A Clockwork Orange
There have been many books published solely on philosophy, and many more than that solely written about human nature, but very infrequently will a book be published that weaves these fields together as well as A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess. In this Book, Burgess speculated on the fact the significance of maturing by choice is to gain moral values and freedoms. (Nietzsche 80) He achieved this task by pushing his angsty teenaged character, Alex, through situations that challenge the moral values of himself and his friends. In the novel, A Clockwork Orange, Alex must choose good over evil in order to gain moral values which will allow him to mature from a boy into a man.
First, When Alex is introduced; he is a depicted as a disillusioned, corrupted youth. He is the stereotype of what parents dont want their children to be, possibly what parents blame on the media. Although this much is known about Alex, what caused this behavior in him is a mystery. Could it have been an alcoholic abusive father, a mother whose high expectations were only belittled by her sons violence, or was he just affected by the ultraviolent society in which he lives in? Although this question goes unanswered, it is discovered why it is that Alex does recover from his moral laxness as we focus on his journey, venturing through his clockwork conscience, to finally result in him becoming a man.
The life of Alex takes place in an unspecified country that shares aspects of both Russian and American society (Kilvert 190). The novel takes place in a strange futuristic land whose moral values seem to differ greatly from present day. Since the novel is written from his point of view, the reader is expected to sympathize with Alex despite his brutal acts of violence and rape. (Plomer 469) The reader finds out early in the book that Alex is fond of Beethoven and other classical music. He appreciates art and other various forms of self-expression. When Alex is with his friends he seems to be the brains of his droogs (friend), and is revered as the leader. Therefore, although these good qualities draw the reader closer to Alex, it is nearly impossible to condone his acts of heartless violence.
Throughout the book, Alex commits many atrocities. He rapes two intoxicated girls, nearly kills a homeless man, crippling a writer for life and killing his wife. There are no signs in the book pointing to a reason for this violent behavior. Ian Scott Kilvert, a literary critic said The bourgeois middle class in the novel have become so quiet and so passive that the young who have succeeded them have chosen evil as their way of life, as assertion of the will. During Alexs last and most grand acts of ultraviolence, his conspiring droogs called the police on him, which resulted in a fourteen-year sentence in jail.
After spending only two years in prison before becoming anxious to get out, He passes a lot of his time talking to the Prison Chaplain, helping serve mass and at the same time expands his knowledge of the Bible and God. Through all of this religious refinement Alex still doesnt have any remorse for the things he has done, and he doesnt let it affect his violence in the future. In fact, Alex goes on to kill another inmate while in prison. As a result of this murder Alex was sent away for a new type of treatment that would defiantly cure him of his evil in roughly two weeks. This treatment is called Ludovicos treatment (Plomer 107). It disables a human from making any choice other than a good choice. This treatment transforms him via electroshock therapy and films of Nazi-like horrors into an emotionally neutered creature, sickened by even art, music, and sex (Parker 387). Soon before he is sent to his new treatment, the Prison Chaplain and Alex have a deep and foreshadowing conversation. In this conversation the Prison Chaplain states, When a man ceases to choose, he ceases to be a man" (Burgess 67). Ludovicos treatment made Alex physically ill whenever he was encountered with a potentially evil situation; therefore, it made it impossible for him to be able to make his own choice of right or wrong. Although this sounds like a great solution, it caused more trouble than it prevented. It rendered Alex incapacitated whenever he was physically assaulted, leaving him an open target for all battering. Once released from his treatment, he is encountered by his vengeful droogs who take advantage of his disability. He is also beaten and abused by those whom he has hurt, especially the crippled man whose wife he had killed. (Werner 5)
During this time, Alex is what Burgess describes as a Clockwork Orange, he Becomes a piece of machinery (Parker 387). He operates as if programmed, and makes nearly no decision for himself. Everyone is in some sense a clockwork orange, a victim of his or her society, compelled to act in a social order that celebrates only power, manipulation, and control (Magill 469). Alex now realizes what the government has done to him. Friedrich Nietzche said, Nobody wants to do harm to himself, therefore all that is bad is done involuntary. For the bad do harm to themselves: this they would not do if they knew that the bad is bad. Hence the bad are bad only because of an error; if one removes the error, one necessarily makes them-good (103).
Soon after, Alex ends up in the hospital in an attempted suicide. He leaped out of a four story window in hopes of ending his pain and suffering for good. He didnt succeed in killing himself, but he did end his pain. Somehow in the course of the injury the Ludovicos treatment wore off. Alex first notices this as he is lying in the hospital bed and he remarks to a nurse What gives, O my little sister? Come thou and have a nice lay-down with your malenky droog in this bed (Burgess 170). While Alex was still cured he would not have been able to say such a thing without feeling an overwhelming sickness and vomiting sensation. (Werner 6)
After recovering from his physical injuries, Alex takes to the streets again and finds a new group of droogs. Look, droogies. Listen. Tonight I am somehow just not in the mood. I know not why or how it is, but there it is. You three go your own ways this nightwise, leaving me out (Burgess 185). This point in the book marks Alexs second metamorphosis. It is similar to the first in the way that he changes from good to bad, but different in that the first change was forced, and this was a change in his heart. Alex becomes sick of his old ways and wants to change. At this point he meets up with his old droog, Pete. Pete is now married and happily settled down. Alex realizes that this is the lifestyle he wants to pursue. Now it becomes obvious to the reader that Alex has truly matured. He has turned into a mature person of increasingly reputable morals. Alex wants to break away from the group and adopts more the philosophy that Madness is rare in individualsbut in groups, parties, nations, and ages it is the rule (Nietzsche 90).
Finally, it is seen that Alex has effectively changed into a man and has become a morally sensitive individual. He, for himself has chosen good over evil. It is realized that in being unable to choose, one is not at liberty and free will is taken away. Alex was able to make two evolutions. He evolved from a machine into a human, and the evolved from a human choosing evil, to a human choosing good.