The Doppelgänger in Sarah Waters The Little Stranger

For I’ll turn, and am disappointed- realising that what I am looking at is only a cracked window-pane, and that the face gazing distortedly from it, baffled and longing, is my own.’
-Sarah Waters, The Little Stranger, p.499.

The figure of the dark double is a common trope in gothic fiction, and Sarah Waters’ The Little Stranger is no exception. In her haunting novel, the dark double comes in the form of main character, Dr Faraday. The Little Stranger tells the story of Dr Faraday and the Ayres family in their seemingly haunted house. The unexplained ghostly energy haunts Dr Faraday and acts as the dark double of his unconsciousness.

The text suggests Faraday is involved in the hauntings in some way. Firstly, there are constant references to his desire for the Ayres’s home: Hundreds Hall. As a lower-class citizen, Hundreds Hall and the Ayres family represent the upper class that he both desires to belong to but also detests. Whilst reflecting on his visit to the hall as a child he comments that he ‘wasn’t a spiteful or destructive boy. It was simply that, in admiring the house, I wanted to possess a piece of it’ (The Little Stranger, p.3). Here, his admiration and desire for the hall and wealth is evident from a young age. There is a possessive tone as if he wants to claim parts of the house for himself. The desire for the hall could be associated with the dark double as it is possible Faraday himself, or an energy he created, causes the disruption at the hall to gain it for himself.

Although Faraday desires Hundreds Hall and to belong to the upper class, his conflict between the two classes creates anger. Fellow doctor, Seely, creates his own analysis of the occurrences at Hundreds which could be applied to Faraday:

‘The subliminal mind has many dark, unhappy corners, after all. Imagine something loosening itself from one of those corners. Let’s call it a – a germ. And let’s say conditions prove right for that germ to develop – to grow, like a child in the womb. What would this little stranger grow into? A sort of shadow-self, perhaps a Caliban, a Mr Hyde. A creature motivated by all the nasty impulses and hungers the conscious mind had hoped to keep hidden away: things like envy, and malice, and frustration . . .’
The Little Stranger, p. 380

The ‘dark’ corners of Faraday’s mind can represent his hidden class resentment and unhappiness that his parents sacrificed everything for him to become a doctor. The ‘germ’ Seely refers to could be the dark double of Faraday as the strange events at Hundreds only begin when Faraday starts to become close to the family and the ‘stirring of a dark dislike’ (The Little Stranger, p. 27) begins. The literary reference to Mr Hyde further suggests the presence of a second and darker personality, perhaps in Faraday. Unlike the other two texts, there is no physical dark double, but a manifestation of his desire and hatred for higher classes that create an alternative identity of Faraday.

There are several possible explanations for Faraday’s behaviour, with one being the double brain theory which suggests half of the brain can act without the other half knowing. This theory can be applied to Faraday as one part of his brain could be acting differently to the conscious part that readers are aware of in his narrative. (1) After Roderick, Caroline and Mrs Ayres die and the house is abandoned, Faraday still visits, as if haunting it. In the last chapter, Faraday comments that:

‘Hundreds was consumed by some dark germ, some ravenous shadow-creature, some ‘little stranger’, spawned from the troubled unconscious of someone connected with the house itself. […] If Hundreds Hall is haunted, however, its ghost doesn’t show itself to me. For I’ll turn, and am disappointed – realising that what I am looking at is only a cracked window-pane, and that the face gazing distortedly from it, baffled and longing, is my own.’
(The Little Stranger pp. 498-499)

The unattached tone and observant nature demonstrates that he does not recognise how his description matches his own actions as he could be considered as someone with a ‘troubled unconscious’ due to his class issues, and is connected to the house in some way. The ending also hints that it has been Faraday all along as he looks in the mirror thinking he will see the ‘little stranger’ and instead sees himself. The ‘cracked’ window pane further suggest that his personality is split into two parts, linking to the double brain theory. Faraday is left alone with his dark self (and Hundreds Hall which is perhaps what he wanted from the beginning) whether he is aware of his dark self or not.

The dark double acts as a representation of both Faraday’s fears and desires. His dark double is a manifestation of his desire and resentment towards the upper class. Faraday does not recognise the dark part of himself and after the deaths of the entire Ayres family, he is left with the Hall he desired but with his dark self still part of his identity.

Featured image: 
Front cover of Riverhead Books 2010 edition of the novel. See Sarah Waters, The Little Stranger (New York City, NY: Riverhead Books, 2010).

(1)   Henry Maudsley’s journal article discusses this theory, suggesting that ‘that consciousness exists at one moment in the one, and at the next moment in the other, hemisphere.’ Henry Maudsley, ‘The Double Brain’, Mind, 14, No. 54 (1889), 162-187 (p. 167)

Written by Sophie Shepherd.
© The Literature Blog, 2018. All Rights Reserved.





The Relationship between Clothing and identity in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.

‘Everything except the wings around my face is red: the colour of blood, which defines us.’
-Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale, p.18.

Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (1985) demonstrates how clothing can be used to enforce rigid, fixed identities as the government of Gilead attempts to control the population in the dystopian novel. It establishes the limitations of clothing and how it can be used as a method of containment and repression. The protagonist Offred, along with other women in the text, are required to wear certain clothes that reflect their role and status in society.

The colour of clothing is used to differentiate between women and signify their role in society. Offred wears ‘red shoes, flat-heeled to save the spine’ and ‘red gloves’ (Handmaid’s, p. 18). She also mentions how ‘everything except the wings around my face is red: the colour of blood, which defines us’ (Handmaid’s, p. 18). Offred’s role in society is to provide children for the Commanders and their Wives; by dressing the Handmaids in red it defines them by their specific roles. Red, the colour of blood, is associated with menstruation and so their internal use is being reflected by the clothing. Red can also signify passion and lust, which is ironic due to these feelings being taken away from the Handmaids. The colour can be associated with an over-powering force, and here it also links to both life and death. There is also a focus on practicality, and not pleasure, as the shoes are designed to protect the spine which is important for child birth. The wings are significant as they are the only item of clothing that is white. White is a neutral colour which represents how their faces are separated from the body, suggesting they are not important unlike their bodies. They also provide a limited vision thus showing how their clothes are used as a restraint and to gain control. Offred describes herself as ‘a distorted shadow’ (Handmaid’s, p. 19) which demonstrates how her identity has been distorted and manipulated to fit the new regime. Offred’s walking partner, Ofglen, is described as ‘a shape, red with white wings around the face, a shape like mine, a nondescript woman […] looking down the white tunnels of cloth that enclose us’ (Handmaid’s pp. 28-29). Here, Offred feels that they have been reduced to shapes, rather than people, which demonstrates the degrading powers of clothing. Cynthia G. Kuhn suggests that ‘the coding of gender is an ongoing concern in Atwood’s writing, especially as it results in the marginalization of women, and dress plays a significant role in illuminating such displacement.’ (2) Colour reduces women’s status in Gilead, which links to Kuhn’s discussion. They are specifically segregated from the higher positions of men. Therefore, clothing and colour can be used to maintain control over the women in Gilead.

Although Gilead uses clothing to control, it can also signify small glimpses of a subverted freedom. An example is when the Commander takes Offred to Jezebels. Here, the women appear to have freedom over their clothes. They are bright, colourful and a clear contrast to the dresses of the Handmaids and Marthas. Yet, it represents an inverted freedom as all the clothes cover a limited amount of skin and are a mismatch of lingerie and costumes worn for male pleasure. Offred comments on her friend Moira’s outfit: ‘What is the significance of it here, why are rabbits supposed to be sexually attractive to men? How can this bedraggled costume appeal?’ (Handmaid’s, p. 251). Without anybody telling her, Offred assumes that the women dress to be sexually attractive to men. The repetition of questions implies Offred struggles to understand why it is necessary for them to be sexually appealing. Clothing still has limitations as it is worn for a specific purpose of appealing to men. Offred cannot decide if the women at Jezebels are happy:

‘At first glance there’s a cheerfulness to this scene. It’s like a masquerade party; they         are like oversized children, dressed up in togs they’ve rummaged from trunks. Is there      joy in this? There could be, but have they chosen it? You can’t tell by looking.’
(The Handmaid’s Tale, p. 247)

‘Masquerade party’ has associations with mystery and disguising identity. By describing them as children it suggests an innocence and child-like behaviour and that they are trying to be grown up or be people that they are not. These images of disguise and acting further supports how clothing is used to limit freedom in the text. Madonne Miner suggests ‘the “past” called up by the Commander, the past that brings delight into his voice, is one in which women are on display for men, and are dependent upon men.’ (3) This observation links to the subverted view of freedom present at Jezebels. The women are on display for the wealthier men of Gilead, and they rely on their lust and reluctance to let go of the past. The women at Jezebels may have more freedom than the Handmaids and Marthas, yet they are still required to follow the rules created by men. Clothing is used to control women and put them in specific roles, even when they have a small amount of freedom.

To conclude, in The Handmaid’s Tale, clothing is used to segregate and undermine women, forcing them into roles. New identities are created for the women and the clothes reinforce them, whilst stripping away their true identities as a method to gain control.

Featured image:

(1)   Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale (London: Vintage Classics, 2010)

(2)   Cynthia G. Kuhn, Self-fashioning in Margaret Atwood’s Fiction: Dress, Culture, and Identity (New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 2005), p. 22.

(3)   Madonne Miner, ‘”Trust Me”: Reading the Romance Plot in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale’, Twentieth Century Literature, 37.2 (1991), 148-168.

Written By Sophie Shepherd.
© The Literature Blog, 2018. All Rights Reserved.

How Orientalism operates in Game of Thrones

‘Orientalism depends for its strategy on this flexible positional superiority, which puts the Westerner in a whole series of possible relationships with the Orient without ever losing him the relative upper hand.’
Edward W. Said, Orientalism, (London: Penguin, 1995)

Edward Said’s theory of Orientalism suggests that the West imagines, emphasises and distorts cultures of the East. Even though his book was published nearly 40 years ago, the idea of the East being portrayed in this way can still be seen in popular culture today, more precisely in the popular book series, A Song of Ice and Fire, written by George R. R. Martin and the TV adaption Game of Thrones, created by David Beinoff and D. B. Weiss. To summarise Orientalism, Said suggests there are three definitions to the word. The first being a term for anyone who teaches or writes about the Orient in an academic sense. Secondly, he views it as a way of thinking based on the distinction between the Orient and the Occident. Thirdly, it is a way of the West gaining control and authority over the Orient. These concepts and portrayals of the East are a man-made concept, according to Said, that have been cemented over time. Game of Thrones covers these definitions in different ways.

            In the series A Song of Ice and Fire, there are two main lands: Essos and Westeros. Although these names can be easily associated with the East and West, the TV adaption provides visual representations of the contrast between the continents. The architecture used in different cities and towns is inspired by certain parts of the world which provides viewers with associations of places they know.


In the north of Westeros, the House of Stark reside in Winterfell. The dark, stone buildings are similar to English and Scottish castles, making the connection between Westeros and Western Europe. In the novel, A Game of Thrones, Daenerys pictures the land she is from, whilst she is living in the East: ‘somewhere beyond the sunset, across the narrow sea, are a land of green hills and flowered plains and great rushing rivers, where towers of dark stone rose amidst magnificent blue-grey mountains’ (Game of Thrones, p. 26.) Daenerys captures the essence of Winterfell and portrays it as a place similar to English country sides and Western Europe.

Moorish architecture
Moorish Architecture

The landscape in Essos demonstrates Said’s theory most clearly. Firstly, the city of Qarth is full of wealth and detailed architecture. With inspiration from the Middle East, such as Morocco, and focuses on arches, walkways, marble stone and detailed mosaic it illustrates a landscape associated with the Other, in contrast to the West. The architecture allows Qarth to be a place of magic and mystery for Western viewers and readers, due to its associations with the East. Here, Daenerys must tread carefully as many characters are suspicious and untrustworthy. Characters such as the Warlocks, who practise magic, live in Qarth which is unsurprising as the East is often portrayed as being magical and mysterious, which links to the exoticism. These are cultural norms different to ones seen in Westeros. On the other hand, the rest of

Dorne, Game of Thrones

Essos portrays the other aspect of the Orient, where the East is depicted as being caught in the past and a fragment of its former glory. Said describes the Orient as a place of ‘romance, exotic beings, haunting memories and landscapes, remarkable experiences’ (Orientalism, p. 1). This relates to Daenerys’ experience of travelling through Essos as the landscapes are ‘haunting’ due to their contrast to the West. The East often shocks Daenerys. For example, when she experiences the fighting for pleasure at her wedding to Khal Drogo she is ‘frightened’ (Game of Thrones, p. 97) Said’s use of the word ‘exotic’ also reinforces the differences between lands in Westeros and Essos; the people and land in the continents differ so greatly that the East appears exotic to the West.


The Dothraki are portrayed as savage and barbaric with limited character development, apart from Daenerys’ husband Khal Drogo. The rest of the tribe do not receive the same development that characters in Westeros do. David J. Peterson suggests: ‘Martin’s Dothraki are portrayed as violent, warlike people. They steal what they will and rape who they will, and do so often, in the course of the history.’(1) Peterson highlights their aggressive nature and how they are grouped together. Katherine Tullmann comments on how ‘the further away some cultural practises are from our own, the less likely we are to condone them. This would suggest that moral practises vary by

Khal Drogo

culture – and who are we to say they’re wrong?’ (2) Tullmann’s views link to Orientalism as the Dothraki are seen in this negative way due to having a contrasting culture to those in the West. However, although it is a different culture and way of living, yet Game of Thrones shuns it, suggesting it is wrong as we see it through the eyes of a Westerner. David J. Peterson observes the lack of voice the East have: ‘we never see the Dothraki through the eyes of the Dothraki. Though Daenerys comes to admire and respect the Dothraki, what right has she to pass judgement on them at all – as if she were explaining the ways of God to men?’ (3) This links to Orientalism as we only view the Eastern places and characters through a Western perspective. The East is only visible through the language and perspective of the West and primarily through Daenerys.


Even nearly 40 years on from when Said published Orientalism, his ideas can still be seen in modern pop culture and Game of Thrones is no exception. The power dynamic between Westeros and Essos is displayed in many aspects of the books and TV series, such as the landscape and how the different locations inspired Essos and Westeros. Also, the contrast in characterisation and how characters in Westeros are fully developed with complex personalities, but those in the East such as the Dothraki receive basic descriptions further shows Orientalism.


Featured Image: HBO, Game of Thrones

Image 1: Winterfell [accessed 10 November 2016]

Image 2: Nick Ames, ‘Game of Thrones themed tour of Spain’s Moorish architecture on offer’, 4 June 2015 [accessed 10 November 2016]

Image 3: Marc N. Kleinhenz, ‘Dorne, A Murder of Crows: The Dorne dilemma’, 29 April 2016 [accessed 10 November 2016]

Image 4: ‘Winter is Coming’, Game of Thrones. Season 1, episode 1. (HBO, 2012)

Primary Sources:
1, George R. R. Martin, A Song of Ice and Fire: Game of Thrones, (London: Harper       Voyager, 2014)

2, David J. Peterson, ‘The Languages of Ice and Fire’ in Mastering the Game of thrones: essays on George R.R. Martin’s a song of ice and fire, edited by Jes Batis and Susan Johnston, (North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2015) pp. 15-35, p. 20.

3, Katherine Tullmann, ‘Dany’s Encounter with the wild: cultural relativism in a Game of Thrones’ in Game of Thrones and philosophy, edited by Henry Jacoby (New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, 2012) pp. 194-204, p. 195.

4, David J. Peterson, ‘The Languages of Ice and Fire’, p. 30.
Written by Sophie Shepherd.
© The Literature Blog, 2018. All Rights Reserved.

Exploring the Meaning of the Fig Tree in Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar

‘I saw myself sitting in the crotch of the fig-tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest.’
-Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar, p. 73.

Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar is full of interesting symbolism and imagery. The most iconic image, however, is the fig tree that torments protagonist Esther. She first encounters it in a story about the relationship between a Jewish man and a Catholic nun. Esther returns to the image later as she considers what career path to take and spirals into panic about her future:

From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple pig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and off-beat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of the fig-tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet. 1

In this passage, Esther worries about the different opportunities available and believes that if she picks one she cannot pursue the others. Society forces women to choose one path because they are unable to be both career driven and a mother figure. The fig tree is contradictory, however, because it could be perceived as a positive image due to the limitless possibilities that life can give. On the other hand, Esther finds the amount of choices overwhelming as she believes that she can only have one. The conflicting nature of the fig tree represents Esther’s inner turmoil between conforming to the expected role of a young woman in New York and her desire to be an individual. Perloff suggests that during this period ‘female roles are no longer clearly defined, women are confronted by such a bewildering variety of seeming possibilities that choice itself becomes all but impossible.’2 Perloff’s statement sympathises with Esther’s struggles and it is often a common dilemma that young women have, even during the present day. Each branch represents a different choice. Therefore, the fig tree can represent how society – and Esther herself – enforces pressures upon young women to restrict themselves to one path in their lives.

Although the fig tree highlights the struggle of young women in society, it is Esther’s inability to decide on a career path or future that shows her unstable mindset. The fig tree paralyses Esther and forces her to watch herself starve to death which foreshadows her later suicide attempt, offering a warning to the reader of the seriousness of her unhealthy mentality and inability to decide. Esther witness her actions from afar which suggests a detachment from her mind, implying her mind is not at one. The disassociation could indicate she does not feel attached to the aspects of herself that are mentally unwell or is in denial. Stephanie Tsank proposes that ‘Esther’s inability to make decisions about her future has to do with her negative perception of self and her belief that she is unqualified to make such a decision’.3 Tsank’s view focuses on Esther’s internal struggle which is more crucial to understanding how her illness dangerously impacts her thought process compared to society’s influence. As Perloff suggested, many women were confronted with the restrictions of womanhood, yet not all of them suffered with mental health problems. This raises the strong possibility that mental illness can be attributed as much to the individual mindset and personality as to societal influences.

The symbolism of a fig itself expands on Esther’s inner turmoil. Esther describes the fig as ‘fat’ and ‘purple’ which implies an exotic, sensual fruit due to its Mediterranean  origin.4 The colour purple is often associated with royalty, luxury, and wealth which suggests the choices are initially met with pleasure due to the vast amount of opportunities. Furthermore, figs are full of rich flavour suggesting that the positive associations imply Esther is initially inspired by the prosperity. The end of the passage shows the figs wrinkle and turn black, losing their richness, which symbolises the consequences of Esther’s indecisiveness and the loss of all options. This change represents Esther’s transformation as she sinks deeper into depression further on in the novel. The inside of a fig evokes sensual imagery and has links to fertility and female genitalia. In Greek, the word for fig (sykon) is the same word for vulva which directly links the two, providing the reader with an image of sexuality.5 These associations can be applied to Esther as her virginity is another personal choice and shows her struggle to find a sexual identity. She never experiences healthy relationships with men or strong enough relationships with women to discuss these issues. The fig tree is also biblically significant as Adam and Eve covered themselves with leaves from this tree to hide their shame and sin after eating the forbidden fruit. Therefore, by linking these religious associations to Esther’s indecisiveness, the suggestion is that Esther feels shameful towards her confusion. Although the pressures of society can influence Esther’s attitude towards her future, the symbolism and meanings of figs demonstrate that it is her own inner struggle, turmoil, and anxiety that causes her to have such a distressing view of her future.

Featured Image: Front cover of The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath (New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2005)

1) Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar (London: Faber & Faber, 2005), p. 73. All further references are to this edition and are given parenthetically in the text.

2) Marjorie G. Perloff, ‘”A Ritual for Being Born Twice”: Sylvia Plath’s ‘The Bell Jar’’, Contemporary Literature, 13.4 (1972), 507-522 (p.515)

3) Stephanie Tsank, ‘The Bell Jar: A Psychological Case Study’, Plath Profiles: An International Journal of Studies on Sylvia Plath, 3 (2010), 166-177 (p. 175).

4) The Columbia Encyclopaedia, 6th ed., ‘fig’, The Columbia University Press [n.d.] < >

5) ‘sycophant (n.)’, Online Etymology Dictionary [n.d.] <;

Written by Sophie Shepherd
© The Literature Blog, 2018. All Rights Reserved.

Language as a Method of Control in Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange

‘These grahzny sodding veshches that come out of my gulliver and my plot,’ I said, ‘that’s what it is.’
‘Quaint,’ said Dr Brodsky, like smiling, ‘the dialect of the tribe.’
-Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange, p. 91.

Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange is narrated by protagonist Alex and is written in Nadsat, a new language created by Burgess. This language is used by Alex to demonstrate how he dominates the streets but then attempts to retain this control when he becomes subject to a government experiment that aims to modify his violent behaviour. Nadsat acts a buffer to the graphic violence Alex and his ‘droogs’ commit. When they break into a woman’s house, and attack her, Nadsat blurs the violence to the reader. He ‘upped with the little malenky like silver statue and cracked her a fine fair tolchock on the gulliver and that shut her up real horrorshow and lovely’ 1. The language limits associations the reader would normally have if Alex spoke in ‘proper’ English due to the confusing and new words. Burgess’s use of alliteration in ‘fine fair tolchock’ creates a playful and poetic image and, as he said himself, the use of Nadsat does ‘not sound as bad as booting a man in the guts.’2 The lack of complete understanding invites empathy and sympathy from the readers towards Alex in a situation where scenes of rape and violence would normally create horror and disgust. Blake Morrison discusses the effect of the language and suggests that ‘much of the excitement […] comes not from what Alex says, but how he says it: from his slovos.’3 Morrison recognises the reader’s reaction to Alex as he becomes the anti-hero in the novel that readers sympathise with and root for. Alex also plays on the reader’s empathy by referring to himself as ‘your little droog Alex’ (ACO, p. 61), and ‘Your Humble and Suffering Narrator’ (p. 97). The use of the word ‘your’ includes the reader in Alex’s journey, even when his ‘droogs’ leave him to be arrested and he is alone. It creates a relationship between the reader and Alex. As the novel progresses, he even shortens the reference to ‘Y.H.N’ (p. 126), implying that the relationship evolves as Alex becomes more isolated. Morrison suggests that ‘Alex insinuates and allies himself so intimately with his readers (‘O my brothers’) that we end up sharing every laugh (‘haw haw haw’) and cry (‘boohoohoo’).’4 Although readers know that Alex’s actions are wrong, the combination of the confusing Nadsat language and the pronoun ‘your’ creates a relationship that blurs the reader’s moral compass thus demonstrating how language can be used to manipulate and control the reader.

Whilst Nadsat can be used for Alex to control his narrative, it is also a way to gain control in a world where he finds himself being manipulated and controlled. When Alex talks to adults in the text, he mostly uses standard English to charm them but sometimes uses Nadsat. When he is partaking in the Ludovico technique, he has a conversation about what will happen when he leaves:

‘Oh I shall go home. Back to my pee and em.’ ‘Your -?’ He didn’t get Nadsat-talk at all, so I said: ‘To my parents in the dear old flatblock.’ ‘I see,’ he said.’
(ACO, p. 87)

Here, Alex is attempting to gain some control in a situation where he is being monitored and forced to watch videos against his will. The reader’s lack of understanding leads them to believe Alex has a superior knowledge. However, in the text those in authority treat him in a patronising way. Alex uses Nadsat even more so when in distress:

‘These grahzny sodding veshches that come out of my gulliver and my plot,’ I said, ‘that’s what it is.’ ‘Quaint,’ said Dr Brodsky, like smiling, ‘the dialect of the tribe.’
(ACO, p. 91)

When he becomes aware of the aim and process of the experiment, he uses Nadsat aggressively by including more words of the language in his speech. He attempts to use an alternative language to gain back the control he has lost. Dr Brodsky’s reaction of ‘quaint’ is patronising and dismissive, highlighting how ultimately the government are in control, no matter how hard Alex tries. Keith Booker comments on Nadsat and suggests that it ‘shows the imaginative superiority of Alex and his fellows.’5 The attempt to gain control highlights that Alex believes he has superiority with a different language but whilst he may have an advantage over the readers, the adults and those in power take no notice of Nadsat. Alex uses Nadsat to try and gain back some control when victim to their manipulation.


Featured Image: Cover Image created by David Pelham for Penguin’s 1972 edition of the novel. See Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange (London: Penguin Group, 1972).

(1) Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange (London: Penguin Group, 1996)

(2) Christian Bugge, ‘The Clockwork Controversy’, The Kubrick Site [n.d.] <; [accessed 20th April 2018]. The rest of the quote follows as ‘But in a film little can be implied; everything has to be shown. Language ceases to be an opaque protection against being appalled and takes a very secondary place.’ Burgess has often showed distaste towards Kubrick’s film version as the violence is seen visually which takes away the element of cloaking that Nadsat achieves in the novel.

(3) Blake Morrison, ‘Introduction’ in Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange (London: Penguin Books, 1996), pp. vii-xxiv (p. ix).

(4) Ibid., p. xii.

(5) Keith Booker, Dystopian Literature: A Theory and Research Guide (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1994), p. 96.

Written by Sophie Shepherd
© The Literature Blog, 2018. All Rights Reserved.