The first chapters of any play or novel are important as it is where the characters are introduced to the reader and one gets to know their personality and beliefs. From the onset the reader may love or hate the main character.
For the character that is loved, there is a connection, either the reader feels pity for the character or identifies with the character’s situation. It also reveals the setting of the novel. What are the timelines the book is it set in? Is it a historical book, futuristic book or a book set in the 21st century? Themes or strong ideas of the author start to emerge in the first chapters. The reason for the title of the book may also emerge in the first chapters or the last chapters of the novel. The first chapters foreshadow the rest of the action in the book.
The first chapters reveal the tone of the narrative voice or characters. Is it sarcastic or ironic? The first chapters reveal to the reader the kind of action that will be there in the rest of the book. At the end of the novel the writer needs to have shown the main theme of the novel clearly. The reason of the title of the book should be clear. There are certain ideologies or perspectives the author tries to communicate.
At the end of the book the reader may agree with the author or strongly disagree. There should be no loose strings such that the reader is left hanging. The reader should not be left confused or lost.
The characters in the book will have experienced changes in their life and it needs to be clearly shown.
2. Burgess’s- A Clockwork Orange
A. First Chapters
A Clockwork Orange is a novel set in the future, in the city of London. The state runs every aspect of the economy. There is a high level of youth violence. The language spoken is “nadsat”, a fictional language that is similar to English with a few extra words. The book opens with a scene where Alex, who is fifteen years old, with his friends Pete, Georgie and Dim are drinking milk at a milk bar.
Immediately the reader is shown the violent streak in the boys. Alex hits a drugged man in the bar since he hates the song being played in the bar stereo. Once outside they meet an elderly man carrying science books and immediately they beat him up.
They tear up his books and take his money. Now that they have some money they decide to shop-lift. They buy some old women food since they want an alibi. This shows us the extent of their selfishness and not the goodness of their heart. They then go to a candy shop, steal and beat up the owners, a man and the wife. It is not enough to steal from someone; they love violence and love beating someone up. The violence shown in the first chapters helps us understand we are dealing with violent teenagers.
When the cops arrive the boys force the old women they bought food for to provide an alibi. This incident shows the boys may have been in trouble with the law before. In the second chapter they beat an old man who is singing old songs in the streets. These young men need no reason to beat someone up. They just do as they please. They later come across a rival gang of six boys whose leader is Billyboy. They are raping a young girl.
They fight with them and win. Later the boys go to a cottage named “Home”. They manage to get inside the cottage.
Alex lies that his friend is sick and needs an ambulance. The woman inside is compassionate and allows them in. They beat up the woman and her husband who was inside the cottage. They then rape the woman as her husband watches. This shows the extent of their sadistic nature. The boys are merciless and evil.
The man is an author with a manuscript called A Clockwork Orange. They destroy his manuscript. This is the title of the book and bears great meaning. The author does not reveal the meaning at this point in the book. The pace and action of the first chapters is quick. In the first two chapters, the boys have committed five acts of violence, one act of rape and coerced the old women to give them an alibi. This is in the duration of one day.
The book is written in the first person point of view. We are shown Alex’s life and the scenes in which he is in. The book is about free will which humans have been.
An individual chooses whether to commit evil or good acts. Alex is using his free will to commit evil acts. He is cruel. He does not thinking of other people and the pain he is causing them.
Alex’s friends set him up during a robbery. He is arrested and sent to prison. He hears of a Luvodico’s Technique treatment that is believed to remove the criminal tendencies of a man and causes him to be good. He lies to the police about a cocaine shipment concerning one of the prisoners so that he can be taken for the treatment. Later he beats to death another prisoner who makes homosexual advances towards him. The governor visits him in cell and agrees he should be treated so that he is cured of evil. Afterwards he is released from prison.
The treatment has conditioned him to do only that which is good. These are the last chapters of the book and the author brings out the main idea of the book. Alex has no free will or the power of choice.
He cannot stand acts of violence whether sexual or not. He feels like vomiting every time he witnesses a violent scene. At the library he meets the elderly scholarly man he attacked with his gang.
The man tells the crowd and they beat Alex up. He feels sick as they beat him. He cannot defend himself. He cannot beat anyone. When rescued by the police, the policemen turn out to be Billyboy and Dim who beat him up mercilessly. He is unable to defend himself. He wants to commit suicide and cannot.
He cannot even hurt himself. He ends up at the cottage “Home” where his gang attacked a man and gang-raped the wife. He finds the man, F. Alexander who welcomes him, hears his story and wants to lodge a complaint against the government so that they are not re-elected. Alexander starts to suspect Alex and his friends are the ones who attacked him. Alexander’s friends who also want to expose the government arrive and take him to another location, his new home. Alex while at Alexander’s house had seen his book A Clockwork Orange that shows human beings as oranges in God’s Orchard.
The humans have been turned into machines having no free will. He jumps out the window desiring to die. He is taken to hospital critically ill. The end of the novel now shows Alex returning to his normal self with a free will. When shown pictures by doctors he displays sexual and violent reactions. The doctors at hospital under the instructions of F.
Alexander cure him while he is unconscious.
B. Last Chapters
The novel ends with Alex at the milk bar with his friends. He beats up an addict in the place and allows his friends to beat up an elderly man once they are outside the bar. He realizes though that he is tired of the violence and desires a family.
He reprimands his friends for their violence. “Look droogies, listen, tonight am just somehow not in the mood. I know not how or why it is but there it is” (Burgess, 185) At the end of the novel, the author makes the conclusion of his theme of the power of free will. The experience in Alex’s life validates the author’s argument that one should be left to choose good deeds rather than be coerced into doing good.
The end shows us the change of personality in Alex and what he has learnt about goodness and violence. The finishing chapters wrap up the theme and the character changes.
2. Amis’s- Lucky Jim
A. First Chapters
The novel Lucky Jim is set in Britain, in the early 1950s. In the first chapter the reader is introduced to Jim Dixon and Welch who are both lecturers.
The scene is at the campus of an English college. Welch is giving Dixon stories but Dixon is disgusted and frustrated by the kind of stories given. Dixon is a sarcastic individual. He cannot voice any complaint at Welch though because as he is afraid of being fired. Welch is his boss.
He enquires about Margaret a lady who he has been getting close to especially after her lover left her. She is recovering at Welch house after she attempted to commit suicide. Dixon is frustrated by the past kind of relationships he has had with women. He further thinks about the way Margaret can ask unexpected questions at times. She also has the habit of confessing a lot of things to him. In the second chapter she confesses to Dixon that she had tried to commit suicide again but the neighbour found her unconscious and took her to hospital.
She is depressed with the fact her lover left her. This is another individual who is unhappy with the current status of affairs in her life and wants to escape it all. Escape is also what Dixon is thinking about. This is especially Margaret changes the subject from her attempted suicide to their growing intimacy by giving him intimate glances. Dixon surprised and frustrated by the change of topics starts smoking and goes to the bathroom and thinks of how he can leave Margaret at the hotel and also quit his job. He has been thinking a lot about London and wants to go there. He stills his thoughts though as he remembers he needs a job and cannot quit. Another thing he is frustrated with is the fact that he paid for the bill yet Margaret earns a higher salary.
According to him Margaret should have settled the bill. From the onset we are shown a disappointed man angry with the world around him. There is a huge discrepancy between Dixon’s strong thoughts and his attitude towards people. He is very timid, unable to speak. He also comes up with horrible faces of people in order to express his disgust. The language in the book is highly descriptive and full of metaphors.
It is delivered in a humorous and sarcastic note. Later, Dixon finds the courage to do something he would never do. He goes to a musical session organised by Welch.
He notices Welch’s son, Bertrand is with a highly attractive woman called Christine. She is the niece of Gore-Urquhart, a famous artistic individual. Christine has arranged a meeting between Bertrand and her uncle as Bertrand wants to be her uncle’s personal assistant. Bertrand though is having an affair with Carol, a married woman.
Carol encourages Dixon to approach Christine since he is interested in her. She tells him to forget the Margaret ties. Dixon does not have the heart to tell Margaret off even though he is not attracted to her. He however takes up the challenge and when they are all at the summer ball he tells Christine he wants to take her home. Christine agrees and they actually kiss at Welch’s home. On Sunday Margaret comes to see him, upset that he left her at the ball.
Dixon, angry finally tells her he is not interested in her at all. Margaret has a tantrum but eventually accepts that it is over. Even as he makes these steps towards being assertive about what he wants he faces fear at times and feels Christine is too good for him. At a dinner later at the Welch home, he talks to Margaret about getting back together. Christine still wants to date Bertrand so she tells Dixon that a relationship with him cannot happen.
Dixon agrees but he hates the circumstances that are forcing them to make such a decision.
B. Last Chapters
In the ending chapters it all ends well though. While Dixon is giving a lecture at the college strange things happen. When he speaks it is not his voice but an imitation of Welch’s voice and then the Principal’s voice. He tries to change his voice but he is unable. Welch becomes angry with him and fires him.
Ironically, Gore-Urquhart offers Dixon a job after seeing him make his funny faces of disgust. Christine finds out about Bertrand and Carol’s affair and decides to leave him. Christine and Dixon meet later and decide to be together.
At the end of the novel the last chapters show us the way everything has worked out for Dixon. The relationship he wanted is now a reality because he chose to speak up. He does not get the courage though to tell Welch he does not want the job. It is because of comical circumstances that a decision is made.
The two novels are different in some aspects. The characters in A Clockwork Orange are students while in Lucky Jim the focus is on the lecturers.
The pace of Lucky Jim is also much slower and it is not as action packed. It focuses more on conversations and the thoughts of Dixon. There are also no acts of violence in the opening pages of Lucky Jim.
The tone of the novel is humorous and sarcastic. The language is also full of metaphors. Jim fights with Bertrand and thinks of him as “The bloody old tower-faced boot-faced totem-pole on a crap reservation.
” (Amis, 209)The two main characters in the novels, Alex and Dixon go through some character changes. Alex, a violent and cruel teenager has experiences that cause him to tone down and even become sentimental about wanting a family. He becomes less violent.
Dixon on the other hand approaches a woman he believes is too good for him. In the end he gets to be with Christine and leaves the job that he hates at the college. At the end of the novel the theme or message in the novels is clear. Men without free will are like machines and Dixon at the ends up being lucky as the title of novel suggests.
Amis, Kingsley. Lucky Jim. United Kingdom: Penguin Classics, 1993. Print.
Burgess, Antony. A Clockwork Orange. New York: Norton, W.
W. & Company Inc, 1962. Print.