) In modern times, Anthony Burgess’ influence is easily seen all throughout the world, but people are misinterpreting his ideas. Although considered an anarchist by the church of England Burgess had no intent of trying to produce a society in which there is no law or control over people. He realized that there needed to be a way of keeping people under control.
Burgess favored democracy because it allowed to people to select an educated official to represent themselves. He knew that without education there would be a lack of knowledge of how to survive. However, he did believe that people should be free to make there own decisions without having to worry about people condemning them. Modern day anarchist are taking Burgess out of context by saying that people don’t have to do Anthony Burgess is considered a leader in a movement for individuality. He is seen as a hero for the modern day people seeking to escape from the set standards of how life should be, and how people should act.
He was raised in a time when you were expected to listen to what to people in power had to say and follow their orders. People respect his determination because there wasn’t a majority to back him up in his fight. Through hardwork and determination Anthony Burgess has successfully conveyed his belief that “A man who cannot “I believe that the wrong god is temporarily ruling the world, and that the true god has gone under. Thus, I am a pessimist but believe the world has much solace to offer- love, food, music…
the pleasure of artistic creation” -John Bibliography: