A Clockwork Orange
Yin and Yang
Black and white, morning and night: the world fills itself with conflicting forces that must coexist in order for it to run smoothly. Forces like diversity and the fear of terrorism or competition and the desire to peacefully live with one another must both be present in order for one to survive. Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange also contains this idea, “Duality is the key to Burgess’s view of reality; he believes the essence of reality is its double nature” (Kennard 87). Burgess believes there is an equilibrium that allows each force to live side by side. Harsh, foreign language and the characterization used throughout A Clockwork Orange create a novel filled with dualities and contribute to the message that opposite but coequal forces make up the composition of Burgess’s world. Alex and his droogs, or friends, speak in Burgess’s invented slang throughout the novel. This quirky language keeps the reader in the dark for much of the novel, until they begin to the grasp it around the middle of the novel. Teenagers in A Clockwork Orange’s dystopia use Nadsat mainly when describing violent scenes, “Burgess relies principally on an odd language he has devised—a mixture of current English, archaic English, and anglicized Russian (today, yesterday, and the future)” (Aggeler 86). Only the youth utilize this composite language though, saying things like, “There was a bit of shuffling with nozhes and bike-chains and the like” (Burgess 43). This creates a striking difference in the way the teenagers and adults communicate in the novel. Some readers may get frustrated with the language, finding it hard to follow along, but “There is something about the novel so frightening that it demanded a new language, and something so immanent in the message of the novel that it refused to be separated from the language” (Petix 4). Once the reader pushes past the confusion, they begin to grasp onto it quickly; this allows the reader to see the humor Alex possesses but also allows a full understanding of the brutal violence of which Alex is capable. When Alex once again sees Pete, one of his old droogs, the difference in language between the youth and maturity clearly appears. When they recognize each other, Alex uses the old slang that was once familiar to both of them, only to have Pete’s wife giggle, “He talks funny, doesn’t he?” (Burgess 208). Now that Pete grew out of his reckless, teenage years he has shed the slang that marked him as a nuisance to society. He now speaks in normal, everyday language explaining to the shocked Alex of his marriage, “I’m nearly twenty. Old enough to be hitched, and it’s been two months already” (Burgess 209). The meeting between the two old droogs leaves Alex feeling bored of his usual, violent life, “Alex at first seems predestined to do evil, but as he matures he is transformed into a complete opposite person.” (Rabinovitz 15). When analyzing A Clockwork Orange’s duality of youth versus maturity, the language in this meeting is a pivotal part. The language shows the reader how they are two distinct entities, but yet one age group is not more important than other. They need one another to exist. The thoroughly developed characters in A Clockwork Orange serve well in developing another duality in the novel: man versus government. Throughout the novel, the government progressively becomes more and more oppressive, in an attempt to stamp out any trace of in the individual. They are solely focused on the upkeep of the state, “Burgess dislikes the control the state has over individuals because it limits individual freedom” (Galens 10). By the time Alex has been released from prison after completing the Ludovico experimentation, the rozz were out in full force in order to keep the people suppressed. Dim, one of Alex’s old friends that he bullied, and Billyboy, an old enemy of Alex’s, happened to be the policemen that were called when Alex was a part of a fight at the library. This was a corrupted time however, so the policemen took Alex out in the woods to beat him up, “It is not right, not always, for lewdies in the town to viddy to much of our summary punishment. Streets much be kept clean in more than one way” (Burgess 168). Dim and Billyboy were aggressive and unnecessarily cruel to Alex while reprimanding him. Despite the many crimes Alex has committed, the reader still feels sorry for him, “Without Alex’s redeeming qualities, readers would simply see his as morally repulsive” (Rabinovitz16). They don’t think of Alex as morally repulsive though, because they have gotten to know him throughout the novel; instead, they think the government and the rozz repulsive for what they did to Alex. Without these two characters and another, the Minister of the Interior, the government’s encroachment on the individual would not be as evident. In the pursuit of a society focused on stability, the Minister of the Interior, a character who acquired his position during Alex’s incarceration, implements two policies that can achieve his goals, both of which greatly affect Alex’s life. When he steps into power, he decides to bring the government in full control of the prison sector. The Minister of Interior or Inferior, as Alex calls him, decides prisons should be used only for the politically nonconforming, meaning all criminals must be cleared out, “common criminals like this unsavoury crowed can best be dealt with on a purely curative basis” (Burgess 102). He puts into place a brainwashing experiment, called Ludovico’s Technique, that can erase all criminal tendencies by making one associate violent actions with being physically ill. Not caring of the subsequent side effects that can come with this technique, the Minister of Interior or Inferior claims to have criminals fixed in just over two weeks. The individual people are at the whim of the government when this experiment occurs; the government has an agenda and the people can not stand in their way. Always trying to spin any situation into the government’s favor, the Minister of Interior or Inferior still uses Alex when the experiment goes wrong. After he was driven to kill himself due to a side effect from Ludovico’s Technique, the minister ordered his scientists to set Alex back to his normal state, saying “I and the Government of which I am a member of want you to regard us as friends” (Burgess 197). Then he brought in cameras and newspapers that would see Alex shake his hand so all knew that the government was still Alex’s friend, despite the fact that “Alex’s treatment turned him into a perpetual victim” (Rabinovitz 15). In A Clockwork Orange, the government always manages to weasel its way back into having a good image largely because of the many impressionable citizens who trust fully in it. The major duality in A Clockwork Orange is free will versus suppression. The Minister of the Interior’s Ludovico Technique represents much of the suppression in the novel. It deletes the choice for criminals; their only option is to be good citizens, that is unless that can take the pain of feeling horribly sick, “Alex’s ‘good behavior’ after his treatment will only be an illusionary good for society” (“A Clockwork Orange” 2). Alex and the Prison Chaplain form a strong bond while Alex is in the state jail because the chaplain allowed Alex to listen to his beloved classical music and read the Old Testament, an activity he loved because of all the violence it contains. When Alex goes to inform the Chaplain that he will be undergoing the conditioning, the “Charlie” as Alex calls him becomes very emotional. The Charlie doesn’t agree with the technique, “I know I shall have many sleepless nights about this. What does God want? Does God want goodness or the choice of goodness? Is a man who chooses the bad perhaps in some way better than a man who has the good imposed upon him? Deep and hard questions, little 6655321” (Burgess 106). The Charlie’s tearful talk with Alex provides major questioning to the government taking away free will from criminals, “Burgess asserts that the freely chosen life, even the evil freely chosen life, is superior to the passive existence of the automaton” (“A Clockwork Orange” 2). He would rather a world in which the people choose how to act, and a government in which they don’t take the easy way out by brainwashing its citizens to do only good. In the end, the government does allow Alex to have his free will back. They are only saving their image though, they would much rather have citizens that are conditioned to get sick at the thought of violence than violent citizens that fill up their jail space. Alex at first reverts back to his old ways of bullying with a new gang, but eventually he chooses to change his life. His makes this choice with his own, clearly thinking mind, “I felt this bolshy big hollow inside my plott, feeling very surprised too at myself. I knew what was happening. I was growing up” (Burgess 211). It is much more fulfilling to the reader for Alex to desire to be good than when Alex was forced by the government to be good, “Finally grown up and fully prepared to accept the difficult challenges of self hood, Alex no longer chose the easier road to ultra-violence, opting instead to embark upon a lifetime of familial commitment and human renewal” (Davis 9). Though seemingly necessary to the novel, the final chapter in which Alex makes the choice to turn away from violence was not present in the American version of the novel at first. Later it was added because, “Burgess has said the he wrote the twenty-first chapter partly to symbolize the age of reason toward which Alex is moving; he is only eighteen at the end, so his insight is clearly only a first halting step toward maturity” (Cullinan 2). Twenty-one is the age when children are to become adults, when they are to have the full responsibilities that mark them as capable in the world. Without the twenty-first chapter in which Alex chooses maturity out of his own free will, the novel could not have been complete. A fourth duality, the battle between good and evil, rages on in Burgess’s novel. A Clockwork Orange, “explores the ideas of good and evil by asking what it means to be human” (Galens 6). The character he creates named F. Alexander shows how thin the line is between the two sides. When Alex first shows up beaten and weary on F. Alexander’s doorstep, he warmly takes him in saying, “God help you, you poor victim, come in and let’s have a look at you” (Burgess 171). We learn that F. Alexander has long been fighting the government and strongly opposes the Ludovico Technique that they performed on Alex. F. Alexander provides a room for Alex, he cooks for him, and he talks openly to him. One would think that he was a very good, caring man, until F. Alexander suspects Alex of brutally raping his wife a few years ago, “For, by Christ, if he were I’d tear him. I’d split him, by God, yes yes, So I would” (Burgess 184). Because of Alex and his droogs, F. Alexander now lives alone. F. Alexander’s suspicions are enough to turn him from a man caring for Alex’s well being to a man who could kill him without regret. F. Alexander and his friends take Alex and lock him up inside and apartment in which classical musical is blaring through the walls. Alex can not stand this music, because a side effect to his conditioning included classical music also making him feel sick along with violence. There is nothing Alex can do to stop the music but kill himself, “Then I got on the sill, the music blasting away to my left, and I shut my glazzies and felt the cold wind on my litso, then I jumped” (Burgess 188). F. Alexander no longer cared about Alex, his love for his wife overcame his good character. He decided to hurt Alex in order to prove a point about the government’s conditioning technique instead of proving his point in a less shocking way than Alex’s death. The duality between Alex and F. Alexander is easy to discover, since they both have the same name. Though the similarities between the two characters end there. Alex is both impulsive and desires to always be the dominant force with his droogs, though “Alex becomes a character readers sympathize with, due to his artistic consciousness” (Semansky 12). F. Alexander is far more introverted. He secludes himself in his house on the outskirts of town and finds joy in quiet activities, like writing. Burgess created these characters to balance each other, “Many of the characteristics of Alex and Alexander may be resolved into examples of extremes that follow the pattern of polar antithesis, predator and victim; uncontrolled libido (rape) and controlled libido (husband); youth and adults; man of action and man of ideas; destroyer and creator; conservative and liberal; alienated man and integrated man” (Semansky 14).The two characters, despite their polar opposite behaviors, are deeply connected however. One of Alex’s many victims of his brutal rapings includes F. Alexander’s late wife. Alex and his droogs broke into his house one night and forced him to watch the boys rape his wife while also savagely beating the couple. F. Alexander’s wife took her own life after this incident. When Alex later is drawn to the same home after being beaten by the rozz, they soon both realize that they have met before under very bad circumstances. Alex and F. Alexander have a yin and yang relationship. Burgess sets forth the idea that “there is a cycle of recurring phases in which each young man undergoes a period of existence as a violent, mechanical man; then he matures, gets greater freedom of choice, and his violence subsides” (Rabinovitz 18), so perhaps F. Alexander was once a violent teenager like Alex, but now he has matured. Alex and F. Alexander are on complete opposite sides of the spectrum, but they still must interact with one another because they have a deep connection that draws the two together. Through Alex’s violent, yet funny narrative Burgess conveys to the reader that the world composes itself of polarities. These polarities help to balance each other, creating room for choice and room for individualism. The novel has so many different parts and ideas being explored, but yet they are able to all come together as one to tell Alex’s unbelievable story, “A Clockwork Orange is meant to serve as an example of the sort of work that can truly reconcile opposing values” (Rabinovitz 19). The work Burgess creates bridges the gap between the incredibly immoral Alex and the mostly moral readers that soak in Alex’s story, but that is not all. Burgess bridges the gap between many different entities in order to create a novel that can speak universally. With the use of Nadsat and extreme characters, Burgess shows us that opposite views can exist without one always dominating the other. Burgess’s point has been proved time and time again throughout history—we are always told that opposites attract. In beginner science classes, we learn this with magnets, and later, in relationships, we learn it again. Without an opposing force, nothing could exist. To have free will, a necessity for suppression exists; to have good, we sadly need evil. Works Cited“A Clockwork Orange.” Facts on File 2.102 (29 Oct. 2007): 1-2. Aggeler, Geoffrey. Incest and the Artist: Anthony Burgess’s MF as Summation. Indiana: Purdue Research Foundation, 1973. Rpt. in Contemporary Literary Criticism. Ed. Carolyn Riley and Barbara Harte. Vol. 2. Detroit: Gale Research, 1974. 85-87. Burgess, Anthony. A Clockwork Orange. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1986. Cullinan, John. “Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange: Two Versions” English Language Notes IX.4(1972):287-92. Literature Resources Center. GaleNet. Tarrant County College Lib., Fort Worth, Tx. 29 Oct 2007.
Clockwork Orange: The Last Chapter
In many ways, the controversial last chapter of Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange undermines the novel’s fundamental premise. Alex’s unforeseen transformation from a sadistic criminal into a consciously reformed and mature individual is not only poorly explained, but also completely absurd. Therefore, the work as a whole is undoubtedly better without the twenty-first chapter. From the start, Alex’s character fascinates as a cruel, corrupted youth with a thirst for “the old ultra-violence.” As the first seven chapters of the novel chronicle his twisted acts of the “nochy,” it becomes clear that violence is Alex’s art form. He is passionate about his work and sets to perform every piece of it with meticulous care, saying, “you should never look as though you have been” in a fight. This passion is essential throughout the novel, because it keeps the reader empathetic to Alex: No matter how atrocious his crimes are, everyone can identify with a man’s burning desire to express himself. Thus, the reader shares Alex’s anxiety when the State strips him of his ability to commit violence by brainwashing him through Ludovico’s Technique, forcing him to “be just like a clockwork orange.” Following his release from the State as a “free man,” Alex’s struggles to regain his freedom pull the audience further to his side. Therefore, when the twentieth chapter ends with Alex finally being able to “slooshy the lovely music” without the “pain and the sickness…and going oh oh oh,” it seems like a triumphant end. The reader is free to imagine what acts Alex will commit upon the “creeching world with [his] cut-throat britva,” and is proud and pleased that Alex has come out from all of his suffering victorious and unchanged. Yet the last chapter takes this glory away, as it immediately reveals an Alex whose passion for violence has dimmed. This reformed Alex is “very bored and a bit hopeless” in his nighttime routine, as he chooses to quickly punch a victim in the stomach rather than toy with him first or “carve his litso.” In many ways, it is a disappointment to watch Alex decide to conform to the adult world after having fought so hard to be free from its laws. Aside from this irony, the last chapter’s depiction of Alex’s maturity is preposterous. Although it can be assumed that some time has passed since his release from the hospital, Alex’s transformation still seems very sudden and hard to believe. It is discomfiting to think that Alex is now ready to settle down and not only find a mate but also father a child when he has spent the last several years mocking and inflicting pain upon such households, like that of F. Alexander and his wife. Alex’s sudden desire to fill his “bolshy big hollow” by “coming home from work to a good hot plate of dinner and… a ptitsa all welcoming and greeting like loving” seemingly comes out of nowhere, rendering him someone who is average and uninteresting. Furthermore, the fact that much of this desire is sparked by an unexpected run-in with his old “droog” Pete is clichÃ©d and sad. The old Alex would have made his ex-droogs “yowl and creech” for being traitors; he would have laughed in Pete’s face instead of being awed and inspired by his reformed lifestyle. However, this new Alex is instead inclined to cut out a picture of a “baby gurgling goo goo goo with all like moloko dribbling from its rot,” a sight impossible to imagine after seeing Alex gleefully beat, rape and torture countless innocent victims. Even if Alex was to eventually grow out of the “ultra-violence and crasting,” maturity takes a considerable amount of time. Condensing it all into one chapter does show particularly well that Alex is growing up, especially after the reader has become so used to and even fond of the Alex who once spoke of his love for unnecessary violence. The last chapter’s attempt to illustrate Alex’s maturation is both unrealistic and disappointing. Alex’s new quest to create a family and be a good citizen completely removes the victory of Alex having regained his free will. As he embarks on his transformed life, the reader is left both disheartened by his quieted passion for violence and confused as to exactly how and why Alex has grown up. Most importantly, the audience does want to simply “remember sometimes thy little Alex that was”–they want to see him and know that he still exists.
The Omitted Chapter
The new American edition of the novel A Clockwork Orange features a final chapter that was omitted from the original American edition against the author’s preference. Anthony Burgess, the novel’s author, provided for the new edition an introduction to explain not only the significance of the twenty-first chapter but also the purpose of the entire book which was the fundamental importance of moral choice. Burgess states that the twenty-first chapter was intended to show the maturation or moral progress of the youthful protagonist, Alex. The omission of the twenty-first chapter resulted, according to Burgess, in the reduction of the novel from fiction to fable, something untrue to life. Human beings change, and Burgess wanted his protagonist to mature rather than stay in adolescent aggression. The twenty-first chapter shows this change, and the chapter is important because it includes Alex’s mature assessment of his own adolescence and shows the importance of maturity to moral freedom which is Burgess’s main point. Burgess has presented his definition of moral freedom in both his introduction and in his novel. This definition will be discussed and it will be shown how Burgess relates it to three kinds of clockwork oranges.Burgess’s definition of moral freedom as the ability to perform both good and evil is presented by implication in his discussion of the first kind of clockwork orange. In his introduction, he states that if one “can only perform good or only perform evil, then he is a clockwork orange – meaning that he has the appearance of an organism lovely with colour and juice but is in fact only a clockwork toy to be wound up by God or the Devil or (since this is increasingly replacing both) the Almighty State.” Burgess goes on to say, “It is as inhuman to be totally good as it is to be totally evil. The important thing is moral choice. Evil has to exist along with good, in order that moral choice may operate.” This hypothetical type of clockwork orange nowhere appears in the novel because Alex is neither totally good nor totally evil but a mixture of both. This remains true even after Alex’s conditioning by the Government. It is true that the Government tries to make Alex totally good through conditioning; however, since it is a coerced goodness, against Alex’s will, total goodness is not achieved.Burgess is correct when he states that evil has to exist along with good in order that moral choice may operate. He is not correct, however, when he states that it is inhuman to be totally good. He does not consider the possibility of totally good human beings that consistently choose good, either morally or amorally. One can have a perfectly good environment such as Heaven or the Garden of Eden where evil is only a possibility awaiting actualization by the free choice of totally good beings such as Lucifer the archangel or Adam the first man. Good beings may cause evil, and moral freedom only requires that one knows a possibility is evil before one chooses it. Only then can moral guilt be valid. If beings can only choose good or only choose evil, then they do not have moral freedom and the concepts of reward and punishment do not apply. Burgess calls such beings ‘clockwork oranges’ and says that they would be inhuman. Personally, I wouldn’t use the word ‘inhuman’. I prefer the word ‘amoral’ and believe that it is possible to have amoral humans who are still free. Such humans would not be clockwork toys that have no free choices. They would be created beings with plenty of free choices but no moral ones. In other words, the ability to do evil is missing or removed. All choices would be amoral. Such, I believe, will be the state of those humans who enter Heaven. There will be no sin and suffering in the future Heaven because I think that God will remove the possibility of sin and suffering. Only amoral good will be possible. This is a personal opinion which I think the Christian scriptures allow.Although Burgess considers one kind of clockwork orange inhuman, he does allow for another kind of clockwork orange that is human. Burgess’s little Alex is a clockwork orange until he reaches maturity in the twenty-first chapter. Stanley Hyman, a literary critic, provided an afterword for the original American edition of A Clockwork Orange. In it he states that “Alex always was a clockwork orange, a machine for mechanical violence far below the level of choice…”. One must remember that this afterword was written for an edition in which the important twenty-first chapter was missing. In that chapter, Alex himself states: Youth must go, ah yes. But youth is only being in a way like it might be an animal. No, it is not just like being an animal so much as being like one of these malenky toys you viddy being sold in the streets, like little chellovecks made out of tin and with a spring inside and then a winding handle on the outside and you wind it up grr grr grr and off it itties, like walking, O my brothers. But it itties in a straight line and bangs straight into things bang bang and it cannot help what it is doing. Being young is like being like one of these malenky machines. Alex goes on to apply this condition to his own hypothetical son and says that even if he explained this condition to him, he wouldn’t understand or want to understand. He would probably end up killing somebody and Alex wouldn’t be able to stop him any more than he would be able to stop his own son. And this repetition of youthful, clockwork aggression would continue until the end of the world. This repetition is compared to someone, like God, continuously turning an orange in his hands. Also, for the perceptive reader, it is compared to the repetition of the phrase “what’s it going to be then, eh?” which begins the first chapter of each part until Alex states his intention of finding a wife to mother his son which is “like a new chapter beginning”. He then concludes, “That’s what it’s going to be then, brothers, as I come to the like end of this tale.” Alex grows up and becomes morally responsible. He is no longer a human clockwork orange.Alex was also a clockwork orange after being conditioned in prison. In other words, he was a clockwork orange in two different senses at the same time. But this conditioning will be addressed later, after we examine the state of his being a clockwork orange by nature. Alex’s adolescent state was not a case of total evil which Burgess calls an inhuman type of clockwork orange. Immature Alex was a mixture of good and evil possibilities with evil taking the upper hand. He liked the good of classical music even if he associated it with the evils of violence. What made Alex a type of clockwork orange was his lack of a moral sense of obligation that made him “bang straight into things” as he put it. Burgess defines this lack of moral obligation in Part One, Chapter Four, where Alex says he does evil because he likes it just as some people do good because they like it. According to Alex, what causes good or evil is desire. There is no sense of moral obligation or the possibility of moral guilt hovering over Alex when he chooses evil. He chooses evil because he likes it, nothing more. Instead of choosing good by a sense of moral obligation, his behavior is conditioned by his desires and in that sense he is a clockwork orange. One understandable complaint that may be raised against the novel is the fact that Alex appears to know that what he is doing is evil because he says so. He associates himself with the ‘bad shop’. So how can it be said that he lacks a sense of moral obligation and, therefore, lacks moral freedom? The only answer I can give is that maybe the immature Alex had no personal sense of obligation even if he knew that his behavior was called ‘bad’ or ‘evil’ by his society. This interpretation would save Burgess from an apparent contradiction by having Alex associate his youth with a wind-up toy which is the opposite of moral freedom. But this interpretation is weak because Alex’s sarcasm throughout the novel implies that he really believes that some of his behavior is evil and he occasionally feigns sincerity to social authorities in order to better his condition. Also, Alex appears on occasion to sincerely protest the evil of others and on one occasion even calls his conditioning against classical music a “sin”. So, one is left with what appears to be a contradiction and the twenty-first chapter does not seem to resolve it. Perhaps a deeper analysis of this novel will.The adolescent Alex was operating under what Burgess in his introduction calls ‘Original Sin’. Original sin is the natural and repetitive violence that occurs under the providence of God and will continue until the end of the world, as the mature Alex points out. The term ‘Original Sin’ is theological and refers to Adam’s first sin and its effects as inherited from his descendants. The doctrine states that everyone inherits a sinful nature and physical death as a result of Adam’s sin. There are differences of opinion among Christians as to whether Adam’s guilt was also imputed to his descendants. Those who follow the tradition of John Calvin (1509 – 1564) hold that all are guilty with Adam for their sinful natures. On the other hand, those who follow the tradition of Jacobus (or James) Arminius (1560 – 1609) hold that a sinful nature and physical death are inherited from Adam but guilt occurs only from a personal choice to sin which is possible only after one reaches an age of moral accountability.There is a third tradition, following Pelagius (360 – 420), that denys original sin altogether. This tradition is referenced in Burgess’s introduction when he mentions his own “Pelagian unwillingness to accept that a human being could be a model of unregenerable evil”. This reference is a bit misleading because Burgess seems to agree with the idea of original sin shared by both Reformed Calvinists and Arminians and is merely disagreeing with the idea of unregenerable evil. Aside from the question of guilt, both Calvinists and Arminians agree that all humans inherit a sinful nature that is played out automatically in youth until the time when maturity brings moral perception which does not remove original sin but at least checks it. One thing that is debatable is when youths in general become morally perceptive. Burgess seems to say that it occurs at around eighteen years of age, the time when Alex starts reflecting and changing his ways in chapter twenty-one. But irregardless of the age, the point is that it does occur and naturally so. It is not something that is freely chosen. Moral freedom is possible only after moral perception is given by God. Only God, not humans, can create moral freedom.The third type of clockwork orange is the one which Alex undergoes when he is conditioned by the Government against certain desires for violence and classical music. This type of clockwork orange is easily confused with the one previously discussed because of differing definitions of moral freedom. Some think that doing what you desire is moral freedom whereas others, like myself, think that doing what you know you ought to do is moral freedom. Desires can be good or evil, so the difference is between doing what you feel verses doing what you know is right or wrong. I reject the Reformed Calvinist position which holds that the will always chooses according to its strongest inclination at the moment. I believe that the will can reject its strongest inclination if it knows that it is wrong. Only then is one morally free. To be moved by nothing but desires is to be a clockwork orange as Alex was before he became morally responsible.Mortimer J. Adler, a contemporary American philosopher, in his Philosophical Dictionary, distinguishes three fundamental types of freedom. One type is circumstantial freedom. This is the freedom to do as one pleases. Alex loses his ability to do certain things he wants to do because he is conditioned to feel physically sick whenever certain things are desired. What makes this type of clockwork orange so interesting and controversial is the fact that circumstantial freedom is the type of freedom that the Government restricts whenever it locks up somebody for breaking the law. Prisons are intended to restrict circumstantial freedom so that murderers and rapists, for example, can’t murder and rape any more. But, as the novel shows, this is no guarantee against “crime in the midst of punishment”. A man is murdered in prison. So, the Government in the novel moves this restriction of circumstantial freedom from the physical to the psychological realm by the use of conditioning. Alex becomes a walking prison! He is conditioned by physical sickness to refrain from fulfilling the evil desires he wants to fulfill.The Government’s move from the physical to the psychological realm raises the question of whether moral freedom, which occurs in the psychological realm, can be removed. This question is valid even without considering whether youthful Alex, before his conditioning, had moral freedom or not. The novel’s prison chaplain, and possibly Burgess also, was terribly worried that such conditioning could remove the possibility of moral choice. I, however, do not think it can. Moral pain (felt guilt) is different than physical pain. Alex, apparently, didn’t feel any moral pain when he indulged in ultra-violence. But even if he had, such guilt would not be strong enough to stop him from performing acts of violence. On the other hand, his conditioning, based on physical pain, did stop him from performing acts of violence. My contention is that moral freedom could co-exist with the conditioning because moral freedom does not require physical performance as much as mental assent, even if the mental assent results in physical sickness. Also, since only God can give moral freedom, only he can remove it.None of the previous observations, however, should be taken as consenting to psychological or behavioural conditioning. The intent was only to emphasize the difference between moral and circumstantial freedom. The moral protest to such conditioning is based on the fact that no human has the right to say who should be conditioned and who shouldn’t as if some humans (like Doctors Brodsky and Branom in the novel) are morally perfect. As Alex points out, the ones who made the films he had to watch are just as bad, if not more so, than the criminals performing the gruesome acts in the films. Why should he have to be sick when watching those films when Brodsky and others sit around and say how excellent the whole thing is. This, I believe, is the novel’s most powerful point. It basically states that there are no morally perfect humans since original sin infects everybody and willful sin is still possible. Human governments cannot make individuals morally perfect (‘a true Christian’ as Dr. Brodsky said) so they shouldn’t try. Attempts to do so will only result in a conditioned type of clockwork orange, a coerced goodness, and not a natural or chosen one. It is the mutual responsibility of God and the individual to reach moral perfection; the one giving moral freedom and removing original sin and the other rightly exercising that freedom to include acceptance of God’s forgiveness for willful sin.
The Gospel According To Alex – A Clockwork Orange
“The woman looked at the tree: the fruit would be good to eat; it was pleasing to the eye and desirable for the knowledge it could give. So she took some and ate it; she also gave some to her husband and he ate it. Then they eyes of both of them were opened . . . and the Lord God called to man and said, “What’s it going to be, eh?”The answer is the choice of humanity: to seek after God, or to follow one’s own natural desires. To question whether God exists and is the truth is irrelevant. He is in the Bible and in the world of Alex. Like Adam and Eve in the Garden, the Lord asks Burgess’ protagonist the same question Moses asked his Israelites: I have given you the ability to choose. Choose for yourself this day whom you will serve. (Joshua 24:15) Some may say that Alex’s choices were all determined by the society he lived in, but they are no more than any of the choices that we, as humans possessed of free will, make. At some point the responsibility has to lie with the person making the choice, and not in the situation. The choices that Alex makes compose his own version of the Bible’s salvation story: anarchic sinfulness of the lawless man, sanctification that changes outward actions but not the heart within, rebellion against this sanctification that leads to death, and final redemption through love. His story is the Gospel according to Alex.”There is no one righteous; no, not one . . . All have swerved aside, all alike have become debased.” (Romans 3:12)Alex opens the novel as the perfect Kierkegardan aesthetic man. What’s it going to be, eh? It’s going to be, for a painful while, Kierkegard’s first stage of man. The aesthetic is above all concerned with his own individual existence, and the sensory experiences he can obtain through that existence. That is Alex. After he rapes the children he says, “I lay there dirty and nagoy and fair shagged and fagged on the bed.” (46) Moreover, because the aesthetic cares only about himself, he enjoys his solitude and secrecy. Alex, of course, is this in spades. He locks himself in his room and removes himself from his family, “I gave him a straight dirty glazzy, as to say mind his own and I’d mind mine.” (49) He is supremely individualistic.Fittingly, so is everyone around him the millicents, the governor, his parents there is no communion in this world because they do not share any common belief or purpose. The reason is perhaps as simple as Alex says, “Badness is of the self, the one, the you or on odd knockies . . . what I do I do because I like to do.” (40) Later, when the government chooses to reform Alex, they follow this same rule, not because individualism is wrong, but like Alex and F. Alexander, they wish to create their aesthetic world where their own individualism is the only one that exists. This is why Alex hurts people, not only because he enjoys violence, but because those whom he hurts do not further his own individual purpose. Human society is his society, and once anyone stops serving that society, then he stops serving any purpose in life (23). Alex is the first modern utilitarian killer. Alone, the aesthetic sits in moral darkness.”In the beginning . . . darkness was over the surface of the deep.” (Genesis 1:1-2)The darkness is the realm of the aesthetic man. All of Alex’s actions take place in the dark, literally and figuratively. They travel by night then reside in the den of iniquity, the Korona Milk Bar, “there was no law yet against pridding dome of the new vesches which these used to put in the old moloko.” (1) Moreover, just as Adam and Eve hid their sin from god with fig leaves, similarly Alex and his droogs use darkness and disguise to hide from their god, the government. They do this with words as well. Not only is Nadsat a degenerative symbol of the West’s Cold War defeat, but it is an attempt by Alex to disguise his depravity. Instead of rape and assault he says the “in-and-out” and “tolchok”. Like Adam and Eve’s fig leaves, Alex’s darkness and disguise is necessary to create the beauty that he relishes.”Now the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose.” (Gen. 6:2)This beauty is what the aesthetic man searches for. Like the angels, Alex sees beauty and he takes it. When he finds a woman, he performs the old “in-and-out” on anyone he pleases. When he fights with Billyboy’s gang, their battle is like a waltz: thrust, parry, thrust, thrust, and first position again (17). When he fights with his brothers, it is art in action, a dance “I counted odin, dva, tree, and went ak, ak, ak . . . . So I swished . . . and I slashed . . . up, cross, cut.” (54) Like the builders in Babel who tried to make a “tower that reaches to the heavens” (Gen 11:3), so too does Alex want beauty just for his own selfish sake. Nevertheless, it is a beauty that, while detestable, is understandable in light of the world he lives in. The government has removed all the real beauty, art, theatre, literature, from the world. Alex’s replacement is violence. It uses the same human passions, stirring the same emotions as art does. This is why Alex continually destroys books, because they compete with his grotesque definition of beauty. “Then out comes the blood, my brothers, real beautiful.” Like the beauty of Satan, under the cover of darkness, what appears to be beautiful is in fact a “horrorshow”, a show that is similar to the violent symphonies he adores. He describes his attacks as a masterpiece that he has composed and is orchestrating, with the screams of his victims as the chords, and the death of Catwoman, the crescendo. For the man who chooses to be a slave to his sin believes, the beauty is found in the darkness: “Men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:18-20)”They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator.” (Romans 1:25)It is because of the violence in the orchestra music that Alex chooses Ludwig Van as his god, “Music always sharpened me up, O my brothers, and made me feel like old Bog himself, ready to make with the old donner and blitzen and have vecks and ptitsas creecing away in my ha ha power.” (42). But what Ludwig Van brings forth in Alex is not complete satisfaction, but a promise of something greater, “the lovely blissful tune about Joy being a glorious spark like of heaven.” (46). The music is orgasmic and is his way of attaining bliss, but this bliss is only a spark of true ecstasy. Alex and his droogs search for through the old moloko, “Then the lights started cracking like atomics . . . . and you were just going to get introduced to old Bog or God, when it is all over. You came back to here and now whimpering sort of.” (4) In seeking the transcendent experience they do seek God, even if Alex refuses to accept that he is doing it, “You were not put on this earth just to get in touch with God.” (4) It is as Paul says, “No one seeks God.” (Rom. 3:11). He is the race of Israelites before the golden calf, exchanging God for something present, temporary, and satisfying. Alex chooses the temporary over the eternal, a choice that can be seen in his attack on HOME, an attack symbolic of the sinner’s choice to rebel against heaven. At HOME, F. Alexander, whose life sadly mirrors Burgess’, writes about man’s ability to choose God, “a man . . . capable of sweetness . . . to ooze juicily at the last round the bearded lips of God.” (21). But Alex has “exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worship(s) and serve(s) created things.” (Rom. 1:25). He prefers the lie and this man’s truth serves no purpose in his life.”In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” (John 1:4-6)The truth still exists however. Both Alex and the state attack a man in an alley who sings of love, but both parties refuse to accept this light in the darkness because it interferes with their aesthetic selves. Their worlds cannot have love, because love means responsibility to others before yourself, the antagonist of the aesthetic. Therefore, the man must be stopped. However, no matter how many times they try to suppress, he sings the Song of Songs, the song of love. He sings until Alex attacks him and his blood is spilt, “One of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood.” (John 19:33-34). He sings even imprisoned among the real sinners, “They crucified him, along with the criminals one on his right, the other on his left.” (Luke 23:33) His love is analogous to God’s love in Christ, a love that in Part I, Alex is both seeking and resisting. Nevertheless, even if Alex will not choose God, He will still reveal Himself to him. The revelation is the only way to begin writing a gospel.Once Alex is redeemed from his bondage in prison, or in Egypt, the process of sanctification begins. The treatment he is given in accordance with Old Testament law. If the Israelites do not follow God’s law then, “The Lord will send on you curses, confusion and rebuke in everything you put your hand to, until you are destroyed and come to sudden ruin because of the evil you have done in forsaking him.” (Deut. 28:20). Similar destruction will happen to Alex if he does not abide by the law that has been implanted in him, the sickness will overwhelm him. Alex is forced to rise to Kierkegard’s second stage of life, the ethical man. He is a clockwork, with all of his actions for the universal good, abiding by the socially accepted moral principles. But the ethical man is still only another disguise for Alex. His ethics are still selfish so he is still the aesthetic man. As the chaplain himself says after Alex’s graduation performance, “He has no real choice, has he? Self-interest, fear of physical pain, drove him to that grotesque act of self-abasement.” (126)They tell him he has made his choice and all this is a consequence of his choice (127), but as the Israelites say to Moses as they wander the desert, “If only we had died by the Lord ‘s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.” Alex knew no more about the choice he made than the Israelites did. They both choose to have faith in what can save them, but fail to understand what the object of their faith means. Moreover, there is a difference between the two however: while God may have control over their actions, he cannot control their thoughts. The state can, “I thought of killing a fly and felt just that tiny bit sick.” (129) God orders the Israelites to be like Him, but it is still within the realm of their lives to reject that choice, even if it means accepting the punishment. Alex’s sanctification does not allow for choice, and the only way he can choose otherwise, is through death. Fittingly, Alex’s lack of freedom to choose is only recognised by himself and the Chaplain, the only characters in the novella who believe in God. The Prison Charlie asks the inmates, “You have the birthright to be free, why would you choose this prison over freedom?” When Alex is “treated” the chaplain realises both the insincerity of the procedure, and the removal of freedom, “He ceases to be a wrongdoer. He ceases also to be a creature capable of moral choice.” (126) Alex is only prisoner who desires this freedom and works hard towards the goal of obtaining it, “Sir, I have done my best, have I not . . . I’ve tried, sir, haven’t I . . . how about this new like treatment that gets you out of prison in no time at all.” (82) No one else in the prison has as much desire as Alex does to be free to pursue that transcendent joy that he has been searching for all his life. He does choose death because sanctification that changes the outward actions of a man, and not his inward motivations, is an unreliable and ultimately failing salvation. One of the reasons he kills himself is “When I desire to do good, evil is right there with me.” “Goodness is chosen” the chaplain philosophises, “When a man cannot choose, he ceases to be a man.” (83) Therefore, what the doctors end up creating is a neutral man, unable to love, unable to hate, unable to do good, unable to do evil. This is precisely the man who God rejects because this man is not really His child, “You are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth.” (Rev. 3:16) The created man has a choice. When that choice is not exercised, then he has nothing more than lukewarm. This inhuman being that the state has created Alex into is an angel, incapable of alternative unethical action. Perhaps Lucifer was one of these inhuman beings, not having the ability to act on his evil instincts and still be a part of what he knew of as life, he chose the eternal torment of hell instead. When the chaplain wonders whether God would have preferred goodness over the choice, but his answer lies in the Garden of Eden. If God did not want us to have a choice, then there would have been no tree. Like Lucifer and the first humans, the ability to choose is greater than enforced paradise. As Alex sails to the ground in his suicide attempts, this is what he realises. best seen in Alex when, at the end of the second part, the punishment for not abiding by the path of good is taken away and he reverts to his natural state. Before this can happen, Alex is redeemed, literally redeemed, freed from state bondage. The problem is that neither his first redeemer, the government, who use him as their guinea-pig, nor his second savior, F. Alexander, take any responsibility for Alex. He has to perform for his redemption. These are the mechanisms behind a clockwork that does not believe in grace. What they have robbed Alex of is something he slowly begins to realise in his redemption: love. When he returns to his parents, he cannot admit that the rejection is painful because now that he is a better person, he expects those around him to treat him in the manner. It is a form of love that he seeks, one that he did not before. Now he is dependent on the whim of others, he is forced to be a part of a community, and he realises that the only way that he can survive in that community is through love. But the law Alex is under does not require love, only obedience. In his redemption, he is not forgiven in perfect love, but instead has to pay, literally with the cats, for the wrongs he has committed. He seeks forgiveness, but in a society that does not know how to love others, no one can forgive him for what he has done. No one, of course, but perfect love. Unfortunately, Alex is not under the law of perfect love. He is under one that does seek to change the soul, but only the actions. Therefore the sins he has committed have to be paid for with his own red, red krovvy. His parents reject him, he is attacked by the elderly librarians, and he is betrayed again by his friends. And when it appears that there is hope the F. Alexander, he turns and does the same to Alex what Alex did to him. For all of these actions have at their heart, “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” Revenge is not the way to redemption. The love that Alex seeks is. IN LIBRARY WITH OLD MEN. When everything else has rejected him, including his first three saviors, the symphony, the state, and F. Alexander, Alex has nowhere else to turn to but this perfect love. The only thing left to save him is the unity with God, the unity of a creature possessing free will, with a being that can impose His laws on it a clockwork orange. He has rejected this route before, but now his worldliness has failed him, and he turns to God or Bog and all of His Holy Angels and Saints (141). When all the salvation rejections come together, F. Alexander plays the symphony that initiates the government reaction in him, he has no other choice but to jump out of the window intending to join them. He is stopped, for two reasons. One is because it is not his free choice to be in heaven. All it is, is a lack of any other choice, and what is that but another form of the clockwork? It is precisely what the last two sections of the novel have been about, when one chooses goodness because he has no other choice, his choice is not truly good, and as with the apple in Eden, this enforced choice is again not what God desires. Further, he cannot choose God in death if he hasn’t chosen Him yet in life. Alex does not care about the rape and death of F. Alexander’s wife, the news gives him the best night of sleep he has ever had. He has not been redeemed nor asked for forgiveness. “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Luke 11:9-10) Alex does not knock, he expects the door to be opened. He still has not chosen God. HOME summarises this paradox perfectly. When Alex returns to the HOME of his former victim, the heaven he chose to rebel against, he expects to be greeted with open arms as the prodigal Christian son, the model of Christian forgiveness and love. Home is a place of peace, forgiveness, and contentment, and Alex himself confesses, that is what he is in search for right now, “I must not ket on, though, for I needed help and kindness now.” (154) However, Alex does not let on the truth, does not confess his sins or ask for redemption. He lies about his crimes, the technique, and refuses to take responsibility for his own actions. Again, without choice, he cannot achieve redemption, “If we claim we are sinless, we are self-deceived and thr truth is not in us . . . If we say we have committed no sin, we make him out to be a liar, and His word has no place in us.” (1 John 1:8-10)Nor does F. Alexander, when he discovers Alex’s truth, offer forgiveness. He is another Alex, incapable of forgiveness or redemption, another clockwork product of this dark city. Further, he is just as much the aesthetic man as the state and Alex himself asre, using Alex for his own personal Cause, first the article, then his revenge. He is as incapable of love as Alex is. HOME cannot be attained without either repentance on the sinner’s part leading to forgiveness on the host’s. Perhaps if the truth had been told, this might have been done. It is not, however, because Alex arrives HOME, yet again, in the darkness, the absence of light, the absence of truth, the absence of love. Without this love, forgiveness is impossible and the redemption is a failure.Therefore, he jumps out of the window, looking for redemption, but cannot find it without either his own free choice or without love, “whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:8). He falls to the ground and “had this idea of my whole plot or body being like empties of as it might be dirty water and then filled up again with clean.” (172) This is his baptism, and the government, again replacing God, resurrects him into his rebirth. They return conditional free will to him, on the condition that he supports the government in their re-election ventures. With the return if his freedom, his aesthetic self appreciating the evil in the world again, Alex signs his soul over to the devil. Both he and the government lie to each other and themselves, and God has no place in a life that lies. Therefore he is replaced in Alex’s life yet again by the violent symphony of Ludwig Van and the glorious Ninth. He has become an orange again, and as expected by all men with the freedom to choose, it almost seems inevitable that, without love, he will choose evil, “God has given them over to their vile desires, and the consequent degradation of their bodies.” (Rom 1:24) So now, what is it going to be?”If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but I have no love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. I may have faith enough to move mountains; but if I have no love, I am nothing. I may give all I possess to the needy, I may give my body to be burnt, but if I have no love, I gain nothing from it.” (Romans 13:1-3)After his numerous redemptions, the aesthetic Alex again sits in the Korona Milk Bar and watches everyone around him still trying to reach heaven, “All round were chellovecks well away on milk plus vellocet and synthemesc and drencrom and other veshches which take you far far far away from this wicked and real world into the land to viddy Bog And All His Holy Angels And Saints.” All he does is watch and participate in this same mindless repetitive game until he finally becomes bored and hopeless. He does not buy the old women drinks, not because he hates the, but because he has no desire to abuse them anymore in his own clever schemes. He looks around and all he sees is the same degeneration that he has lived in his entire life, with nothing here that can be considered worthy of aspiration. Mozart, he says, did not write cal. He wrote heavenly music. This is the heaven that Alex has been aspiring towards since the beginning of the novella. On of the differences between this time and the first is that it is of his own free choice that he wants it. The other one is that he chooses it in love. The irony of the government removing Alex’s chance to be with God is that, in saving Alex’s life, they have allowed him to realise his need for love and confession and forgiveness, even when he has finally obtained everything that he has ever wanted. Instead of choosing God because that was the only avenue left available to him, he now chooses God when he has all avenues available to him and he realises that the only one he wants, is love. It is through love that Alex achieves his true redemption. Like Baal did for the Israelites, the god in which he has rested his new salvation, the “bolshy orchestras (with) the violins and the trombones and kettledrums” is not enough for him and he finds himself, “slooshying more like malenky romantic songs . . . just a goloss and a piano.” There is no violence involved in his new taste in music. It is a simple love that yearns, desires, and seeks. He wants to grow old surrounded by love, “And he like gave this Georgina of his a like loving look and pressed one of her rookers between his and she gave him on these looks back, O my brothers.” (188) That inexpressible look, inexpressible even to the very loquacious Alex, is what he wants to share. He dreams of a future prospered in love, really wondering what will it be. He looks at a woman and sees her beauty, not as an object to be abused, but as a fellow human to be cherished for love “always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Cor. 13:7) Alex diagnoses his ailment correctly: “There was something happening inside me.” He recognises the existence of human love, and remembers the promise of the divine. His growth is a spiritual revival, the inward transformation of the soul through love. The love he wants to discover through God can be seen in his desire to not only have a wife, but to also share the father-son bond that he has been denied so cruelly twice before in his life, with his own father and with his surrogate father, F. Alexander. Alex wants to experience what this love could be like, and it is this desire to experience paternal love that can be translated into living in the love of the Father, Bog or God. He has reached Kierkegard’s final stage of life: the religious man where the single individual relates himself to the absolute, a private relationship with God. The only way to enter that private relationship is through redemption in love, an internal redemption, not the external force of Ludwig van or Ludovico. What the government refuses to believe is that salvation is within human power, an idea that Burgess refutes emphatically. If a murderer like Paul can be saved through love on the road to Damascus, a child like Alex can be believed to undergo the same salvation. And he does. So now what’s it going to be? It is going to be the clockwork orange. God is the one endlessly turning the orange over and over in His fists, but it is a turning which Alex freely accepts. Alex chooses to join this endless clockworking of an orange under God’s law. All the gods make you into clockwork oranges, Ludovico, Ludwig Van, F. Alexander, but the only successful one that Alex is truly redeemed through is the one who fuses the clockwork with the orange in love. Because he chooses that path instead, the path of the religious man not the aesthetic man, he experiences a second rebirth, “something I would have to get strted on, a new like chapter beginning.” (191) In his realization that this life is not the one he wants, and confessing that aloud, he achieves his redemption. He has groweth up, and has given up his youthful ways. Paul echoes this in saying, “When perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I though like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.” (1 Cor. 13:10-11). He is an orange because he finally chooses freely, but a clockwork because he has chosen to have his life under the dominion of someone greater than himself. An orange because love is a rebellion in this regime. A clockwork because love is a tradition as old as Adam and Eve. An orange because chooses his own redemption. And a clockwork because he chooses to abide by the laws that the redemption requires. Paul closes the book on Alex with this: Love “is the end of the law and brings righteousness for everyone who has faith.” (Rom. 10:4) This is the story of the true clockwork orange. The redemption of perfect Christian. The Gospel according to Alex.
The Dilemma of Free Will in A Clockwork Orange
Following the publication of his most notable work, A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess commented on the function of literature in a mutable society. â There is not much point in writing a novel unless you can show the possibility of moral transformation, or an increase in wisdom, operating in your chief character.â? (Burgess viii) Consequently, this focus on the individual ethic becomes the most pervasive theme in A Clockwork Orange. The novel takes place in an Orwellian, antiutopian civilization where the Western world and Eastern Communist cultures have married. Alex, the main character, speaks in a combination of English and a Russian slang referred to as ânadsat.â? The government, however, is unmistakably suggestive of the Iron Curtain of Russian communism. The novel chronicles the atrocities committed by Alex and his âdroogsâ?, and the ensuing government supported brainwashing and alleged moral transformation of Alex. From the first page, the novel begs the question of free will. The title itself is significant in this context as A Clockwork Orange is a metaphor for one who has lost the power of free will, one who has the appearance of an organism (Orange) but is in reality only a clockwork toy to be wound up by God, the Devil, or the almighty state. The relevance of the title is evident in the existentialist dilemma which is the essence of the novel; Does God want goodness or the choice of goodness? (Morris 44)The initial chapter of the novel paints a very grim picture of Alex; he is unquestionably evil. Not only does Alex commit violent acts, but he finds a sadistic pleasure in it, âAnd, my brothers, it was real satisfaction to me to waltz and carve left cheeky and right cheeky, so that like two curtains of blood seemed to pour out at the same time, one on either side of his fat oily snout.â? (Burgess 17) This passage shows Alexâs complete disregard for humanity and the law. The usage of the word âwaltzâ? also illustrates a seemingly incongruous character trait of Alex, his love of music, classical music in particular. This irony is further evident in a scene where Alex gives 2 pre-adolescent âptitsasâ? the old âin-out in-outâ? to the tune of Beethovenâs 9th, âThen I pulled out the lovely 9th and set the needle hissing on the last movement…this time they thought nothing fun and had to submit to the strange and weird desires of Alexander the Large.â? (Burgess 46) This poses the paradox of how a savage and vicious teen can enjoy the cultured refinement of European classical music. However, Alex views classical music and violence not as incongruous, but complementary. As seen in his aforementioned âwaltzâ?, violence, in the eyes of Alex, is a form of creative self expression, âThe sweetest and most heavenly of activities partake in some measure of violence.â? (Burgess 115) Alex operates on the hedonistic principle of self-indulgence. He satiates his desires whether they be violent urges or passions for classical music. However, the essential characteristic of Alex is that he is free to choose. Albeit he chooses evil, the ability to choose is the core of his existence.Alexâs evils are undeniable, yet Burgess also presents the less evident evils perpetrated by a repressive government. The government in A Clockwork Orange controls all aspects of society from the government produced TV station âStatefilmâ? to the government issue housing in which Alex resides. Furthermore, Christianity has been outlawed as God has been reduced to an âOld Bog.â? This is the government control over individual freedom that Burgess despised. He believes that the government, in attempting to manipulate free thinking, is guilty of a moral evil greater than those committed by Alex because it violates the essence of man, free will. Burgess attacks what he considers the fundamental flaw of socialism, the belief that man is able to be conditioned. (Kennard 66) This sentiment is best expressed in the character F. Alexander, who is a member of an anti-government faction, âTo attempt to impose upon man, a creature of growth and capable of sweetness, laws and conditions appropriate to a mechanical creation, against this I raise my sword-pen.â? (Burgess 22) Although Burgess attacks the policies of the state, he does not contend they are solely responsible for the actions of Alex. Burgess believes in free will, but he also believes in the natural consequences of actions.In Part 2 of the novel, the consequences of Alexâs streak of âultra violenceâ? come to fruition when he is arrested after murdering a woman during an attempted robbery. Alex is tried and sentenced to 14 years in the Staja (state jail). The government no longer recognizes Alex as a person, he is referred to only as 66555321, his prison number. The only one who still recognizes Alexâs possibility for redemption is the far from admirable prison chaplain. He is well intentioned and opposes many of the government policies but is too much of drunkard to say what he knows to be right and moral. Despite his frailties, he is able to convince Alex to read the Bible and even take responsibility for his actions.So I read all about the scourging and the crowning with thorns and I viddied better that there was something in it. I closed my glazzies and viddied myself helping in thetolchocking and the nailing in, being dressed in a like toga that was the height of Roman fashion. (Burgess 79)Clearly, Alex recognizes the sins he has committed and the hurt he has caused. The reference to the nailing on the cross presents the Christian belief that Jesus died for the sins of all humanity and that humans, by nature, are imperfect. However, in this sin and imperfection, there is also the possibility of redemption, and Alex begins to realize this potential. Furthermore, the use of Christian imagery illustrates the Augustinian view of humanity endorsed by the state. Traditional Augustinianism maintains that humans are inherently evil and can only be saved by Divine Grace. The crucifixion of the son of God by man supports this theory of a tendency toward evil. However, the state in A Clockwork Orange has distorted traditional Augustinian theory into a rationale for having a totalitarian government that exercises absolute authority over humans.(Aggeler 110) Burgess clearly opposes this political theory popularized by Thomas Hobbes.Alex continues to be a model prisoner and shows signs of improvement until he wakes up one night to find one of his cell mates staring at him and âstroke stroke stroking away.â? Alex and the other cellmates end up beating this âchelloveckâ? to death, and Alex is held responsible. Consequently, Alex becomes the guinea pig for the recently developed Ludovicoâs Technique.Alex is transferred to a new facility where the âtechniqueâ? will be administered by Dr. Brodsky. Alex is given an injection that induces severe nausea and is then forced to watch movies of rapes, murders and other violent acts. Dr. Brodskyâs favorites include movies of Nazi concentration camps and Japanese methods of torture during W.W.II. The theory behind the technique is association. Alex will associate feeling severely ill with any act of violence. Therefore, he will no longer desire to commit violent acts. The prison chaplain best summarizes the theory of the technique, âIn a sense, in choosing to be deprived of the ability to make an ethical choice, you have really chosen the good.â? (Burgess 95)The moral implications surrounding Ludovicoâs technique are the heart of the thematic element in A Clockwork Orange. Ludovicoâs Technique has deprived Alex of free will. If free will, that of which Alex has been deprived, is the essence of humanity, then what has Alex become? He has become a thing, a Clockwork Orange, a little machine capable only of good. The state has deprived Alex not only of free will, but also of his humanity. As F. Alexander states it, âA man who cannot choose ceases to be a man.â? (Burgess 156)Alex is no longer a wrong doer, yet he is no longer capable of choice. This presents the moral dilemma which defines the theme of the work, âIs a man who chooses the bad perhaps in some way better than a man who has the good imposed upon him?â? (Burgess 95) The stateâs response to this question is a definitive âno.â? Dr. Brodsky typifies the sentiment of the state, âWe are not concerned with motive, with the higher ethics. We are only concerned with cutting down crime.â? (Burgess 126) This is the utilitarian standpoint against which Burgess militates. The utilitarian argument contends that any method is justifiable if its result is in the best interest of humanity. It is the age old question of, âDo the ends justify the means?â? Is the dehumanization of Alex justifiable because he will no longer be a threat to society? Burgessâ response to this question is an emphatic âno.â? He contends that, âIf we are going to love mankind, we will have to love Alex as a not unrepresentative member of it.â? (Aggeler 129) The revocation of free will can never be in the best interest of humanity because it is inherently antihuman. Furthermore, the dehumanizing of one person sets in motion the conditioning of an entire race. For Burgess, the focal point of human existence is choice. âChoice, choice is all that matters, and to impose the good is evil, to act evil is better than to have good imposed.â? (Kennard 67) This illustrates his view that the evil of the elimination of free will is greater than any evil perpetrated by Alex. This viewpoint is, in part, a response to the writings of B.F. Skinner who espoused human conditioning techniques to create an utopian society.The concept of choice is also essential to the discussion of the dual nature of good and evil in the novel. The government in A Clockwork Orange does not view evil as a part of human nature. They view it as a disease to be eradicated by scientific means. This denial of the nature of evil is a denial of oneâs self. Alex states it best, âBadness is of the self, and that self is made by old Bog or God in his great pride and radosty. They of the government cannot allow the bad because they cannot allow the self.â? (Burgess 40) This passage again illustrates the perniciousness of the Communist denial of individualism. Furthermore, it recognizes the concept of original sin. God created us, and part of our human nature is a tendency toward evil. Yet, we are not completely evil or completely good. Goodness, like badness is also of the self, and man is both good and evil in and of himself. (Tilton 38) This is the duality which is a pervading theme in A Clockwork Orange. Just as good and evil are dual parts of man, a passion for violence and classical music are dual parts of Alex. This duality is destroyed when Alex is conditioned. He loses both his capability for violence and ability to listen to classical music (it was played in the background of the movies during his conditioning; the sound of it makes Alex sick). When Alex is made a machine, he loses all aspects of his humanity and duality. The result of the conditioning process is the destruction of the clockwork altogether. The elimination of his capacity for evil necessarily entails the elimination of his capacity for good. (Tilton 39)Some critics have deemed A Clockwork Orange unconvincing, inconclusive, or even a sensationalistic endorsement of violence. In my estimation, A Clockwork Orange is a work with profound implications. It depicts the freedoms we often take for granted and reveals the terrifying implications of their revocation. To some, it may seem to be a far fetched work set in a fantastical society. But, if it is nothing else, it is a warning, a warning against complacency, sloppy thinking, and most importantly, against overmuch trust in the state. (Aggeler 129)
The Character of Alex in A Clockwork Orange: What’s He Going to Be Then, Eh?
As both the protagonist and narrator of Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange, the character of Alex is an intriguing study from start to finish. Specifically, in comparing part one and part three of the novel, Alex’s world, internally and externally, his characterization and travails are shown to be mirror images of each other, both identical and reversed. Where Alex was the soulless victimizer in part one, he finds himself repeatedly a victim in part three. Where he was once welcome at the story’s start, he is cast out at the close. What gives him pleasure at the beginning, in part three gives him pain. This neat symmetrical structure clearly and symbolically portrays how much Alex has changed and what Ludovico’s Technique has done to him.In Part I, Alex, as the extremely vicious leader of a gang, is a 15-year-old arrogant hooligan without a grain of sympathy for his victims. He doesn’t appear to rape, rob, beat or murder for money, valuables, sexual satisfaction or other tangible things. As we see early on in the Korova Milkbar, he is willing to spend every penny he has on drinks and snacks for old women, just ìso we’d have more of an incentiveÖfor some shop-crasting [thieving]î (8). Alex is depicted as being violent and sadistically evil simply for the experience of it, for the joy of it and not as a means to an end. He seems to gain some measure of aesthetic satisfaction out of involving himself in evil for evil’s sake. He even sees his violence as a kind of art, which we see through his description of a favorite weapon. ìI for my own part had a fine starry horrorshow cut-throat britva [razor] which, at that time, I could flash and shine artisticî (16). Overall, there is nothing in his background that can explain why he is so cruel and nasty, why his penchant for violence is so high. As his state-appointed guidance councilor, P.R. Deltoid, says to him, ìYou’ve got a good home here, good loving parents, you’ve got not too bad of a brain. Is it some devil that crawls inside you?î (39). While leaving that question unanswered, we do see that Alex’s commitment to evil is so pure that he fantasizes about nailing Jesus to a cross.Along with his violent tendencies in part one, Alex is also portrayed as immature and irresponsible. He holds down no job and seems to have no responsibilities of any kind. He stays out all night, without letting his parents know, sleeps all day and still expects to be fed, clothed and taken care of. At the Korova Milkbar, Alex and his buddies communicate in a teenage lingo that sounds distinctly like baby talk. They use words such as ìappy polly loggiesî for apologies, ìeggiwegsî for eggs, ìskolliwollî for school, ìboohooedî for cried and ìfistieî for fist. These language choices hint at their infantilism and, in light of their lawlessness, their perverse childish nature.Furthermore, in part one Alex is described as very arrogant, self-absorbed, autocratic and too firmly convinced of his superiority over everyone he encounters. His haughty attitude toward his fellow gang members ultimately causes them to betray him. After losing some measure of standing in his group, Alex vainly assumes that taking on a robbery job alone will prove once and for all his dominance over them. ìI thoughtÖthat I would show these fickle and worthless droogs of mine that I was worth the whole three of them and more. I would do all on my oddy knocky [alone]î (61). He consistently underestimates everyone, characteristically seeing any attempt to counter him as ìreal lovely innocence,î and laughable, because he sees himself as so clever that any such attempt is doomed from the beginning.This characteristic is also evident in how he acts toward the old woman he attempts to rob. When she calls the police, he relates that all he hears is a batty old woman, who is no match for him, talking to her many cats. ìI could hear the like muffled goloss [voice] of this old ptitsa down below saying: ëYes yes yes, that’s it,’ but she would be govoreeting [talking] to these mewing sidlers going maaaaaaah for more molokoî (60-61). His consistent underestimation of those around him, of his droogs and of the old lady, leads his gang to mutiny and leads to his imprisonment and ultimate transformation at the book’s end.As a mirror image of the first part, part three in A Clockwork Orange shows Alex as almost exactly opposite of his old self. He is humbled where he once was arrogant, victimized where he once was the perpetrator of violence and where he once acted childish there is evidence of a newfound maturity.Ludovicio’s Technique has also taken away, for the most part, Alex’s proclivity for random acts of violence. Even as leader of a new gang, he rarely engages himself in any untoward activity, instead sending his underlings to carry out the tasks. He encounters many of the same characters he faced and consorted with at the beginning of the novel, but is now bullied and beaten by the same people he once roughed up himself.Most notably, in part one, Alex and his droogs had humiliated, beaten and mugged a helpless old man who’d ventured into the hooligans’ territory. In part three, Alex runs into this same gentleman and is, humiliatingly, beaten up by him and his elderly cronies in the old man’s territory, the reading room at the public library. The exactness of this reversal makes the scene absurd and biting and shows how completely opposite Alex and his life have become.Alex has also matured and toned down his arrogance a great deal in the last part of the novel. He feels himself changed, though he’s not quite sure why. He relates to himself that, ìIt was like something soft getting into meî (186). A few years removed from his initial lawlessness, an older, seemingly wiser Alex is now able to reflect on what made him tick. Being young, he explains, was like being a tiny wind-up toy that ìitties [goes] in a straight line and bangs straight into things bang bang and it cannot help what it is doingî (190). Self-awareness is a critical step in the maturation process and Alex’s newfound ability to travel outside himself, and provide an accurate assessment of what he was like, speaks volumes about his inner attempts to stabilize his life and become a decent citizen. Where in part one, he saw his violent outbursts as a kind of affirmation of his individuality, he now begins to realize how truly impulsive and irresponsible they were. At the close of the novel, Alex has unequivocally decided it is time to grow up, to end his violent, thieving ways and settle down.Instead of the teenage hangout Korova, he wanders into a little café, filled with very harmless, boring people, and drinks tea instead of drug-laced milk. He is shocked and envious to find an old friend, Pete, settled down, married and speaking without the childish slang Alex had always employed. Alex later has a strange vision of himself as an old man, in a comfortable armchair, drinking a nice cup of tea. He also pictures himself with a wife, even holding a newspaper picture of a baby in his pocket as an outward sign of his hopes for a family.Overall, Alex ends the book as the complete opposite of the character portrayed in part one. He is mature, calm, law-abiding and eager to begin living a normal life, all of his own free will.
The Role of Language in A Clockwork Orange
Anthony Burgess wrote A Clockwork Orange in 1962, when the fear of war loomed over everyone’s heads. The youth of that generation were born to be rebels. They felt they needed to counteract the obedient society of the 1950s and sow their own path. Therefore, they created their own kind of youth culture that was bonded through their differences. It also created a sense of dysfunction between the generations, causing unrest to steadily grow. As a result, Burgess explores the role of language in his dystopian world and how one’s societal status could be perceived by how one communicates with others.
Burgess utilizes Nadsat, the slang he invented for the novel, to make the dystopian society more realistic. It is yet another reason why the story has remained so popular with youth. It is a timeless language that is utilized to brainwash the young into accepting violence as a part of evolving. He also employs it to comprehensively depict the struggles of growing into one’s skin. Alex and his gang represent the extreme of what societal pressures can do to a growing mind. However, their individuality, skepticism, confusion and humor also attract an audience that struggles with the ideals of their society. It is a form of slang, which is a broken-down version of language, that is mostly used by the young to correspond more effectively with each other. It is also a way to separate adolescents from adults. They did not want to follow in the footsteps of the mature figures in their lives, who readily conformed to the restriction of outdated stereotypes.
The word ‘Nadsat’ is defined in the book to be a reference to teenagers: “It was nadsats mostly milking and coking and fillying around (nadsats were what we used to call the teens)” (Burgess 27). However, because the narrator says it in the past tense, it is likely that the word has since been modified for the younger generations. Which demonstrates that there have been many decades with the same sort of system. It also suggests that violence has become a part of the cycle of life. Alex is fifteen and an experienced gang-leader, which means that the corruption of youth happens earlier and earlier as time goes on. Slang represents the newest mode of communication, and adapts to each generation according to the issues of that time. Language is always changing and growing into new forms. Burgess takes inspiration from the British slang of his decade, to exemplify the extremity of Alex’s futuristic society. Burgess is also using the roots of his dystopian slang to create even more parallels between what may happen, and what has already happened.
Nadsat affects the reading of the book because it is a mixture of Russian slang, criminal terminology, armed forces jargon, and even some Shakespearean inspired lines. It gives many different types of readers a chance to relate to the unique forms of slang. In the beginning, it is somewhat difficult to identify the meanings of the Nadsat words, but it does not take long to figure it out. For example, “I gave them the ultra-violence, the crasting, the dratsing, the old in-out in-out” (Burgess 71). Alex is speaking about the actions him and his gang often carried out on innocent people. The term, ultra-violence is used throughout the novel to cover all of the atrocities that Alex performs. The phrase “in-out in-out” can be inferred to mean sexual intercourse, including the savagery of rape. Which leaves “crasting” and “dratsing” to represent his more frequent crimes of stealing and beating, so crashing and destroying people’s homes and businesses. One just has to use context clues, and focus on the words one already understands, to reveal the meanings of the Nadsat terms.
Burgess is highlighting the fact that Nadsat is an integral part of the novel, it is the foundation for the entire dystopian world. Although slang is already a key player in every society, this particular mixture of words is very unique. It almost gives the story a whimsical feel. The phrases are extremely absurd but depict horrible scenes that Burgess’ civilization is almost numb to. For example, when Alex returns from the experiment and his victims seek vengeance: “starting to deal me malenky weak tolchocks on my litso” (Burgess 144). They are older, and much weaker physically than Alex but because of the treatment, he cannot fight back. Therefore, an entire group of them pounce on him and turn his face into a punching bag. Burgess is pointing out the fact that humanity has always been violent, and most people believed that ignorance truly was bliss. They happily remained indifferent to any actions that did not directly affect them, just so they would not have to deal with the consequences.
The application of Nadsat in the book also causes the reader to become complicit in Alex’s acts. He is narrating the story as he would if describing his adventures to a friend or new member of his gang. The reader is hearing first-hand what Alex has done to innocent people, and his lack of remorse when re-living the experiences. He even speaks directly to his audience: “And you could viddy this old baboochka talking back to them” (Burgess 58). It is as if the readers are going along for the ride with the gang, and committing some of the acts themselves. Therefore, by understanding the slang and as a result, understanding Alex, the reader is no longer just a distant audience to a novel. They are players in a world where violence is a form of self-expression.
Another interesting feature about Nadsat, is that it is only truly interpreted correctly by youth. One of Alex’s fellow droogs, Pete left the gang because he realized how immature the gang’s actions were. He was becoming an adult and learning how to become just another cog in the corporate machine society has become. Therefore, he no longer speaks in Nadsat but perfect English. When Alex runs into Pete again, “This devotchka who was like Pete’s wife. . .giggled again and said to Pete: ‘Did you used to talk like that too?’” (Burgess 188), he finds out that one can escape the gang life. Pete was able to walk away from his violent lifestyle without any ramifications, and create a better life for himself. Ditching Nadsat is like a transition from juvenile language to professional language. It is similar to when a child is beginning to learn the alphabet and then realizes they can connect the letters to form words.
A major theme in the novel is the passivity of the rest of society. They are afraid of the characters who come out at night but do not explicitly do anything to prevent their behavior. The criminals seem to be mostly adolescents acting out and rebelling against the stereotypes that make the adults lives so boring and monotonous. Burgess took a common concept, youth fighting tradition, and made it more extreme and graphic. It is a creative way of illustrating the cons of conformity whilst also shining a negative light on the immaturity of being different. The normal members of society, like Alex’s parents, do not speak their mind often and only really talk about their daily routine. It is in direct conflict of the teenagers who have the ability to transition from speaking like intellectual students during the daytime, to nadsat speaking gang members during the nighttime. They are versatile as they grow older and accept that conformity is safety. Therefore, it is not always negative to become a functioning adult in society. The role of language in A Clockwork Orange is to illustrate the transformation from childhood to adulthood, rebellion to obedience.
An Analysis of Youthful Rebellion and Social Change in A Clockwork Orange and The Hunger Games
“Is it better for a man to have chosen evil than to have good imposed upon him?” (Burgess 86).
In his 1962 classic A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess explores the concept of dystopian societies by employing his 15-year-old rebellious anti-hero, Alex, to demonstrate the effects of an oppressive and struggling government. Alex in many ways can be identified as a combatant against the State, rebelling against the resulting mundane and suppressive social environment through carrying out malevolent deeds such as rape, murder, and theft with his friends, or—as termed in the novel’s slang English dialect nadsat—his “droogs”. In addition, Katniss Everdeen in Suzanne Collins’ 2008 novel The Hunger Games commits several unruly actions in order to assert her position as an insurgent against the dystopic State of Panem and its Capitol. It is evident that both of the central characters in each of these narratives apply their youthful and rebellious efforts, as a symbol for wishing to alter the social conditions of each of their dystopic environments.
The primary setting in Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange is a semi-futuristic and unspecified English-speaking city, ruled by a Government that Burgess portrays as having qualities of both American capitalism, and Russian communism. This odd State also attempts to suppress its citizens and their free will, predominantly in pursuit of stability for the Federation and to protect its longevity. For example, Alex’s parents, Pee and Em, are two ordinary civilians completely regulated by the State’s impositions. They have a nuclear family, possess virtually no lives or hobbies outside of their banal State jobs, and in contrast to their devious son Alex, the two are not motivated to create and pursue goals outside of their regular everyday endeavors. These subdued and complacent characteristics are true for many of this society’s inhabitants, however it is imperative to note that there is a strong presence of disobedient youth like Alex that, to a degree, use “ultra-violence” and crime to rule over the contending justice system. Through analyzing the contrast of these demographics in Burgess’ dystopic society, it is clear that the conditions generated by this suppressive government create a strong binary social system. As the first quote in this essay blatantly illustrates, the overarching theme tested in A Clockwork Orange is the battle and disparity between good and evil. More specifically, adopted evil over inflicted good. This concept can be interpreted as rebellion in itself, as choosing to oppose what the State is inflicting upon its people is a classic example of systematic disobedience. For example, in chapter four of part one, Alex disputes with his Post-Corrective Advisor P.R. Deltoid about the origins of rebellious behaviour. Alex states: Badness is of the self, the one, the you or me on our oddy knockies, and that self is made by old Bog or God and is his great pride and radosty. But the not-self cannot have the bad, meaning they of the government and the judges and the schools cannot allow the bad because they cannot allow the self (40). Essentially, Alex argues that sinfulness is an inherent part of man, and if one cannot accept his or her own human nature, then one will never experience the essential evil that exists within. This can also be interpreted as Alex making a point that the Government seeks to destroy an entire part of its citizens’ natural essence, but he makes it obvious that he will not allow that to happen to himself. By making this statement, Alex has also asserted his position as a conscientious rebel against the system.
As previously stated, Alex not only speaks of his disapproval of the State, but he actively demonstrates his rebellion with his friends Dim, Pete, and Georgie. The three “droogs” consistently find themselves up to no good, constantly seeking destruction and terrorism in order to maintain their positions in society. Their first, most brutal infraction that supersedes the negligible violence of chapter one, is when the boys steal a car, break into a cottage, and assault the occupants. What is interesting about this rampage specifically, is that the man who owned the cottage was a writer. Alex had previously expressed his distaste for literature in chapter one, when he tore up the books that belonged to the old man he and the boys attacked on their way back from the Korova milk bar. Perhaps it was the drugs infused in the milk they drank that night, but it seems as though Alex has a specific antipathy towards writing. When Alex discovered that the man who owned the cottage was a writer, he stated: “It’s a book,” I said. “It’s a book what you are writing.” I made the old goloss very coarse. “I have always had the strongest admiration for them as can write books.” Then I looked at its top sheet, and there was the name—A CLOCKWORK ORANGE—and I said: “That’s a fair gloopy title. Who ever heard of a clockwork orange?” Then I read a malenky bit out loud in a sort of very high type preaching goloss: “—The attempt to impose upon man, a creature of growth and capable of sweetness, to ooze juicily at the last round the bearded lips of God, to attempt to impose, I say, laws and conditions appropriate to a mechanical creation, against this I raise my sword-pen—” Dim made the old lip-music at that and I had to smeck myself. Then I started to tear up the sheets and scatter the bits over the floor, (21-22). It is made clear through his final cruel actions that Alex’s initial expression of admiration for authors was sarcastic, as he has made a complete mockery of this man. Alex ostensibly has contempt towards anybody that contributes to the success of the State, and for citizens that carry out their mundane jobs and think like everyone else does. The destruction of literature in history represents an element of censorship, and is routinely an extension of an opposition to the contents of the books in question. Ironically, however, the contents of the book that the man was writing seem to go along with what Alex believes in; that oppressive laws should not be imposed upon creatures capable of so much more. As if it were not enough for Alex and his droogs to breach this man’s privacy and destroy his work, the boys proceed to physically assault him and take turns raping his wife while he was forced to watch. It is indisputable that the rape consummated by the boys is not in pursuit of sexual pleasure, but it is an act to declare power and dominance in opposition to the oppressive environments they live in.
Later on in the novel after Alex undergoes “Ludovico’s Technique” as part of his Reclamation Treatment in prison, the reader is finally able to see the extent to which this dystopic State is willing to go to eradicate evil and enforce good upon its people. The brainwashing is a forthright mechanism employed to ensure the Government’s complete and utter control over the thoughts, actions and ambitions of its citizens. It essentially diminishes an individual’s ability to exercise their right to choose. Definitively, Alex ends up losing the free-will he used to pride himself on. This brings us back to the first quotation of the essay, “Is it better for a man to have chosen evil than to have good imposed upon him?” (86). This makes the reader ponder whether it is better to lead a life of choice and freedom, or a life of capitulation. It is not Burgess’ intent to defend Alex’s violence, however, it is his aim to preserve existentialism. In the end, the concept of free will is reinforced when Alex has a spontaneous remission from his previous brainwashing and becomes his old violent self again. Successively, however, he becomes tired of his malicious actions and decides that he wishes to—once again—exercise his freedom of choice, and lead a life of non-violence and settle down with a wife and children. It is true that Alex lives a life of free-will for most of the novel, using his violence as a rebellious tool to combat the rest of society, who consistently behave as a passive horde.
Similarly, Katniss Everdeen in Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games acts as an insurgent against the oppressive and totalitarian Capitol of Panem. Panem is the main setting in The Hunger Games, and is the futuristic result of the natural disasters that have totaled North America. Panem is divided into 12 Districts, each district increasingly poorer than the last. Katniss, a frustrated and destitute 16-year-old citizen of District 12, does whatever she can to protect her little sister and mentally-ill mother; even if it means disobeying the law. Her first act of rebellion against the oppressive State is when she illicitly abandons the perimeters of her district to hunt for food. Even though trespassing in the woods is illegal and poaching carries the severest of penalties, more people would risk it if they had weapons. But most are not bold enough to venture out with just a knife. My bow is a rarity, crafted by my father along with a few others that I keep well hidden in the woods, carefully wrapped in waterproof covers. My father could have made good money selling them, but if the officials found out he would have been publicly executed for inciting a rebellion (Collins 5). In just the first few pages of the novel, Katniss discloses her outright refusal to conform to the Capitol’s ridiculous subjugation of the Districts. She has openly stated that if she were to be caught, she would be severely punished, and possibly accused of conspiracy because of her hand-crafted weapon. However, Katniss is not willing to accommodate the inhumanity brought on by the Capitol. As Katniss says, “‘District Twelve. Where you can starve to death in safety,’” (6). She is willing to risk her own life in order to assert her position against the Federation and to ensure that her family gets the food they need.
Just as Alex loathes how the Government in A Clockwork Orange forces citizens to become mindless creatures of habit, Katniss despises how the Capitol treats and exploits the poorer Districts. And just like Alex, Katniss does not complain about these problems. She allows her actions to speak for her, by doing what the Capitol expects her not to do. “But what good is yelling about the Capitol in the middle of the woods? It doesn’t change anything. It doesn’t make things fair. It doesn’t fill our stomachs. In fact it scares off nearby game” (14). Through her inner monologue made possible by first-person narration, the reader can tell that Katniss would rather exercise her rebellion than voice it. Similar to the fact that Alex would rather rape, pillage, and fight than start an organized protest, Katniss would rather hunt and forage outside the District limits, and illegally trade her game at the Hob than complain. In an ideal world, Katniss would not live in a District where sustenance is unfairly rationed, and where she would not have to sell her safety for food. So, until that becomes true, she will continue to rebel to get what she both needs and wants.
Katniss’ second act of rebellion against the Capitol is when she volunteers to take the place of her sister, Prim, in the Hunger Games. However, Katniss volunteered after Prim’s name was called, which is not in compliance with the rules of the games. The rule is that once a tribute’s name has been pulled from the ball, another eligible boy, if a boy’s name has been read, or girl, if a girl’s name has been read, can step forward to take his or her place. In some districts, in which winning the reaping is such a great honour, people are eager to risk their lives, the volunteering is complicated. But in District 12, where the word tribute is pretty much synonymous with the word corpse, volunteers are all but extinct (22). Again, Katniss has proven that she is willing to contravene the Capitol’s authority to ensure the safety of her family, and to assert herself as an insurgent.. And because volunteers are so rare, the Capitol allowed the act of disobedience in order to make the show more interesting. Perhaps Katniss has even begun a revolution where friends and families of chosen tributes are permitted to volunteer in each other’s place.
In essence, Katniss has used her youthfulness as an eligible tribute to spark social change. This is gratified when the crowd at the reaping grants her with a silent salute. “Then something unexpected happens…At first one, then another, then almost every member of the crowd touches the three middle fingers of their left hand to their lips and holds it out to me…It means thanks, it means admiration, it means good-bye to someone you love” (24). Finally, Katniss displays her most significant act of youthful rebellion by performing Rue’s burial during the games. “I want to do something, right here, right now, to shame them, to make them accountable, to show the Capitol that whatever they do or force us to do that there is a part of every tribute they can’t own. That Rue was more than a piece in their Games. And so am I” (236-237). It was an act that had never been done before. It was an act to show the Capitol that she was fed up with their statutes, regulations and behaviour. She rebelled against not only the Capitol, but the social norms that had been practiced in the Hunger Games for years imposed by the Gamemaker; that they should never show mercy for each other. Preceding Rue’s burial, Katniss and her opponent Peeta execute their final act of rebellion by threatening suicide and not accepting the Gamemaker’s rules, that there has to be one last man standing after a fight to the death.
Both Alex and Katniss do not accept the social conditions of the places in which they live. The two use their youthful rebellion as a metaphor for social change in each of their societies, and do so risking their own individual safety. They both refuse to conform to the behaviour practiced by the majority of those that surround them. Alex and Katniss perform actions that both put them at risk for incarceration and oppose the actions of their peers. These two dystopic narratives, A Clockwork Orange and The Hunger Games, both portray protagonists that attempt to spark a societal revolution.
Burgess, Anthony. A Clockwork Orange. New York: Norton, 2001. Print.
Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. New York: Scholastic Press, 2008. Print.
The Issues With Human Progress in Utopian and Dystopian Fiction
Krishan Kumar claims that HG Wells “never wrote a proper utopia, in the strict sense”. This may seem a paradoxical statement in regards to the author famed for being the leading apostle of science utopias, and lends itself to the question: “what is a utopia ‘in the strict sense’?” The term coined by Thomas More in his 1516 novel Utopia has a double meaning. The word is derived from the Greek οὐ τόπος, meaning “no place”, though the English homophone “eutopia” is derived from the Greek εὖ τόπος, meaning “good place”. In this sense a true utopia can be interpreted to mean the dream of a place that is perfect, but also unattainable. Wells seems acknowledge this in his novel A Modern Utopia through the phrase, “Utopias were once in good faith projects for a fresh creation of the world and of a most unworldly completeness; this so-called Modern Utopia is a mere story of personal adventures among Utopian Philosophies.” Wells’s depiction of society is that of “Utopian Philosophies” put into practice and as a result there are flaws – in fact there is a chapter dedicated to “Failure in a Modern Utopia.” In acting out utopian dreams we inevitably encounter imperfections, and from this the “Anti-Utopia”, or dystopia is born. The twentieth century saw a shift from a Victorian interest in utopia towards a marked increase in dystopias and Wells’s A Modern Utopia (1905) is a pivotal moment in this transition from dreams to the practical limitations of reality.
William Morris’s News from Nowhere (1890) is an example of the utopic dream. Humanity has reached a point of fulfillment where happiness and beauty are ubiquitous, evil is almost non-existent and even the hardships of labor have become a pleasure: “The more you see of us, the clearer it will be to you that we are happy. That we live amidst beauty without any fear of becoming effeminate; that we have plenty to do, and on the whole enjoy doing it… [England] is now a garden, where nothing is wasted and nothing is spoilt, with the necessary dwellings, sheds and workshops scattered up and down the country, all trim and neat and pretty.” This passage’s description of a garden with nothing but happiness and beauty is reminiscent of the Garden of Eden; it looks away from Morris’s contemporary Victorian industrialism in an attempt to reclaim the world as it was before the fall. Morris is well aware that his utopia is impossible to achieve, and the title’s description of this world as “Nowhere” clearly shows this intended irony. HG Wells is somewhat critical of creating an inaccessible paradise: “Were we free to have our untrammelled desire, I suppose we should follow Morris to his Nowhere, we should change the nature of man and the nature of things altogether; we should make the whole race wise, tolerant, noble, perfect – wave our hands to a splendid anarchy, every man doing as it pleases him, and none pleased to do evil, in a world as good in its essential nature, as ripe and sunny, as the world before the fall.” He believes it is more worthwhile to attempt to create a formula which steps away from the generalities of previous utopias in the direction of real human nature. Morris himself concedes that his Nowhere is not a vision or projection of the trajectory of human progress, but an idealised dream. Morris is able to reject any form of government or judicial system by removing any form of inherent evil from humanity. Wells, however, wishes to tread the line between idealism and a society that can be practically achieved without the need to modify human disposition: “Our proposal here is upon a more practical plane at least than that. We are to restrict ourselves first to the limitations of human possibility as we know them in men and women of this world today, and then to all the inhumanity, all the insubordination of nature.” Wells’s utopia may not be a traditional utopia, but its imperfections don’t quite reach the point of dystopia.
Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World extrapolates a few Wellsian ideas, projecting aspects of A Modern Utopia far into the future and displaying his concern over how a society of this form may fail. The title is a quotation from Miranda in Shakespeare’s The Tempest: “O, wonder! / How many goodly creatures are there here! / How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world, / That has such people in’t!” There is dramatic irony in this passage in that many of the people Miranda sees here for the first time have been shown not to be such good-hearted men, and in her naivety she cannot conceive their flaws. By adopting this for the title of his novel, Huxley is commenting on the naivety of his contemporaries and those such as Wells who failed to see the negative possibilities of the way in which their culture was developing. Wells continued in the Victorian vein of believing in the continuous development of science and technology, but also the progression of government: “The State is to be progressive, it is no longer to be static”. Huxley’s extension of this is the assumption that society must inevitably reach a point of fulfilment, both in governance and mechanisation. The Controller, Mustapha Mond, voices this idea: “It’s curious… to read what people in the time of Our Ford used to write about scientific progress. They seem to have imagined that it could be allowed to go on indefinitely, regardless of everything else.” He believes that the constant drive to satiate desires through the development of technology leads us towards a distorted vision of happiness. Life becomes too easy, and as a result of this simple stasis emotion, passion and love are incompatible with the culture of dulled pleasure. Huxley is concerned that the incessant mechanisation of humanity removes all the components of life’s daily difficulties, but in the process it also removes the true beauties of existence: “Our world is not the same as Othello’s world… you can’t make tragedies without social instability”, says Mond, “Universal happiness keeps the wheels steadily turning; truth and beauty can’t.” Huxley is criticising this very idea of happiness. It is a sterile existence, undeniably without pain and suffering, but also without the major influences that characterise human nature. The Controller tries to convince the Savage that this modern world is a utopia: “People are happy; they get what they want, and they never want what they can’t get. They’re well off; they’re safe; they’re never ill; they’re not afraid of death; they’re blissfully ignorant of passion and old age; they’re plagued with no mothers or fathers; they’ve got no wives, or children, or loves to feel strongly about; they’re so conditioned that they practically can’t help behaving as they ought to behave. And if anything should go wrong, there’s soma.” Essentially he explains that the depths of life have been removed, but ignores the fact that the heights have been too.
It is in many ways reminiscent of The Birth of Tragedy in that Nietzsche claims societies with the most upheaval and sensitivity produce the finest works – true beauty and tragedy cannot be fulfilled unless the horrors of the Dionysiac spirit can be perceived. In response to this the Savage refutes this disfigured image of happiness and claims back human nature, “I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.” George Orwell aptly summarizes this in saying, “though everyone is happy in a vacuous way, life has become so pointless that it is difficult to believe that such a society could endure”. It is symbolic that the Savage returns to nature at the end of the novel, working the land by hand without the need for machinery. George Orwell believed that Huxley was aiming his criticism at “the implied aims of industrial civilisation,” and this most clear in this reversal of progress and rejection of mechanization.
Thomas Hardy felt that industrialization detracted from humanity through its separation from nature, and this is made evident by the “engine-man” in Tess of the D’Urbervilles (1891): “His thoughts being turned inwards upon himself… hardly perceiving the scenes around him, and caring for them not at all; holding only strictly necessary intercourse with the natives… The long strap which ran from the driving wheel of his engine to the red thresher under the rick was the sole tie-line between agriculture and him.” This introspective and callous attitude represents the tunnel vision of urbanization: progress for progress’s sake without consideration for the flaws that modernity may bring. The worker is connected to the outside world only by a “sole tie-line” and this detachment leads to a lack of care. Huxley was writing forty years later than Hardy and it appears the march of mechanized progress had developed into an even more significant concern. Morris’s News from Nowhere was published just a year before Tess, and conveys concerns with his contemporaries’ progress in a decidedly different way to Huxley. Rather than projecting industrialization into the future and showing its follies, Morris’s Nowhere is closer to a pastoral and paradisaical Arcadia of the middle-ages. Clive Wilmer states, “a dream set in a real or possible place may invite attention to the shortcomings of contemporary reality”, and Morris’s dream is unmistakably England. By placing the protagonist in a place he knows well, but that has undergone much change, Morris is able to lucidly contrast his utopia with contemporary Victorian England, and thereby criticize the latter. The most evident difference is the rejuvenation of nature and reduction of mechanization: “The soap-works with their smoke-vomiting chimneys were gone; the engineer’s works gone; the lead-works gone; and no sound of riveting and hammering came down the west wind from Thorneycroft’s.” Morris views this new world as purged of evil, and one of the primary reasons for this is that man is reunited with nature: “Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living? – a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate – “nature”, as people used to call it – as one thing, and mankind as another. It was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make “nature” their slave, since they thought “nature” was something outside them.” This complements Hardy’s notion that industrialization causes a rift between man and nature, and that this rift can be the source of man’s callous disposition in relation to progress.
In Morris’s utopia humanity has come to accept its position as a part of nature, and this enables them to take pleasure in their work and thereby achieve happiness in all aspects of life – leisure and labor. By slowing the march of human progress to a standstill, Morris is able to criticize the blind forward movement of industrialization. One can criticize human progress by showing its folly in a dystopic world, but also by contrasting it to the perfect equilibrium of a static utopia. Labour saving machinery is taken to the utmost extremes in EM Forster’s short dystopia The Machine Stops (1909). It is an early response to Wells’s idea that machinery can be constantly improved to the benefit of mankind. Machinery’s aim was to make life easier and satiate humanity’s everyday wants and needs; Forster imagines a society where this is taken to the furthest point, and as a result humanity has no desires outside of the Machine and exists in a static fulfillment achieved by mechanization. Human progress reaches a state where it has been consumed by technology and humanity has lost relationships with one another and nature. George Orwell describes the Machine as “the genie that man has thoughtlessly let out of its bottle and cannot be put back”, and it is this fear of loss of control that Forster voices. Kuno, the protagonist’s revolutionary son, tries to appeal to his contemporaries: “Cannot you see, cannot all you lecturers seem that it is we that are dying, and that down here the only thing that really lives is the Machine? We created the Machine, to do our will, but we cannot make it do our will now…The Machine develops – but not on our lines. The Machine proceeds – but not to our goal. We only exist as the blood corpuscles that course through its arteries, and if it could work without us, it would let us die.” The death he refers to is not a literal loss of life, but a loss of control over the individual’s own humanity. As technology replaces the age-old idea of bringing people to things with bringing things to people, the need to interact is negated. One can spend a lifetime in one room, only communicating via the Machine and being sustained only by the Machine. Humanity becomes consumed, and in the body of the Machine life is dulled. Forster is concerned with man’s obsessive compulsion to replace life with technology: walking is replaced by airships (an extension of rail), communication by a form of video call (an extension of the telephone) and even music becomes synthetic (an extension of the radio). By displaying a world blurred by mechanization, he warns that the eagerness to adopt technology may lead to ruin: “Man, the flower of all flesh, the noblest of all creatures visible, man who had once made god in his image, and had mirrored his strength on the constellations, beautiful naked man was dying, strangled in the garments that he had woven.” It is the naïve arrogance of human progress that Forster criticizes – the idea that man is so perfect, so divine that he can create a substitute for nature, for God.
The progress that George Orwell is concerned with is less related to technology. Jenni Calder claims, “Orwell saw power politics, not science, as the major threat to mankind” and Orwell explains the defeat of the importance of science in Nineteen Eighty-Four: “In the early twentieth century… science and technology were developing at a prodigious speed, and it seemed natural to assume that they would go on developing. This failed to happen, partly because of the impoverishment caused by a long series of wars and revolutions, partly because scientific and technical progress depended on the empirical habit of thought, which could not survive in a strictly regimented society. As a whole the world is more primitive than it was fifty years ago.” The Victorian and early twentieth century confidence in technology had been rattled by two World Wars and multiple revolutions. While mechanization was seen to be a threat, its force had been witnessed in the form of the atomic bomb and there was more belief in technologies capability for destruction than progress. Orwell thus feared more for the growing power of extremist governments.
During a brief period of the Second World War Orwell believed there could be a genuine movement towards equality, but in the post-War ashes he lost all faith. The Labour Government elected in England in 1945 did not effect the radical changes he wished for and his progress through Holland, France and Germany following the allied armies in 1945 shocked him to the core. Nineteen Eighty-Four was a magnified projection of a present that contained Stalinism and an immediate past of Nazism; it is self-evident that Orwell was concerned that the future of humanity could fall into the hands of a draconian totalitarianist government. O’Brien captures the violence and oppression of this political progression in the line, “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever.” Brave New World’s political system is form of milder totalitarian government that avoids the need for violent oppression by psychological and biological conditioning. The castes from World Controllers and Alphas to Epsilon semi-morons are a parody of HG Wells’s idea of the Samurai, an educated ruling class, and the division of society into the Poietic, the Kinetic, the Dull and the Base. Wells was interested in the idea of “eugenics” based on theories developed in Darwin’s Origin of the Species. This selective breeding to create an ideal society is extrapolated in Brave New World in that all babies are created to fit into a given caste. As a result of this, one of the fundamental human relationships – that between a mother and her child – is destroyed. “Viviparous” reproduction is regarded with such contempt even the word mother is considered an obscenity.
This breakdown of human relationship can be seen in The Machine Stops (“Parents, duties of,” said the book of the Machine, “cease at the moment of birth. P.422327483”) and Nineteen Eighty-Four: “Nearly all children nowadays were horrible. What was worst of all was that by means of such organizations as the Spies they were systematically turned into ungovernable little savages, and yet this produced in them no tendency whatever to rebel against the discipline of the Party. On the contrary, they adored the Party and everything connected with it… All their ferocity was turned outwards, against the enemies of the State, against foreigners, traitors, saboteurs, thought-criminals. It was almost normal for people over thirty to be frightened of their own children.” The childrens’ loyalty to the party but hatred towards even their own parents is an example of how the Party channels relationships between individuals into a single relationship with the state. Communicating, even thinking and feeling, become irrelevant concepts. The one remaining relationship – between the State and its citizens – is the relationship between power and its victims. As familial love is removed from society it remains that passionate, sexual love is also be negated. Sexual promiscuity in Brave New World is encouraged to the extent that it removes any affiliation between the physical act and an emotional connection. Sex becomes mechanical; Lenina even describes herself as “pneumatic”, while rubbing her thighs.
DH Lawrence, writing at a similar time, laid down his opinion about his contemporaries and sex in A Propos of Lady Chatterley’s Lover: “Culture and civilisation have taught us to separate the word from the deed, the thought from the act or the physical reaction. We now know that the act does not necessarily follow on the thought. In fact, thought and action, word and deed are two separate forms of consciousness, two separate lives which we lead. We need, very sincerely, to keep a connection.” This distortion of sex is an idea Lawrence is very concerned with, and attributes much of the cause of it to be industrialization. The description of miners as “weird distorted, smallish beings like men” in Lady Chatterley’s Lover is an example of dehumanization that Lawrence believes is a result of mechanization. Considered in this light, Brave New World can be seen to be concerned with the human progression of sexual relationships. In addition to portraying the soulless nature of sex, Huxley implies that the state fears that love could divide allegiances. An important factor of the totalitarian government is that society is of much greater importance than the individual. Love empowers individuals, and as a result the state wishes to eradicate that danger through excessive promiscuity. It is also a form of channeling any desire into harmless physical acts, rather than directing passion against the government. In the words of Calder, “Huxley visualises sex as a means of consuming excess energy, Orwell sexual repression as a means of generating it”. The energy generated in Orwell’s dystopia is directed away from the Party towards figures such as Goldstein, or the enemy powers of Eurasia or Eastasia. The Party’s issue with sex was not merely that the sex instinct creates a world of its own which is outside their control; sexual repression builds into hatred that is transformed into “war –fever” and “leader-worship”. Julia describes this: “The way she put it was: ‘When you make love you’re using up energy; and afterwards you feel happy and don’t give a damn for anything. They can’t bear you to feel like that. They want you to be bursting with energy all the time. All this marching up and down and cheering and waving flags is simply sex gone sour.” There are mass rallies and public hangings and the Two Minutes Hate, and all these are outlets for sexual repression, while serving the double purpose of allowing the individual to forget himself and strengthen the power of the Party. Distorting perceptions of sex and associating it with hatred diminish human relationships, and it is these relationships that make humanity what it is.
Humanity and morality are defined by relationships, and Winston comes to realize this: “What mattered were individual relationships, and a completely helpless gesture, an embrace, a tear, a word spoken to a dying man, could have value in itself… The proles had stayed human. They had not become hardened inside… ‘The proles are human beings,’ he said aloud. ‘We are not human.’” This moment is epiphanic as he comes to the conviction that all the Party’s efforts to remain in complete control dehumanize the population. It is “primitive emotions” that make up humanity, and the state forces these to be repressed and ultimately destroyed. Orwell shows a concern that human progress runs the risk of developing in such a political direction that society could become dehumanized. The object of political power in Oceania is to eliminate memory and self-consciousness in order to perpetuate political power, and by eliminating memory and self-consciousness one loses humanity. Party control forces repressed memories, isolation and destruction of connection; it eliminates human feeling. This loss of humanity is symbolized by the physical transformation that happens to Winston: “A bowed, grey-colored skeleton-like thing was coming towards him. Its actual appearance was frightening, and not merely the fact that he knew it to be himself. He moved closer to the glass. The creature’s face seemed to be protruded, because of its bent carriage. A forlorn, jailbird’s face with a nobby forehead running back into a bald scalp, a crooked nose, and battered-looking cheekbones above which the eyes were fierce and watchful.” He is unrecognizable. He is not the traditional rosy color of life, nor the wan color associated with death, but an inhuman grey. He has become misshapen and alien, just like his emotions and even appears similar to the survivors of a Nazi concentration camp. All sense of humanity, physical and emotional, has been drawn out or disfigured beyond recognition. The concerns of industrialization, the breakdown of human relations and political power are all united in that they are forms of dehumanization. I have shown how Orwell’s dystopian politics destroy humanity, and how Forster’s world becomes absorbed into machinery. In Brave New World it is evident that savagery has been removed, but so have the imagination and creativity that make up humanity. In a world of satiated desires “civilisation has no need of nobility or heroism. These things are symptoms of political inefficiency”, says the Controller. It is this mechanical efficiency that leaves no room for the truth and beauty integral to human life. Even Morris’s News from Nowhere criticizes a society that has separated itself from nature, and is therefore moving towards mechanization without emotion.
Overall these dystopias and utopias are a way of highlighting concern with their contemporary worlds by either contrast or projection of progressions that can already be seen. Most of these concerns of human progress in the early twentieth and late nineteenth centuries regard the fear that society’s view of a better future runs the risk of developing too far from values that are vital to human happiness.
Philosophical Morality in A Clockwork Orange and The Stranger
Many philosophers have believed for centuries that no intrinsic meaning exists in the universe. From this belief emerged many responses, including absurdism and existentialism. Although all are heavily influenced by the beliefs of Søren Kierkegaard, they have been developed further by the likes of Jean Paul Sartre and Albert Camus himself. Existentialism is the belief that through a combination of awareness, free will, and personal responsibility, one can construct their own meaning within a world that intrinsically has none of its own. In Sartre’s philosophy of existentialism, this free will entails relevant responsibility and acceptance of consequence caused by individual choice. Absurdism is a philosophy credited to Camus, a belief that there is an inherent disharmony between an individual’s search for meaning and the actual lack of meaning. The three practical ways to deal with such a circumstance are therefore suicide, embracing a meaning framework such as religion or accepting the lack of meaning and living on despite this. Both Alex and Meursault are presented as almost absurd heroes; living in the sensual pleasure of the present moment and free of any system of values. Rather than behave in accordance with social norms, these characters try to live as honestly as then can, doing simply what they want to do.
Right from the first line of ‘A Clockwork Orange’ we are introduced to the recurring motif and underpinning theme of the novel – ‘What’s it going to be then, eh?’. This question appears four times in the first chapter and at the start of each individual part of the novel. This question Alex asks himself acts as symbol of his undulating freedom from victimizer to victim. In Part 1, as a brutish anti-hero, Alex consciously chooses to do wrong and to embody his absolute free will. His senseless brutality and violence appropriately illustrations Sartre’s ‘existence precedes essence’. Alex shows no interest in justifying his actions in terms of abstract or theoretical notions such as ‘liberty’, instead living simply as a free yet violent hedonist, qualified by his admittance that ’what I do I do because I like to do.’ Burgess himself was notably philosophically informed and felt that ‘the freedom to choose is the biggest human attribute’, so crafted Alex with this ideology. Furthermore, as the novel was published in 1962, it’s impossible to ignore the contexts of production in creating the character of Alex. Framed by the growing youth subcultures of Mods and Rockers, the 1960s became an era of rebellion against political regime, rioting and needless violence. In this sense, Alex becomes almost a hyperbolic extension on the truth – a youth rejecting reason and authority in place of violence. As explained by Robert K Morris in ‘The Bitter Fruits of Freedom’, Alex ‘discovered that existence has always meant freedom’ so ‘responds predictably and inevitably to the killing burden of choice.’ – an authentic action in terms of existentialism.
Alternatively, you could view the constant repetition of ‘What’s it going to be then, eh?’ as Alex desperately questioning his direction and purpose. Almost as a question directed at some higher power, it could be said that Alex adopts an absurd approach, looking for purpose where there is none. This idea is further supported by Alex’s attempt to commit suicide – an escape from the meaningless and his fruitless quest to find purpose.
Similarly, Meursault subverts from social expectations and acts upon his own free will, not justifying or considering the implications of his actions. However, where Alex makes consciously immoral decisions, Meursault seems to acts continually amorally, seeming to never make the distinction between good and bad in his mind. When Raymond asks him to write a letter that will help him torment his mistress, Meursault indifferently on the basis that he ‘didn’t have any reason not to.’ This implies that he does not place any value judgment on his act: a mere microcosm of his character. Meursault’s actions are thoughtless and reject consequence, simply doing things because he can. In this sense, Meursault seems to display more absurd philosophical tendencies; acting as though nothing has meaning or purpose but accepting this and living on in spite of it, consequently acting amoral out of recklessness and lack of care.
However, applying psychoanalytical critical theory to both ‘A Clockwork Orange’ and ‘The Outsider’ opens up an alternative reading to Alex and Meursault. Perhaps, considering the theories of Freud, the two protagonists are drove not by philosophical notions, but by their psychological foundations. Freud hypothesised that the human personality was divided in to parts, two of which are the Id and the Superego. The Id is the part of human personality that is driven by primary instinct, acting in accordance of selfish pleasure and a desire for instant gratification. The Superego acts in antithesis to the Id, driven by what the individual believes to be morally correct. Both Alex and Meursault as individuals are, at least initially, dominated by their Id; acting without consideration, compassion or conscience. Alex describes murder as ‘a real satisfaction’, exemplifying the omission of his Superego in his psychological make up. ‘I fired four more times at the motionless body’, notes Meursault, ‘I don’t know why, but something inside me snapped.’ These further shots served no purpose: the Arab was dead. Meursault carried on firing because his Id was dominant and a burning murderous desire built up inside him. This murderous desire experienced by both Alex and Meursault is known in psychoanalytic terms as the Thanatos instinct.
Further illustration of Alex and Meursault’s dominant Id comes when they both fulfil, to some extent, the Oedipus Complex. With Alex’s passive parents and their somewhat distanced relationship to him, he finds comfort and a father figure in F. Alexander. In raping F. Alexander’s wife, Alex transgresses boundaries in committing symbolic incest, rape and adultery, showing the lack of balance in his personality and the triumphant dictatorship of the Id in his mind. The raping of F. Alexander’s wife could be of symbolic significance to Burgess himself who’s own wife was raped, representing the unbalanced personality of such a criminal and the shockingly disturbing whilst personal nature of the crime. Meursault’s instance, however, is less explicit. Only one day after his mother’s funeral Meursault finds himself lusting after and sleeping with Marie. Almost instantly after meeting Marie he recounts how he ‘brushed past her breast’ before he ‘fondled her breast’ then later describes her outfit when he meets her in prison – ‘You could make out the shape of her firm breasts.’ This repetition of breast creates a sense of obsession around a powerful symbol of motherhood and nurture. Despite his distant relationship with his mother, Meursault seems to need to replace this nurturing female figure immediately but takes it immediately to a sexual level, acting solely on the desires of the Id. However, you could look at this psychoanalysis from a different perspective. It could be argued that acting solely on the Id is simply a consequence of absurdism for the two protagonists. If Alex and Meursault see no meaning or purpose then they have now motivation to be moral. In this sense, the omission of purpose removes the need for the Superego.
According to Sartre, we are thrown into existence without a predetermined future and construct our own nature or essence through our free choice and actions. Hence, human beings, regardless of their personal nature, should never be deprived of their freedom of self-determination. Clearly influenced by some outlook of existential philosophy, Burgess discusses throughout ‘A Clockwork Orange’ how forcing man to be good is worse than allowing a man to choose evil; the truest malevolence is forced benevolence. ‘Is a man who chooses the bad perhaps in some way better than a man who has the good imposed upon him?’ questions the Chaplain in criticism of Alex’s treatment. The chaplain echoes the notion of Sartre, that good acts (or anything for that matter) are morally valueless is performed without free will. This point is reinforced when Alex leaves prison, a ‘free’ and harmless man. However, now lonely and bereft of spirit, he’s beaten, used and suicidal. Alex only reaches maturity, conscious morality and safety when his conditioning is removed and he is ‘cured’, going as far as comparing good without will to a disease. This moral maturity comes in part 3, chapter 7 – the 21st chapter of the novel. Alex reflects on his violent youth and hopes for a wholesome future, finally making his own purpose in wishes for marriage and children. 21 was significantly the voting age in England in 1962 when the novel was published, thus a structural reinforcement of moral maturity for Alex. The structure of the whole novel in fact is significant. With 3 parts each divided in to 7 chapters, the novel assumes an ABA structure echoing that of an operatic song – a symbol of Alex’s musical interest that is used against him. Only by chapter 21 – the ‘end of the song’ – does Alex have the free will to do good, forge his own meaning and purpose, and live an existentially authentic life.
However, its the ending of ‘The Outsider’ that determines it an absurdist novel rather than the existentialist denouement of ‘A Clockwork Orange’. Meursault becomes an absurd hero both literally and figuratively. Literally, he perfectly exemplifies the absurd characteristics of revolt, freedom and passionate carelessness. On a figurative level, Meursault now sits in prison waiting for death, a metaphor for the human condition. Like Alex, Meursault too encounters a Chaplain while in prison. The Chaplain tries to bring the atheist Meursault to God in his final days but he refuses, summarizing his absurd worldview that nothing really matters and the only point of living is to die – ‘Since we’re all going to die, it’s obvious that when and how don’t matter.’ By narrating the story through Meursault’s indifferent voice, and the use of pronouns like ‘we’, the reader is drawn into his point of view, feeling the absurdity of the events like Camus almost certainly intended. In the final pages of the novel Meursault enjoys almost an epiphany: ‘For the first time, in that night alive with signs and stars, I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world…I felt that I had been happy and that I was happy again.’ It is in those lines that Camus describes Meursault’s ironic joy at the recognition of a universe without meaning and without hope. He comes to a full acceptance of his absurd position in the universe and finds comfort in that, dispelling any criticism that absurdism attracted for its alleged pessimism in the religious early 1940s. The use of the positive adjective ‘gentle’ along with the imagery of vitality in his surroundings reinforces this positive look at the philosophy whilst seeming to juxtapose Meursault’s coming execution. It could certainly be argued that Meursault represents Camus himself. Our author also had a distant, relatively cold relationship with his mother (as described in ‘L’ Envers et l’ Endroit’), before leaving home and rushing in to a relationship. Camus too only found solace when he had familiarised himself with the philosophy of absurdism. He even often used the pseudonym ‘Jean Meursault’ for some of his articles as a young reporter. At the end it becomes clear that ‘The Outsider’ is simple a hyperbolic, semi-autobiographical description of the emerging popularity of absurdism.
In conclusion both ‘A Clockwork Orange’ and ‘The Outsider’ present themselves as novels with philosophical morals. Whilst ‘A Clockwork Orange’ seems to lean more towards an existentialist philosophy, heavily influenced by Burgess’ own opinions, ‘The Outsider’ concludes as an absurdist work describing absurdism in it’s truest form and articulating the thoughts of Camus, the father of absurdism himself. Both Alex and Meursault seem to be characters void of morals and higher purpose, creating any purpose they can in immorality or selfishness. Whilst Alex is given the chance and will to change, creating his own purpose, Meursault is condemned. Both characters end up surprisingly content, comfortable in their change – Alex to a good man and Meursault to a man at peace with his personal philosophy. Both Burgess and Camus similarly present their own views through their texts and do so in an almost persuasive light, highlighting the positives an individual can unlock in their philosophy.
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