The decision to choose between good and evil is one simple choice that separates a human from being a machine. Being unable to choose from the two is “…like little chellovecks made out of tin and with a spring inside and then a winding handle on the outside” (Burgess, 203). There comes a point in a man’s life where he stops being a machine and becomes something else entirely. In the book A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, the twenty-first chapter was excluded from the earlier publications, but then added to the latter ones; although the ending of chapter twenty provides beneficial lessons, the twenty-first chapter of A Clockwork Orange is a superior conclusion to the story as it shows character development and accomplishes the morals of the story.
This story follows a fifteen-year-old boy named Alex, an immature adolescent who disregards the law and engages in rape and “ultraviolence”. Soon Alex is apprehended and sentenced to prison where he is a victim of a conditioning experiment known as the “Ludovico treatment” in order to rid him of all of his evil desires. The treatment ends up being a success as Alex is no longer able to participate in violence or rape at his own will. As the story continues, the government cures Alex of the condition under the agreement that he sides with the government. At the end of chapter twenty, Alex departs from the audience realizing “I was cured all right” (Burgess 192). Although the end of this chapter is not nearly as satisfying and powerful as the ending of chapter twenty-one, it still provides an important lesson that readers should recognize.
We as readers learn about the inherent evil of the government as we watch the Ludovico treatment’s success in controlling Alex’s violence. There is importance in informing readers of immoral actions involving the government and challenging them to question what is ethical or not. “He [Burgess] has presented us with a stark image of evil, and perhaps of a greater evil in attempting to counteract it. He has warned us of a slippery slope” (Newman 68). In the book, the Ludovico experiment is intense and disturbing even for readers who have been exposed to Alex’s extreme actions. Even though Alex is presented to us as a clear image of evil, Burgess’s readers can still recognize something that is not just immature. Burgess is successful in showing his readers that sometimes something that is supposed to be pristine can be corrupt. He shows us that a government that has the appearance of being good does not mean that it is good.
Though this ending is powerful, it does not completely satisfy or give any development to its readers. “Burgess offers us no real answers, however. At the end of the 20th chapter, it is clear that Alex intends to resume his life of ultraviolence. Seemingly little thought is given to those he has killed, or those he is likely to kill” (Newman 68). The ending of chapter twenty shows its readers that Alex is aware that he is in fact cured and will continue to act the same as he once did at the introduction of the story. Earlier in the story, Alex kills two women before being sentenced to prison. Since these deaths were very brutal, readers expect remorse from Alex especially when he is unconditioned from the reclamation treatment. Because Alex is released from the torture of the Ludovico technique, we predict he will regret the actions that caused the torment. When Alex does not show any actions towards his past transgressions, we envision him to kill again.
As a result, this conclusion gives the readers no sort of progress throughout the events before. Since Alex was forced into changing his immoral actions, he never made any improvement in his own power. Even though readers can recognize that the treatment is immoral, they can still see that Alex is not making any progress. He was forced into a direction to be a test subject of something that had the appearance of being good. Although he is now three years older from when he was first sentenced, Alex ends where he once started, a child. In order for him to grow as a person, he first must realize that his actions are wrong. In the added twenty-first chapter, Alex encounters one of his old “droogs” and becomes aware of his transgressions and reanalyzes where his priorities are. As a result, the conclusion of the story surrounds Alex’s character and the maturity he begins to embrace. “But now as I end this story, brothers, I am not young, not no longer, oh no. Alex like groweth up, oh yes” (Burgess 204).
As Alex starts to distinguish his developing maturity, he finds himself evaluating what adulthood requires. “In chapter 21, Burgess presents a mellowing, increasingly reflective, eighteen-year-old Alex who is coming to see that this previous violent behavior was childishly perverse. He thinks of marriage, stability, and the son he one day hopes to have. He contemplates explaining to his son all his past crimes as an admonition” (Hong 34). As Alex begins to become bored with the violence and rape he had previously committed, he reaches a place in his life where he has never been to before. Before the Ludovico treatment, Alex was a criminal and a child who needed to be cured from the sickness that grew within him. Even though Alex rejoices saying he was “cured,” he was not cured from his real problem; his evil ways. In order for him to be truly cured of his old desires, he needs to choose for himself to turn from what he once was. Through his experience with the Ludovico technique, Alex reaches the realization that part of growing up is turning from what has prevented his progression. “Free to will and free to choose again, even if he wills to sin, Alex is capable of salvation. In the view of Burgess, all individuals, even these as violent as Alex, could reform and acquire the moral growth. The moral maturity comes with age” (Hong 34).
Though Alex did not show any signs of remorse or regret, he showed the desire to improve to a higher level of maturity. Something that he was unable to do at the end of chapter twenty, Alex is no longer immune to salvation. Regardless of the intensity and degree of the crimes Alex has committed, he has a chance to repent and break free from what has been chaining him down his whole life. This provides improvement in Burgess’s main character, as Alex can finally choose for himself what he must accomplish in order to mature as a man. Character development is clearly necessary for Burgess as he expresses, “There is, in fact not much point in writing a novel unless you can show the possibility or moral transformation, or an increase in wisdom, operating in your chief character or characters” (Burgess 168). Through the ending of chapter twenty-one, Alex displays progression in his character. If the novel ends at chapter twenty, Alex is right where he began.
Once Alex has decided to choose goodness and maturity, the story finally reaches what the readers have been striving to see. As Alex finally looks to turn to the next chapter in his life, the book comes to a point where hope is finally achieved. “When man has reached a hopeless impasse in his savage quest for improvement, he must make the sensible moral choice. The individual is a ‘creature of growth and capable of sweetness’, as F. Alexander puts in his typescript, so he could be liberated or saved” (Hong 34). Liberation comes from someone who chooses to become saved from the thing that once was holding that person down. As he made this choice he matured as a character. If Alex were to not make this choice, the main theme would not be as impactful since he did not choose goodness. Alex once displayed his view on goodness in the novel stating, “They don’t go into what is the cause of goodness, so why of the other shop? If lewdies are good that’s because they like it, and I wouldn’t interfere with their pleasures, and so of the other shop.
And I was patronizing the other shop” (Burgess 46). Alex shows us evil, just like goodness, is a choice when he refers it as “the other shop.” Again later in prison, the chaplain tells Alex, “goodness comes from within. Goodness is something chosen” (Burgess 93). This statement has no meaning to Alex unless he himself chooses goodness. Although Alex chose the Ludovico treatment, he did not choose goodness. The conditioning forced Alex into goodness rather than him choosing it for himself. The chaplain then goes on further to say, “when a man cannot choose he ceases to be a man” (Burgess 93). Burgess desires to indicate that it is not what a man chooses; it is the idea that he is able to choose. A man who is incapable of a moral choice can never attain redemption, but a man who admits his wrongdoings can choose to repent and reach salvation.
Throughout the story, free will is displayed as the decision to choose something rather than being another subject or machine of the government. Although Alex ultimately seems as if he will begin to choose goodness, Burgess wants to make sure that goodness is something that must be chosen, rather than forced. In A Clockwork Orange Resucked, Burgess shows his readers that good and evil must both be equally offered. “… by definition, a human being is endowed with free will. He can use this to choose between good and evil. If he can 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” (“ACO Resucked” 168). As Alex was once a toy wound up by the appearance of pure goodness, readers soon find that evil was what turned the lever. At the beginning of the story, it appears that Alex is already “a clockwork orange” as he seems as though he can only perform evil acts with his henchman.
As the end draws near, we find that Alex always had the choice of goodness, but never chose it until he had nothing but the choice of goodness. Burgess again expresses, “It is 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. Life is sustained by the grinding opposition of moral entities” (“ACO Resucked”168). Without evil as a valid choice, the choice to be good becomes nothing more than an empty action. In the novel, Alex too refers to himself as one of those “malenky machines” at the end of chapter twenty-one, saying being young is like being one of those machines. He goes on and says that they cannot control where they are going and crash into things along the way. Alex comes to the realization that he does not want to be a toy anymore. Without the twenty-first chapter, Alex would still be a clockwork orange, leaving him as just another machine.
Not only does the twenty-first chapter accomplish the morals of both maturity and goodness, it also resonates for readers as a symbolism for free will. The twenty-first chapter is necessary for Alex’s character development as well, and achieves greater emotional value for its readers. According to Burgess, the choice of either goodness or evil is something that everyone should be entitled to. Regardless of what someone chooses, goodness or evil should be chosen in order to remain a human. For a human who does not have a choice, “grrr grrr grrr and off it itties, like walking, O my brothers” (Burgess 203).
Burgess, Anthony. A Clockwork Orange. Ed. Andrew Biswell. Res. ed. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2012. Print. Burgess, Anthony. “A Clockwork Orange Resucked.” A Clockwork Orange – Authoritative Text Backgrounds And Contexts Criticism. Ed. Mark Rawlinson. Norton Critical. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2011. 166-70. Print. Hong, Liu. “The Perplexing Choice In Existence Predicament: An Existential Interpretation Of Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange.” Studies In Literature & Language 1.8 (2010): 29-38. Communication & Mass Media Complete. Web. 7 Dec. 2013. Newman, Bobby. “A CLOCKWORK ORANGE:
Burgess and Behavioral Interventions.” Behavior and Social Issues 1.2 (1991): 61-69. Web. 13 Dec. 2013.
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