top of page

A Clockwork Orange: The omitted 21st chapter

A Clockwork Orange: The omitted 21st chapter

Published in 1962, A Clockwork Orange is an immensely popular dystopian novel written by Anthony Burgess. Set in the near future, the story takes place in what appears to be an English society where extreme youth violence has become a sub-cultural norm. The protagonist, an unruly teenager named Alex, is the leader of a small gang that likes to partake in “ultraviolence” where the members abuse, rape, and harass unsuspecting victims – until Alex is captured, “reformed”, and subsequently released by the state.

Comprised of three sections consisting of seven chapters each, Burgess intended for the book to be a coming of age story with all 21 chapters serving as a symbol of human maturation. But, when Stanley Kubrick adapted A Clockwork Orange into a film in 1971, he left out the final chapter, though it was also omitted from all American editions of the book published prior to 1986. Still, the decision did not sit well with the author, who intended for the 21st chapter to relay the entire point of the story to the readers.

"We all suffer from the popular desire to make the known notorious. The book I am best known for, or only known for, is a novel I am prepared to repudiate: written a quarter of a century ago, a jeu d'esprit knocked off for money in three weeks, it became known as the raw material for a film which seemed to glorify sex and violence. The film made it easy for readers of the book to misunderstand what it was about, and the misunderstanding will pursue me until I die."

Since Burgess was a composer, linguist, and polyglot, A Clockwork Orange features numerous references to classical music (especially Beethoven’s "Ninth Symphony") as well as fictional Russian-influenced English jargon called “Nadsat.” Because language changes with time, his goal was to create a speaking style that would remain ageless while subtly implying that the youth culture, which Alex was part of, stands on the fringe of society.

The original manuscript has been housed at Ontario’s McMaster University’s William Ready Division of Archives and Research Collections since 1971.

*Note: Go here to see 55 years of A Clockwork Orange covers at HuffPo.

bottom of page