Free Will in a Clockwork Orange
Free Will in a Clockwork Orange
Choice and free will are necessary to maintain humanity, both individually and communally; without them, man is no longer human but a “clockwork orange”, a mechanical toy, as demonstrated in Anthony Burgess’ novel, “A Clockwork Orange”. The choice between good and evil is a decision every man must make throughout his life in order to guide his actions and control his future. Forcing someone to be good is not as important as the act of someone choosing to be good. This element of choice, no matter what the outcome, displays man’s power as an individual.
“A Clockwork Orange” starts with Alex posing the question: “what’s it going to be then, eh? “. Burgess begins the story by demonstrating that Alex and his gang are free to do as they choose. Alex and his “droogs” are rebellious modern youth in an oppressive society. The “droogs” are tempted like all humanity by sin and try to show their hatred for the government with acts of extreme violence. The violent and rebellious behavior is a result of free will, but without the presence of evil, there would be nothing for humanity to choose.
Throughout part one of the novel the droogs’ choices often result in violent actions harming innocent people. Examples of their “ultra-violence” are rampant: Alex and his droogs choose to rob and assault a man, Alex rapes young girls, and the droogs rob an old “ptitsa” who later dies from Alex’s assault. As Burgess says : “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”. God gave individuals free will, and they are responsible for their actions.
The government has no right to interfere with human nature. A person can choose to be good or evil as Alex tries to demonstrate when he says: ” what I do I do because I like to do”. With this statement, Alex clearly demonstrates that he is responsible for his actions and he chooses 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 appalling scene is another example of Alex using his free will and his temptation towards evil.
Evil is not only part of Alex’s life but the government’s as well. The evil of the government can be seen in part two of the novel when Alex’s mind is controlled and forced to have no moral choice. The government controls Alex’s free will by means of the Ludovico Technique, which makes Alex physically ill at the mere consideration of violent thoughts. When Alex is in the “staja” the Governor states that criminals “can best be dealt with on a purely curative basis. Kill the criminal reflex? “. The Governor does not understand that criminal intent is not an unrestrained reaction, but the result of autonomy.
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”. Again through one of his characters, Burgess is stating that inhibiting a person’s free will is more evil than a person’s ability to choose evil over good. If one cannot choose, one ceases to be human and is 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?” only to prove that 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 explains the effects of the technique to Alex : “you are being made sane, you are being made healthy”.
The government and the doctors are convinced that they are making Alex “sane” and “healthy”. On the contrary, they are controlling his ability to have a choice in his actions. The doctors are attempting to eliminate Alex’s moral choice, which is neither sane nor healthy. The doctors go even further when they discover Alex’s love for classical music.
Dr Branom says: “here is the punishment element, perhaps. The Governor ought to be pleased”. They go beyond trying to reform Alex and continue to punish and torture him, for after this torment is complete hearing a beautiful piece of music makes Alex sick. Alex’s reaction to music becomes violent and painful because of the government’s manipulation and the side effects of the Ludovico Technique. Alex did not choose to have his free will and love for music taken away. After the procedure is complete, the prison Chaplin comments ” he has no real choice , has he?…
he ceases to be a wrongdoer. He ceases also to be a creature capable of moral choice”. The government limits Alex’s moral choice to only good which is truly the essence of evil for it interferes with the gift of free will given to humankind by god. After Alex is released into society, he has a difficult time adjusting since his world has drastically changed. Alex is now forced to behave oppositely to what he desires. The doctors have forced him to be “good”. After Dim and Billyboy have assaulted Alex, he encounters F. Alexander who takes him in.
Alex attacked F. Alexander earlier in the story and mocked him for explaining the concept of free moral choice. When F. Alexander hears Alex’s story he remarks: “they have turned into something other than a human being. You have no power of choice any longer. You are committed to socially acceptable acts, a little machine capable only of good? “. F. Alexander understands that limiting a man’s free will is a sin, but as we soon learn, F. Alexander and his faction use Alex for their own cause and form Alex into a martyr by manipulating and influencing his will.
This act of selfishness proves that F. Alexander’s faction is no better than the government they are criticizing. They are willing to sacrifice Alex to make him “a martyr to the cause f Liberty? “. F. Alexander and his faction are so ruthless that Alex sees suicide as his only way out. He decides to “do myself in, to snuff it, to blast off forever out of this wicked and cruel world”. Alex’s thoughts, feelings and choices have been altered and he feels that he can only escape his evil manipulation by suicide. To Alex, F.Alexander’s faction turns out to be as evil as the government they are fighting.
While Alex is in the hospital, after his failed suicide attempt, F. Alexander says: “you have served Liberty well”. It is clear to Alex that there is no distinction between the oppressive government and the deception of F. Alexander’s faction. Once Alex has regained his free will, he is released back into society and attempts to go back to his old ways. The beginning of part three mirrors part one; however, Alex is starting to change.
Alex seems less interested in senseless violence, and since his free will has returned, he starts “dreaming and wondering what it was like changing and what was going to happen to me”. Alex is beginning to realize that he has choices to make in his life. After meeting Pete who has matured Alex has a revelation, he imagines himself as a husband and father and realizes “I was like growing up”. Alex is attracted by love and parenthood, not by sin. He uses his moral choice to choose to righteous path and finally answers the question with “that’s what it’s going to be, brothers”.
Alex willfully chooses to change his ways; he decides to be productive, and chooses love over sin. He realizes that what he did in the past was wrong, as well as the immorality of his ways. It is through free moral choice that Alex arrives at this conclusion, not through a government technique forcing him to make the “right” decision. As part of the process of maturity, Alex would have likely selected this path naturally. However, the interference of the government and F. Alexander’s interference with Alex’s moral choice ultimately drove him to attempt suicide to escape the evil ways they chose for reform.
Moral choice can lead to violence, but without the risks, there would be nothing for humanity to choose. The government and F. Alexander’s faction control Alex’s free will to justify their own political agenda. They control his ability to choose without realizing that interfering with humanity’s ability to exercise free will is evil. Both the government and F. Alexander’s faction claim to be “the good guys” when they are the true faces of pure evil. One has to remember that evil is a master of disguise. It often hides behind the mask of the hero.
Subject: Anthony Burgess,
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 9 November 2016
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