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ALEX DeLARGE, A DYSTOPIA MADE ADOLESCENT FLESH


How Does Alex DeLarge Reflect The Dystopian Context and Society Shown in “A
Clockwork Orange”?

INTRODUCTION

In the novel written by Anthony Burgess, as in the film produced and directed by Stanley
Kubrick, A Clockwork Orange evidences a remarkable dystopian context. As same as other
dystopian contexts and societies, this one is located in a not-so-distant fictional future
reflecting a wrong society, almost uninhabitable, where life is miserable and full of
mistakes and transgressions of every kind; especially the immoderation and abuse of
violence, drugs consumption and sex.
Burgess and Kubrick, instead of showing a perfect or ideal society, show a wrong
one, revealing the worst part of it. As a result, one can see it as the aim of the dystopian
context, exposing in a near future the failures of the contemporary society. Therefore, both
authors configured the dystopian context taking as a basis their current society and
predicting how the eventual society of that near future could be. Even thought they were
not totally accurate with physical aspects of the characters, one can see that in
psychological and behavioral ones, this dystopia could match absolutely with nowadays’
adolescents and even more, considering that the not-so-distant future they refer to, could
perfectly be our present1-2.
In order to be able to construct and evidence this dystopian context, possible to
adapt to any society, they particularly make of the society of A Clockwork Orange, the
worst society imaginable; and so they do with what compounds it: its members.
Clearly, Alex DeLarge, the main character, is one of them. Alex, for having an
unstable adolescent character will become into the ideal and most reachable target of all of

1
Andersen, Soren. “Frightful Futures / With a Uniformly Grim Outlook on Where We’re Headed, Sci-Fi
Movies Have Become Scarier Than Any Ghoul-Filled Film about Ghosts and Vampires”. The News Tribune.
Oct 31, 1995. p. SL.3. ERIC Web 19 Oct. 2008.
2
Bullen, Elizabeth, Parsons, Elizabeth. Dystopian Visions of Global Capitalism: Philip Reeve’s Mortal
Engines and M.T Anderson’s Feed. Children’s Literature in Education. 2007. p. 127 -139. ERIC Web 25
Nov. 2008.
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those faults of the society he lives in and will be the mean that these two wise men will take
advantage of and use, in order to achieve their goal and be able to show and reflect the
dystopian context3-4.
Lamentably, this society is not only a proper vision and situation of a fiction future
of a novel or film, it is a vision and a reality that can be suitable to this society. According
to how things are, it can be the reality we are living in5-6.
As a result, the aim of this extended essay is not only to go beyond establishing how
does Alex DeLarge configures and reflects the dystopian context shown in A Clockwork
Orange, it is also to make people conscious, especially adolescents, who are the main
characters of our time and are the ones targeted to realize how it is possible to mend,
renovate and transcend our society.

3
Andersen, Soren. “Frightful Futures / With a Uniformly Grim Outlook on Where We’re Headed, Sci-Fi
Movies Have Become Scarier Than Any Ghoul-Filled Film about Ghosts and Vampires”. Op.Cit.
4
Bullen, Elizabeth, Parsons, Elizabeth. Dystopian Visions of Global Capitalism: Philip Reeve’s Mortal
Engines and M.T Anderson’s Feed. Children’s Literature in Education. Op. Cit.
5
Andersen, Soren. “Frightful Futures / With a Uniformly Grim Outlook on Where We’re Headed, Sci-Fi
Movies Have Become Scarier Than Any Ghoul-Filled Film about Ghosts and Vampires”. Op.Cit.
6
Bullen, Elizabeth, Parsons, Elizabeth. Dystopian Visions of Global Capitalism: Philip Reeve’s Mortal
Engines and M.T Anderson’s Feed. Op.Cit.

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1. Which Dystopian Society?

The dystopian context shown in A Clockwork Orange is particularly outstanding due to the
character and function it has. This one is able to gather in just one context all the failures,
flaws and imperfections in a society. Besides, it reveals and put all of them in evidence
through young people in particular, who are the element of society that seems to be the
least guilty and the most apathetic about these kind of conflicts due to the fact that they are
just focused on themselves.
Also, with this context of dystopia, Burgess and Kubrick not only have the
objective, but also have the owe of putting in evidence every factor that makes of a society
the wrong one, even if it has to be in a very unexpected, direct and harsh way; not in order
to judge and denigrate it, but to make people react to what is happening and encourage
them to change and arrange each of these aspects, rather than ignoring them.
Starting from political aspects, it is possible to see that this society is oppressed by
the government and its domain, as far as reaching the point that government obtains
benefits of the community, instead of the community being benefited by the government. A
clear example is the scientific test that the government applied on Alex DeLarge for trying
to change his degenerated character and be pacified and adapted to live correctly in
society7; this configures the biggest act of taking advantage and abuse of power.
Although it is not deeply specified, the economic aspect is clearly influenced and
affected by capitalism and its correlated elements: globalization, consumption and
individualization; all of these terms are very associated, because one leads to the other. In
this sense, Alex is a victim of this system since he is constantly under the domain of the
globalization produced by capitalism. He is constantly forced to consume and to be selfish
and individualist8.

7
Andersen, Soren. “Frightful Futures / With a Uniformly Grim Outlook on Where We’re Headed, Sci-Fi
Movies Have Become Scarier Than Any Ghoul-Filled Film about Ghosts and Vampires”. Op.Cit.
8
Bullen, Elizabeth, Parsons, Elizabeth. Dystopian Visions of Global Capitalism: Philip Reeve’s Mortal
Engines and M.T Anderson’s Feed. Op.Cit.

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Probably, the most distinguished dystopian aspect of this whole context and society
is the social and, consequently, the cultural one, which is centered in young people. Society
becomes a vehicle for the ‘expression of adolescent individuality’9, which leads mostly to
anarchy thus other related effects, such as violence, unsafe sex and consumption and abuse
of drugs. In other words a complete chaos and desolation 10 that conducts to a frightful and
uncertain future. We are talking about a society, subdue to a ‘culture of violence’11, under
constant disrespect, fights, rapes, murders and other crimes, where the most important
subjects seem to be sex and violence12 and a society that has become ‘a cesspool of
violence and drug’ consumption13.
All of these aspects configure and reveal the hugest and shocking dystopian context,
where there is no hope and future is indeterminated and frightening. People does not longer
dream of having better lives and be part of a better society and world, they do nothing in
regard to the wretched situation for the reason that they do not believe in the fact that things
can be better. Moreover, they have already gotten used to live among the wrong conditions
of their dystopia14. It is a society with no values or moral believes, with no hope and no
happiness, a worthless society, where present is horrifying and future unimaginable.

2. Why Alex the Adolescent?

Adolescence is known as the transitional period between childhood and adulthood, and this
means changes of several types, which can be biological, psychological and/or social15. We

9
Tyrrell Jr, Emmett. Sea of Cultural Chaos; Second Edition. Washington Times. April 30, 1999. p.p A.18.
ERIC Web 13 Nov. 2008.
10
Andersen, Soren. “Frightful Futures / With a Uniformly Grim Outlook on Where We’re Headed, Sci-Fi
Movies Have Become Scarier Than Any Ghoul-Filled Film about Ghosts and Vampires”. Op.Cit.
11
Ibid.
12
Lambirth, A. From Horror to the Sublime. The Spectator. November 26, 2005. ERIC Web 17 Nov. 2008.
13
Andersen, Soren. “Frightful Futures / With a Uniformly Grim Outlook on Where We’re Headed, Sci-Fi
Movies Have Become Scarier Than Any Ghoul-Filled Film about Ghosts and Vampires”. Op.Cit.
14
Andersen, Soren. “Frightful Futures / With a Uniformly Grim Outlook on Where We’re Headed, Sci-Fi
Movies Have Become Scarier Than Any Ghoul-Filled Film about Ghosts and Vampires”. Op.Cit.
15
U.S. Congress, Office of technology Assessment. Adolescent Health. (Vol. II: Background and the
Effectiveness of Selected Prevention and Treatment Services). Washington, D.C.: Government Printing
Office, 1991. p. 3, 24.

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must deeply understand the significance and effects of these changes and also realize how
they contribute for making Alex the mean to reflect his society. This kid is an adolescent
who is in a period of metamorphosis and sudden changes that make him unstable and
vulnerable to fit his society.
All physical modifications, psychological and social changes during adolescence are
quite related to constant behavioral alterations that have the aim of defining the identity of
the person16. Adolescents are usually looking forward for building their personality and
own selves, to what their configure as likes and believes. Additionally they are getting to
know the world and trying to achieve success, in order to prove the rest of the world wrong.
They also want to be taken into account, and be seen as fundamental parts of
society, that’s why they impose themselves, through their ideals, defending them totally.
According to this, adolescents try also to prevent committing mistakes that could affect
their future life, because although they seem not to care, they own a susceptible ego that
must be feed with success and recognizability.
These is also related to their strong appearance, that means they pretend to be tough,
wanting to impose themselves and defending their beliefs passionately. However all this
strength, is mainly their really inside part, the fear they have of being rejected, of being
harmed and precisely, their vulnerability and weak character.
This is what we have on the main character of A Clockwork Orange, Alex De Large,
an adolescent that is experiencing this stage in his life, with all of the changes and
incoherence it brings with it. As same as others adolescents, he is weak inside but his
appearance shows him a strong man. He is ambitious and wants to prove he is always right.
Yet, usually adolescent conflicts are supposed to be fought with support of the
family and in an adequate way to make them remain on age troubles and not completely
psychological and personal issues. Sadly, this is not the case of Alex DeLarge, he has not
what he demands to continue growing and overcome this moment of his life. Because of
this, he is forced to look for easy ways out, where to find what he lacks of, like his music,
drugs, ‘Nadsat’17 and specially ultra-violence. Also he follows a model of peer pressure
16
Ibid. p. 21.
17
“Nadsat, a Russified version of English, was meant to muffle the raw response we expect from
pornography. It turns the book into a linguistic adventure. People preferred the film because they are scared,

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with his ‘droogs’18, as same as consumption, political views and religious conflicts,
elements that help to configure the dystopian context in A Clockwork Orange.

3. “What’s It Going To Be Then, Eh?”19. The Answer To How Does Alex DeLarge
Reflect The Dystopian Context and Society Shown In A Clockwork Orange.

It is fundamental to recapture and evoke constantly that question. Alex is a victim of his
society, he is continuously under its influence and manipulation, and has been affected by
it. In this way, he is a reflection of what society is, because it is society the responsible of
molding him, the right example of what society makes of people. This is why Alex is not
the ideal adolescent or even the person who is expected as a main character, because his
context and society are not either. He reflects a bad society and exposes openly all of its
failures.
It is also very important to analyze every factor and aspect of Alex, taking as a basis
every feature of his personality, in order to be able to discover and understand what do they
tell about society and in which way they contribute to show the dystopian context. Since the
most notable, irrelevant and superficial detail, to the most inner and complex one, it is
possible to see in Alex DeLarge the reflection of a total dystopian context, proper of a
dysfunctional society.

3.1 The DeLarge Family

In the first place it is fundamental to analyze a certain factor of Alex’s life that in
the life of any person, especially an adolescent, is determinant and maybe, the most

rightly, of language.”- Burgess, Anthony. A Clockwork Orange. Op. Cit.


18
Droog (Nadsat term): refers to friend, have its origins in violent friend. Ibid.
19
Ibid. p. 1.

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important: the family20. Neither in the novel, nor in the book, it is determined the existence
of siblings or other relatives of Alex, although the role of his parents is totally clarified.
Although Alex’s parents seem to care and be interest and concern for their son and
apparently are great parents: “You've got a good home here, good loving parents, you've
got not too bad of a brain.”21. Alex’s parents do not do anything to be informed of what
happens in their son’s life, be part of it or to known what he is missing. Alex’s parents do
not have a significant presence in Alex’s life. They do not seem to make sure that they are
raising correctly their son. Their intervention and significance on Alex’s life is poor, almost
worthless.
It is clear that parents constitute, to their children, an example that must be
followed, to the extent that children coincide with their parents’ values and beliefs 22; but
this is not the case of Alex, because he does not receive from his parents the complete
attention he needs, neither the support, education or example he could follow. Parents must
provide a positive influence and “serve as role model to their children”23, but Alex’s parents
are not even taken into account by him; they do not even constitute an influence or
prototype to take into consideration, to follow or respect.
In fact, parents must apply authority on their children and become a respectable
figure to them, at the same time they should allow the adolescent’s individuality,
independence and autonomy, while they are considered as friends and trustful witnesses to
improve their children’s development, growing and life 24. The problem appears when
Alex’s parents do not take any of these roles, they are not authority figures for Alex, and
instead of allowing his autonomy and freedom, they are too permissive, lax and indifferent.
All these factors are hugely reflected on the behavior of Alex and they almost could
explain and justify him; it is possible to affirm that he is trying to catch their attention or is
just unconsciously and unintentionally enjoying of the freedom and absence of authority

20
U.S. Congress, Office of technology Assessment. Adolescent Health. (Vol. II: Background and the
Effectiveness of Selected Prevention and Treatment Services). Op. Cit. p. 3.
21
Burgess, Anthony. A Clockwork Orange. Op. Cit. p. 39.
22
U.S. Congress, Office of technology Assessment. Adolescent Health. (Vol. II: Background and the
Effectiveness of Selected Prevention and Treatment Services). Op. Cit. p. 38.
23
Ibid. p. 37.
24
Ibid. p. 39.

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and importance they give to him, obviously in the wrong way, but it is not correct to judge
and blame him because he has not being guide correctly.
The DeLarge parents could be considered as the poor victims of Alex’s bad and
terrible behavior: “'I've heard all about you, boy. I know what you've done, breaking the
hearts of your poor grieving parents (…)”25, but requires and deep and objective analyze to
find out who is the real victim. Even though Alex’s parents have faced all the consequences
of his bad attitude and behavior, probably the victim is Alex, because he has not been
educated and supported as it should be.
The DeLarge family has a null communication and Alex’s parents do not try or even
desire to participate in their son’s life and he does not want to be part of theirs. It is so low
the significance and esteem they have for each other, that they have considered as an option
replacing Alex while he was in jail: " ‘This is Joe,’ (…). ‘He lives here now’.”26, was the
phrase Alex heard from his mom, when he returned form jail. This phrase had the purpose
of explaining the presence of a stranger in his house, who took the role of the son of the
family.
This make us question the society of Alex and all of these issues that reflect a
dystopian context, where the family, the basis and most important element of society, is not
longer existing.

3.2 Education

Education is probably one of the most valuable possessions a human being can own;
it feeds, exalts and maintains alive the soul and mind of anyone and makes of the person a
better one. An educated and cultured person is able to react properly to any situation and
response to society and became a useful member for it.
Schools have an essential function on adolescent’s life. In first instance, they
complement the education and formation of family and also maintain adolescents focused

25
Burgess, Anthony. A Clockwork Orange. Op. Cit. p. 134.
26
Ibib. p. 134.

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on enriching, inspiring and stimulating activities that contribute to their development, rather
than expending time on idle activities that are malignant to them, like delinquency, abuse of
substances, etc.27. Certainly, the function of school on adolescents’ lives is favorable and
almost indispensable.
“(…) I thought I would not go to school.”28, said Alex after a long night of pleasure
activities and adding he would better be sleeping for more time and then enjoy of a leisure
or free day. The gravity of this episode is concerning, it is not only the fact that Alex
skipped school, or that their parents did nothing regarding to it. It is the fact that the labor
of education would be incomplete and would allow the introduction of Alex to activities
that are not useful to him. Furthermore, if Alex does not have the required education and
guidance from his parents and neither from school, how would he be educated?
The situation is distressing, these features show us a society where adolescents,
who are the future and the potential adult members that would head and lead society, are
not educated, neither at school, nor at home, and instead of getting prepared to face
correctly their definitive role on society, they are investing their free time on activities that
does not provide anything good to them; t is possible to see a complete dystopian context
and society, that not even knows what to expect of the upcoming time and has a hopeless
future.

3.3 Mental Health and Behavior

During the adolescence stage, due to the significant amount of changes and instability of
the moment, the individual can be affected and became unhealthy, not only physically, but
mostly mentally.
The mentally health includes the well being of the most important and
psychological aspects of the person, which will be determinant aspects on the point of view
and behavior of the individual and will also be clearly defined by the environment. That is
27
U.S. Congress, Office of technology Assessment. Adolescent Health. (Vol. II: Background and the
Effectiveness of Selected Prevention and Treatment Services). Op. Cit. p. 60.
28
Burgess, Anthony. A Clockwork Orange. Op. Cit. p. 35.

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why, any condition that reveals the bad function of any of those aspects will surely reflect a
bad function of the society in which the individual habits. In the case of Alex it is possible
to affirm that he suffers from an undeniable conduct and behavior disorder, based on a
hostile and defiant attitude that violates others’ rights and established norms, displaying
symptoms such as truancy, lying, stealing and fighting29.
At the same time he has a huge mood disorder, characterized by a current mood of
unhappiness with feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness and irritability, which leads to an
unusual antisocial behavior, domain by aggressiveness, substance abuse and suicide trends
that intent to hide the real inside feeling and status30.
In Alex words: “I would perform the old ultra-violence on the starry ptitsa 31 and on
her pusspots32 if need be”. Hence, these kinds of behaviors are proper of Alex and will not
only configure a wrong and dystopian society, but also will reflect it, in the sense that it is
the individual who builds society and it is society who builds the individual.

3.4 Activities and Discretionary Time33

Discretionary time includes the period of free time that the adolescent can afford
and enjoy, leaving away the time that he/she spends on educational, familiar and personal
activities. It has been clearly established that the activities done in the discretionary time,
contribute in the same way that activities developed in educational, familiar or personal
time, to improve the creativity and self-expression of the adolescent and also to determine
and define more his character, personality and self being. It is remarkable the importance of
these activities, because they are chosen by the adolescent, according to his criterion.

29
U.S. Congress, Office of technology Assessment. Adolescent Health. (Vol. II: Background and the
Effectiveness of Selected Prevention and Treatment Services). Op. Cit. p. 430.
30
Ibid. p. 40.
31
Ptista (Nadsat term): means Bird and refers to women. Burgess, Anthony. A Clockwork Orange. Op. Cit.
32
Pusspots (Nadsat term): refers to genital and sexual part of women. Ibid.
33
U.S. Congress, Office of technology Assessment. Adolescent Health. (Vol. II: Background and the
Effectiveness of Selected Prevention and Treatment Services). Op. Cit. p. 88.

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In the first place, it is the use and abuse of substances that can alter mind and at
same time, the adolescent development; such as tobacco, alcohol and mainly drugs34. Our
main character does not avoid this problem. Alex is continuously under the influence of the
psychoactive substances35, to the extent that he is not longer conscientious and able to
control himself. The most astonishing and unbelievable thing, is that he openly accepts that
he spend most of his time consuming drugs. These can be seen in several passages of the
novel:
“(…) on milk plus vellocet36 and synthemesc37 and drencrom38 and other
veshches39 which take you far far far away from this wicked and real world into the
land to viddy40 Bog41 And All His Angels And Saints in your left sabog42 with lights
bursting and spurting all over your mozg43.”44.

Another thing that results to be quite unbelievable is the fact that he does not only
admits, but also shares his experiences of committing ultra-violence acts and sexual
controlled ones:
“I gave them the ultra-violence, the crasting45, the dratsing46, the old in-out-in-out47,
the lot, right up to this night's veshch48 with the bugatty49 starry ptitsa50 with the
mewing kots51 and koshkas52.”53

34
Ibid. p. 499.
35
Ibid. p. 499.
36
Vellocet (Nadsat term): it is originated from an invented slang, for refer to ‘Amphetamine’, a drug. Burgess,
Anthony. A Clockwork Orange. Op. Cit.
37
Synthemesc (Nadsat term): it is originated from an invented slang, for refer to ‘Synthetic Mescaline’ (mesc)
a drug. Ibid.
38
Dencrom (Nadsat term): it is originated from an invented slang, for refer to ‘Adrenochrome’, a drug. Ibid.
39
Veshches (Nadsat term): things. Ibid.
40
Viddy (Nadsat term): from the original Russian ‘vidyet’, means to see. Ibid.
41
Bog (Nadsat term): means God. Ibid.
42
Sabog (Nadsat term): means shoe. Ibid.
43
Mozg (Nadsat term):means brain. Ibid.
44
The quote narrates the experience of Alex getting high, by a mixture of drugs and milk. Ibid. p. 180.
45
Crasting (Nadsat term): it is originated from the Russian word ‘krast’, which means steal. Ibid.
46
Drasting (Nadsat term): it is originated from the Russian word ‘drat’, which means tear to pieces, to kill or
to fight. Ibid.
47
Refers to sex.
48
Vesh (Nadsat term): means thing. Ibid.
49
Bugatty (Nadsat term): it is originated from the Russian term ‘bogatty’, which means wealthy or rich. Ibid.
50
Ptitsa (Nadsat term): means women. Ibid.
51
Kots (Nadsat term): it is originated from the Russian term ‘kot’, which means cat or tomcat. Ibid.
52
Koshkas (Nadsat term): it is originated from the Russian term ‘koshka’ that means cat.

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Lamentably, not always these activities are rightly chosen and neither are the
most convenient to the adolescent; Alex has not a well established criterion that
guarantee his choice would be the right one and the effect of this has emerged and
become evident in his way of acting and spend his free time.

CONCLUSIONS
53
The passage describes another common activity of Alex; he tells how he committed ultra-violence acts, that
includes robs and rapes. Ibid. p. 71.

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The dystopian context of A Clockwork Orange it is clearly defined by aspects that avoid
completely the most remote possibility of a model or ideal society, where is not such a
worth thing to value. All of society features summarize a dystopian context, domain by
chaos and decadence.
Every aspect of society and mostly of its members reflects a dystopian context and
with it a wrong and dysfunctional society, where there is no value given to what deserves it,
such as family and education, and where the behavior of young people, who are supposed
to lead society and be the potential future of it, are determined by violence, insecure sex
and drugs abuse; actions that just lead to an uncertain future.
It is remarkable to take into account that Alex DeLarge is a victim of his society and
can not be blamed by the wrongness that it provides to him, on the contrary, it must be
noteworthy the attitude and desire he takes in front of his mistakes, and the purpose and
deep desire he has to change and be a better person and in this way, make a better society.
It is admirable the way he faced his mistakes, the way he tried to mend them and
mostly, the way in which he learnt from them and took advantage of them to become a
better individual in his society. Also it makes a lot of people and principally youth, to react
and learn to approach every opportunity and to live without regrets in order to be always
advancing and not declining. Alex said:
“I'd changed my tune a malenky54 bit in my cunning way. 'You've proved to me that
all this dratsing55 and ultra-violence and killing is wrong wrong and terribly wrong. I've
learned my lesson, sirs. I see now what I've never seen before. I'm cured, praise God.”56
Finally, although is sad, it must be taken into account that the near future on which
the dystopian context of A Clockwork Orange is settled, can temporary coincide with our
present, moreover to our nowadays situation; the concordance could be more than time
issues. However, we as adolescents must take advantage of our facility to communicate our
ideals to do something not to allow this to continue happening and to prevent our
generation and the following ones to fight this dystopian context as part of our daily lifes.
54
Malenky (Nadsat term): means little, tiny. Ibid.
55
Dratsing (Nadsat term): means fighting. Ibid.
56
Ibid. p. 115.

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We must take more seriously our role as future of our society and have a huge compromise
with it, facing whatever it involves and mostly, constructing a good society that leaves a
trace of positive and transcend aspects for world’s community.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

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Andersen, Soren. “Frightful Futures / With a Uniformly Grim Outlook on Where We’re
Headed, Sci-Fi Movies Have Become Scarier Than Any Ghoul-Filled Film about
Ghosts and Vampires”. The News Tribune. Oct 31, 1995. p. SL.3. ERIC Web Oct.
2008.

Bullen, Elizabeth, Parsons, Elizabeth. Dystopian Visions of Global Capitalism: Philip


Reeve’s Mortal Engines and M.T Anderson’s Feed. Children’s Literature in
Education. 2007. p.127-139. ERIC Web 25 Nov. 2008.

Burgess, Anthony. A Clockwork Orange. UK Version. London: Norton and Company Ltd,
1962. p.1

Lambirth, A. From Horror to the Sublime. The Spectator. November 26, 2005. ERIC Web
17 Nov. 2008.

Tyrrell Jr, Emmett. Sea of Cultural Chaos; Second Edition. Washington Times. April 30,
1999. p. A.18. Eric Web Nov. 2008.

U.S. Congress, Office of technology Assessment. (1991). Adolescent Health. (Vol. II:
Background and the Effectiveness of Selected Prevention and Treatment Services).
Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office. Page

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