Power to Choose
"Does God want goodness or the choice of goodness? Is a man who chooses to be bad perhaps in some way better than a man who has the good imposed upon him?" (Wikiquote.org) Throughout everyones life one is faced with situations where they must choose which path to lead. They can either take a path destruction or a path of goodness. The great thing about being human is the fact we have the power to choose which path to take. But there are many instances where man abuses their freedom and power of choice. Alex from the novel, A Clockwork Orange is no different once he realized he had that power he abused it. A Clockwork Orange is a novel by Anthony Burgess where the main character, Alex, is human and has the power to choose whether to take to a path of violence and corruption or a path of goodness. Throughout the story Burgess shows how Alex abuses this freedom and power for granted, and how abuses it and takes advantage of this choice.
A main symbol that Burgess uses is music which he listens to and loves. It is the only thing in Alex's life that he truly cares for. This music represents the element of his choice and free will. When his ability of choice is robbed in an attempt to better him, he loses his love for music in which he exclaims, "And all the time the music got more and more gromky, like it was all a deliberate torture, O my brothers . . . then I jumped"(Burgess 131). The music that represents his freedom to choose is now gone. He is left without any reason to live. When he realizes that he feels that he is no longer a man and feels loses his sense power of choice.
Burgess shows that through Alex's violent actions, how they represent his abuse of power through his freedom of choice. Alex consistently chooses evil as a means to display his power over the innocent and the good. While beating and raping a young girl, he states with pride, "So he did the strong-man on the devotchka, who was still creeching away . . . in very horror show groodies"(Burgess 22). This proves that he feels he must display his power through his abuse of choice. His love for violence symbolizes his abuse of power as an evil trait, but his love for music symbolizes his good, normal side. In the end of the story Alex decides that he is ready to become a man. During this rapid evolution from adolescence to manhood, Alex chooses a wife, a family, a life, and in essence he chooses well for the first time in the story. "There was your humble narrator . . . I knew what was happening, O my brothers. I was growing up"(Burgess 147). Alex realizes that he may choose well and still maintain a strong element of choice. He becomes stronger because he now realizes which path is the right one to take. He sees that the abuse of the ability of choice is not what makes Man powerful. Its being able to choose the right path to take.
The characterization of Alex is yet another great technique that Burgess uses to prove his point. Burgess uses violence to represent Alexs ability to rebel against society and himself. Alex believes that his decision towards evil proves his freedom of choice it also proves how he abuses his power of choice. He consistently chooses evil and violence to show his power and rebel, "And now I was ready for a bit of twenty-to-one . . . then I cracked this veck"(Imdb.com). Alex beats, rapes, robs and pillages the weak and innocent to prove domination and control, thus proving his choice towards evil. In a society that "lets the young get on to the old . . . there's no law nor order no more"(Burgess 14). He takes on a role of authority in a society of anarchy, and uses violence to portray his abuse of this ascendancy over the weak. Although he is impervious to the choice of good, Alex does not remain ignorant to this choice throughout the entire novel. In the beginning, he believes that violence is the only way to prove his control. This then leads to his loss of control. Only in the very end does Alex finally evolve and become a well-rounded character. He realizes that he does not have to choose evil to be a man.
Proven is his freedom to decide between good and evil. "But where I itty now, O my brothers, is all on my oddy knocky, where you cannot go. Tomorrow is all like sweet flowers"( Kubricks A Clockwork Orange). Alex now knows that his future is open for his choices to lead him. For good or for evil, it is his right to decide, and this is what truly proves his power. Through these thoughts narrated by Alex, he illustrates how horrible it is to be powerless and how it proves through characterization that man develops power through the element of choice.
Alexs thoughts and feelings are told by him through a first person narrative point, Burgess is able to effectively demonstrate how the element of choice is essential to man. Throughout the story, Alex is the narrator for the reader. The only feelings and insight originate from Alex's point of view. Burgess did this purposely so the reader would feel a sense on sympathy toward and Alex and would want to aid him in his journey to good. Even though he commits horrible, senseless acts of violence, they are lightened by his narrated thoughts to prove his control. Alternatively, any attempt to control Alex is shown as a horrendous attack and abuse of power. When the ability to choose independently between good and evil is stripped from Alex, he realizes the importance of choice to his rights as an individual. "I was not your handsome young narrator any longer, but a real strack of a sight"(Burgess 55). Alex has lost all of his rights and control of himself, which leads to his loss of self respect. He has now lost what gave him dominance over the weak, his free will and ability of choice. As stated in the story, "goodness is chosen from within"(Burgess 67). When choice is forced, man no longer has any power within himself. He is told from the prison warden, "When a man cannot choose, he ceases to be a man"(Kubricks A Clockwork Orange). After being told, Alex is still able to sign over his rights as an individual. In each stage, his point of view proves how he loses his natural power as he loses his choice. When Alex regains his ability to decide between good and evil, he narrates, "And there was the slow movement and the lovely last singing . . . I was cured all right"(Burgess139). Through this thought, he proves power through the ability of choice. He once again decides upon evil to display his power through violence. The demonstration of his free will and his loss of power through the absence of choice is effectively accomplished through the use of first person narration.
Throughout this story, choice has proven many aspects of power and its abuse. Through strong symbols, Alex's characterization, and his point of view, the absence of choice is proven as the most devastating and most overlooked depravation of Alexs choices. In everyone's life, the struggle for power exists in all situations. The decision between good and evil is the power that anyone must have as an individual. The choice of which path to take is dependant on the person and the situation, but the realization that the choice is there can make man go crazy.
In 1962, two versions of Anthony Burgesss novel A Clockwork Orange were published. One concludes with Alex growing up and turning away from violence, while the second, darker version leaves out that final chapter. Kubrick based his film on this second version. The first version, published first in England, has twenty-one chapters, as Burgess intended it to. Burgess believed that all individuals, even those as violent as Alex, could reform, and in this version, moral growth comes with age. However, Burgesss U.S. editor felt that the twenty-first chapter was bland and showed an unwillingness to accept that a human being could be a model of unregenerable evil. (Spark Notes) Burgess then said he originally agreed to publish the U.S. version without its final chapter only because he needed the money. In 1971 Stanley Kubrick, a director and writer from the Bronx who wrote and directed films like Full Metal Jacket and The Shining, read the U.S. version of the novel and made his film without knowing about the twenty-first chapter. When he eventually read it, he still claimed to prefer the darker version of the story. (Spark Notes) The film was a huge success where it received 4 nominations at the Academy Awards, including best picture and best directo