In every novel that he has written, Burgess has displayed a love of, and an acute skill for, words and word-craft, which a blacksmith might display in his trade. As soon as I started to read A Clockwork Orange, I wanted to put it down again. In the second paragraph, I counted eighteen words that I did not understand, including such timeless gems as droog, rassoodocks and, my personal favourite, mozg. I was equally baffled when confronted with the two extracts. But I slavishly stuck to it (partly because of my rather demanding English master), mostly because I was personally intrigued as to what those terms meant.
One soon realises that Burgess actually likes to do this it is his wordplay. But equally, it is also an integral part of the book; he adapts his style of language for a number of reasons¦ Firstly, in order to complement the era within which his plot takes place. For instance, Dead Man in Deptford is full of extinct words such as simulacrum and inkhornisms, and further to this, it is written in the grammatical style of a sixteenth century playwright, with long and jumbled sentences such as You must suppose ¦ that I suppose a heap of happenings that I had no eye to eye knowledge of or concerning.
And in A Clockwork Orange, there are many unknown words since the novel is set in the future, and presumably the language has evolved over time. Secondly, he includes certain words and phrases in order to set the scene and establish a certain ambience. An effective example is Alexs entrance into the treatment clinic in Chapter Three of Part two of A Clockwork Orange. Whereas before Alex has relied heavily on his invented words in his narration, here he only uses the basic words such as horrorshow. Instead he concentrates on the description of his surroundings, using the word white many times.
The lack of slang contributes to this description and tells the reader what Alex is thinking at that moment. Here, for instance, he is wary of his new environment and not yet comfortable enough to use his familiar language. A third explanation for Burgess use of language lies in the variety of the various characters, in the novel and both extracts. This is where dialect and implied accent become very important. Any Old Iron provides a good example in Dai Williams. His speech does not really include unfamiliar words and phrases, but there is a huge difference in his style.
Lets take the sentence, Back to it with your youth and your vigour and it is your shout now. Its length, enhanced by the use of and and the repetition of your, seems to imply the intonation and speed with which it should be read. There is a certain rhythm that cannot be avoided when reading it. In other words, it looks Welsh, and when read, it sounds Welsh. Examples in A Clockwork Orange where dialect is used to distinguish characters come at the end of Part One, where the starry old ptitsa uses swashbuckling and old-fashioned language, such as wretched little slummy bedbug.
The several comic book villains in Alexs cell in prison also add some variety, and in this case, humour: Yeth, yeth, boyth, thatth fair. But the final explanation for Burgess wordplay is by far the most important: it influences the reader to think in a certain way. This is most prominent in A Clockwork Orange. In the first half of the novel every tolchock or kick that Alex makes is usually preceded by the word horrorshow, so that it is constantly drummed into the readers mind that what Alex is doing is good.
In contrast, the description of violence in the second half of the novel, after Alexs treatment, lacks any poetry, elaborate slang, and therefore glorification. We see what Alex sees: pure, repulsive and undisguised violence. We feel what the narrator feels. This can be said of another part of A Clockwork Orange and a certain part of Dead Man in Deptford: wherever there is an argument leading up to a fight. In Dead Man the verbal jousting comes before a particularly large brawl, one that is described in a rapid and flowing manner, almost as a commentary. Marlowe enjoys what is happening, like Alex.
But also like Alex, when Marlowe is describing violence later on in the novel (the executions), there is a complete lack of enjoyment and fancy wordplay. As a side note, there is one extra reason why our great philologist Mr Burgess uses such language and dialect. It is for the simple reason that it is vastly enjoyable, both for him and for the reader. In Clockwork and Dead Man, Burgess has had the opportunity to create words and styles that go against the rules of contemporary English (this is true of Dead Man because there are no records of how Elizabethan citizens spoke).
At first this can prove to be extremely irritating and demanding, and the reader feels the need to reach for a dictionary after every sentence. It is particularly annoying because the reader knows that this is English, a language he or she should understand, and yet it is totally incomprehensible. But I personally enjoy immense satisfaction by simply reading the novel without help, and interpreting the words in my own time. It soon becomes easy and very rewarding.