Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Killer Characters Blogfest: Protagonist

This week I am participating in the Killer Characters Blogfest, hosted by Deana Barnhart and E.R. King. Today it is the Protagonist, and I’ve picked a literal killer: Alex from A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess.

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Alex is one of the most complicated, most unlikable, and most intriguing protagonists in fiction. Is he an irredeemable rapist and murderer, or a fifteen-year-old victim of political machinations? The disease or the symptom? He’s both. He’s a monster, and also a kid. He is our guide into the underbelly of a very unsettling world.  Alex says, “O my brothers” and we listen.

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Alex doesn’t justify himself. He doesn’t have to.

“But, brothers, this biting of their toe-nails over what is the cause of badness is what turns me into a fine laughing malchick. They don’t go into the cause of goodness, so why the other shop?”

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“But what I do I do because I like to do.”

The genius of A Clockwork Orange is that it makes Alex an almost-sympathetic victim. When the government uses a behaviour modification technique that makes Alex physically sick when he thinks of violence, when Alex jumps from the window to escape the torture of music he once loved, we recognise this as an atrocity. We know this isn’t just about Alex. This is about free choice, and Alex should be free to choose to be a monster. 

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Even Alex’s redemption -- his realisation that he is growing up and growing out of violence -- is tempered by his belief that the cycle of violence will, and must, continue as the natural order of things.

"But you, O my brothers, remember sometimes thy little Alex that was. Amen."

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Who is the protagonist that gets into your head and won’t get out? 

26 comments:

  1. I've never read the book, but I remembering thinking about the film, and its ideas, for a long long time after I'd watched it.

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  2. I wish you'd taught my English class - not only would the books be cool, but I'd of learned something, too.

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  3. This is another book that has built a house in my to read list it has been there so long. This post definitely compels me to want to read it more now.

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  4. I loved that book. The use of language was stupendous. I had seen the movie before so I was def. surprised by the ending. Great choice. Now I'll have "red red grovvy" and "pain in my Gulliver" going through my head all night. Going to hand out on my "oddy knocky" now. Sorry. It just won't stop.

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  5. Jen, I feel like I am in a time warp. I have been sick all week, but I think it is still Tuesday, where I am. If not, I slept longer than I thought. I barely made it out of bed last night to post my favorite supporting literary character. Then I got on my computer tonight and suddenly it is Wednesday. Nope, I just checked, it is still Tuesday night in my neck of the woods. Sigh of relief, I was scared for a microsecond there.

    Awesome choice. I read the book & have seen the film a few times. This is indeed an excellent choice. You have my vote so far. Then again, I don't have a vote & I don't even know what day it is, LOL.

    I love your choice.

    Melissa

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  6. @ Sarah, I know everyone says this about everything, but the book is heaps better than the movie!

    @ MC, if I taught english, none of us would ever get anything done, but we'd have awesome conversations!

    @ Tasha, definitely shift it towards the top of the TBR pile. It's a hell of a ride.

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  7. @ Libby, I know! It's haard to get the words out of your head once you start reading.

    @ Melissa, sorry to worry you! The International Date Line gives me the jump on quite a few blogfests!

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  8. Oh, what an awesome choice!! And I love the photos, especially the first one. Excellent post!

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  9. That movie freaked me out a little.

    Favorite movie protag: Mad Max

    Favorite book protag: Scout/To Kill a Mockingbird or Richard III. It's a toss up. :P

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  10. Alex is despicable... great choice! And I do mean choice. I agree that is the foundation of Alex's character. Good job!

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  11. FANTASTIC CHOICE! So out of the box, but so appropriate. It's been years since I've read a clockwork orange, but reading your post has inspired me to dig it out and read it this month. Not only for Alex and his droogs, but also for the amazing language Anthony Burgess creates. Thanks for reminding me!

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  12. I've never read the book, but it was my ex-boyfriends favorite movie. I have a thing for movie's that are done more artistically and this is one of them. I remember being totally creeped by this guy, but still loving the camera angles and seeing his character on screen.
    Great Killer Character.

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  13. Haven't read the book or seen the movie, I'm afraid, but it sounds like a killer choice!

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  14. Okay, I am not going to get that creepy eyeball propping open image out of my head for a really long time!!!

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  15. Oh my goodness, great choice!

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  16. @ Julie, thanks!

    @ LG, Richard III is a great choice. And Mad Max. Sigh. Mel Gibson back before he was scary...happy days!

    @ Thanks, E.R! Alex is a very hard to forget.

    @ Hi Magpie! I LOVE the language in A Clockwork Orange. It's a little like reading Shakespeare -- it takes a few pages for your brain to adjust, and then you're in!

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  17. @ Jenny, hi! The movie is great -- the soundtrack is better -- but you really should check the book out as well! The language is fantastic.

    @ Nicole, thanks!

    @ Jessie, sorry! :)

    @ Deana, thankyou!

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  18. I've always been meaning to read A Clockwork Orange and now I know I have to. Thanks for sharing!

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  19. I've wanted to read Clockwork since I was a kid and have never gotten around to it. I must do that immediately!! Alex is an awesome choice for all that you've mentioned here.

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  20. Hi Lyla and Pk: Give it a go. You'll either love it or hate it. There's no middle ground with A Clockwork Orange!

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  21. Awesome choice! Alex is a brilliant, if disturbing, protag. I love your analysis of his journey, though--it's about freedom, even if he chooses to be a monster. The first time I watched Clockwork Orange I was horrified by him and his bullies, but you're right: when the behavior modification thing scenes came up, everything he'd done seemed to pale by comparison. Compelling character here, and a great portrait of him. Thanks for sharing!

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  22. Fascinating choice! Certainly unexpected.

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  23. A Clockwork Orange takes me back to college when I watched it with friends in the dorm.

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  24. I haven't read this book, but it sounds intriguing and sad.

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  25. I read A Clockwork Orange and saw the movie long ago. I thought it was sick and fascinating.

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  26. @ Guilie, that's the best thing about A Clockwork Orange -- the way it has you on the side of a vicious little monster like Alex.

    @ Michael, I like the movie, but I love the book. If I could listen to the movie soundtrack while I read the book, that would be perfect!

    @ hi Connie, thanks!

    @ Nisa, you should give it a try. You'll either love it or hate it, but there's no middle ground!

    @ Medeia, exactly! Sick and fascinating!

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