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A Clockwork Orange

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Reykjavík 24.Nóvember 2018
Elvar Þór Sturluson

Anthony Burgess was born in 1917 and died in 1993. A lot of social changes happened
throughout his life, such as: the prohibition, WW2, the roaring twenties, the Great
Depression, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and many more. Burgess not only lived through those
changes, but also helped influences some social changes in literature and music. Anthony
Burgess was a jack-of-all-trades throughout his 76 years. He was a novelist, composer,
children’s book writer, play writer, essayist, critic, and poet. Burgess is most famously known
for his controversial novel, A Clockwork Orange. Which i will talk about in this essay and
mainly focus on the illusion of free will in the novel. A Clockwork Orange takes place in a
futuristic city governed by a repressive, totalitarian super-State. In this society, ordinary
citizens have fallen into a state of absolute complacency, blind to the rampant growth of a
violent youth culture. The protagonist of the story is Alex, a fifteen-year-old boy who
narrates the story in a slang dialect called nadsat, which incorporates elements of Russian and
Cockney English. Alex leads a small gang of criminals, Dim, Pete, and Georgie through the
streets, robbing and beating people up and raping women. Then they hang out at the Korova
Milkbar and get high.
?The novel starts with: “Whats it going to be then eh?” thus making it seem that Alex
and his friends have free will. Alex, more often than not, chooses to be evil and so his choices
often end in violent actions. To quote the author:””evil has to exist along with good, in order
that moral choice may operate? Unfortunately there is so much original sin in us all that we
find evil rather attractive” According to the character F. Alexander, A clockwork orange is
the result of “the application of a mechanistic morality to a living organism oozing with juice
and sweetness.” The government has no right to interfere with human nature. A person can
make a concious decision to be evil or good as Alex tries to demonstrate when he says: ”
what I do I do because I like to do”. By saying this, Alex clearly demonstrates that he is

responsible for his actions and he has made the conscious decision to act out against society
simply because he likes to, because he is attracted to sin. When Alex and his gang attack F.
Alexander and his wife, we again witness horrible acts of violence that are ultimately the
result of Alex’s choice. This horrifying scene is yet another example of Alex using his free
will and his temptation towards evil.
A repressive government, has stripped people of their free will so they become like
“clockwork oranges”, natural on the outside but with the souls and minds of machines. The
psychological conditioning that Alex goes through strips him of his ability to do wrong.
Even though he wants to or tries, he simply is unable to perform any act of violence, even to
save himself from danger. As a side effect of the conditioning, Alex cannot listen to his
beloved classical music, as it, too, creates violent thoughts which in turn trigger his feelings
of illness. Alex may seem like a “good,” person but in reality his goodness does not mean
anything because he has no other choice but to behave that way, he has become like a
soulless machine.
The voice of reason in the prison is the prison Chaplin who questions the ethics of
interfering with God’s gift of moral choice, “goodness comes from within?. goodness is
something chosen. When a man cannot choose he ceases to be a man”. Here Burgess again
states through the Chaplin that stripping a person of their free will is more evil than a
person’s ability to choose evil over good. F. Alexander echoes this statement, when he says to
Alex that the treatment has “turned him into something other a human being. He has no
power of choice any longer.” If a person cannot choose, one ceases to be human and
becomes exactly like a machine controlled by the government. After Alex undergoes the
Ludovico Technique, he stops asking “what’s it going to be then, eh?” and that proves that
the technique has worked and Alex has lost his free will. Alex’s question that was so

prominent disappears and the mere thought of violence makes him physically ill. Dr Branom
tries to cinvince Alex that the effects of the technique are make him sane: “you are being
made sane, you are being made healthy”.

Before the Ludovico Technique is used on Alex, he is a free being, given free will to
do what he likes. And Alex simply likes to do evil and violence. However, it could be said
that in his compulsive violence there is also some kind of mechanical quality. In the end of
the novel, Alex likens youth to a state of being like a wind-up toy, going along straight ahead
and banging into things because it is not able to turn and avoid them. In other words, Alex
may always have been something of a clockwork orange. In the first part, he can only do evil,
and in the second part, he can only do good. At last reaching maturity, Alex will be a creature
capable of making moral decisions in life.

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