Mount Alvernia High School, Newton, Massachusetts
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Nicholae Ceasescu's Communist Reign in Romania

Anthony Burgess: The Effects of a Repressive Society on a Person’s Free Will

Anthony  Burgess
From the years 1965 to 1989, Communist leader Nicholae Ceausescu ruled Romania. At first the people praised Ceausescu for his defiance of the Soviet Union, but later realized that he was not a national liberator. Ceausescu instituted harsh restrictive policies that robbed Romanian citizens of their freedom. While in office, Ceausescu accumulated a large debt to the West; he exported Romanian crops to finance the debt, leaving Romanians starving. Energy use was restricted, causing people to freeze to death in winter; even light bulbs were rationed. Ceausescu’s paranoia led him to use his secret police force, the Securiate, to protect him from a feared Soviet invasion and to monitor citizens. Ceausescu destroyed many of Romania’s historic buildings in order to construct large apartment buildings for relocated peasants. In 1989 the Romanian people revolted. On Christmas Day, in a two hour trial, Ceausescu and his wife Elena were proven guilty of suspending the constitution, destroying the economy, and genocide. Ceausescu’s practices devastated the lives of many Romanians and left a legacy of darkness.

Anthony Burgess’ authoritarian societies in novels like A Clockwork Orange, reflect the restrictive policies like those of the Ceausescu regime. In this novel, Burgess best depicts his recurring theme. He shows how society and its institutions have the ability to rule over a person, robbing him of his free will. Free will is God’s gift to humanity; whether a human chooses to do good or evil lies within his own morality. A Clockwork Orange investigates a psychopathic teenager, Alex, a gang leader. When Alex is incarcerated, he undergoes a rehabilitation for criminals called the “Ludvico’s Technique.” This program, society’s solution to crime and corruption, makes Alex physically sick when he tries to commit violent acts, conditioning him to do the opposite, which is good. However Burgess questions whether committing evil is more noble than being forced to do something. A good act is good because someone chooses, not because someone has to, because there is that constant threat of punishment. Alex has become a product of his society, an experiment, and solely exists as a machine incapable of moral choice, emphasizing his loss of humanity.

Major Works Consulted:

Burgess, Anthony. A ClockWork Orange. New York: Norton, 1986.
---. Enderby’s Dark Lady. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1984.
Pacepa, Ion M. Red Horizons Chronicles of a Communist Spy Chief. Washington DC: Regenery Gateway, 1987
Sanborne, Mark.. Nations in Transition: Romania. Facts of File, 2004.
Photo Credit: Burgess, Anthony. Enderby’s Dark Lady. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1984.


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