Nadsat is the single most striking literary device that Burgess employs. An invented slang that incorporates mostly Russian and Cockney English, Alex uses nadsat to describe the world of A Clockwork Orange. Its initial effect is one of exclusion and alienation, as the reader actively deals with the foreignness of Alex’s speech. This effect is important because it keeps us removed from the intensely brutal violence that Alex perpetrates. Before we can evaluate Alex’s character, we must first come to identify with him on his terms: to “speak his language,” literally. In this way, Alex implicates us in the remorseless violence he commits throughout most of Part One, and we in turn develop sympathy for him as our narrator. In some sense, then, nadsat is a form of brainwashing—as we develop this new vocabulary, it subtly changes the ways we think about things. Nadsat shows the subtle, subliminal ways that language can control others. As the popular idiom of the teenager, nadsat seems to enter the collective consciousness on a subcultural level, a notion that hints at an undercurrent of burgeoning repression.
Nadsat’s origins also help to illuminate the world that Burgess chooses to depict in the novel. The combination of Russian and English indicates that Alex’s society is inspired by the two major superpowers of Burgess’s time, American capitalist democracy and Soviet Communism, suggesting that the two entities are not as far apart from one another as we might have thought.