Home » A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess

A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess

There have been many books published solely on philosophy, and many more than that solely written about human nature, but very infrequently will a book be published that weaves these fields together as well as A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess. In this Book Burgess speculated on the fact the significance of maturing by choice is to gain moral values and freedoms. He achieved this task by pushing his angsty teenaged character, Alex, through situations that challenge the moral values of himself and his friends.

In the novel, A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess, Alex himself, must choose good over evil in order to gain moral values which will allow him to mature into a man in the latter of his two transformations. Anthony Burgess was born in Manchester, England on February 25, 1917. When he was a child of one-year-old his mother and sister passed away due to the influenza epidemic. He continued living with his father who soon was remarried to the owner of a pub. Anthonys father played piano at the pub and Anthony began composing his own music at the early age of fourteen  In 1940 Burgess joined the army and was put in the medical corps.

Two years later he married Llewela Isherwood Jones. Burgess, soon after his marriage, left the army, started writing and teaching English. In 1968 Llewela died and Burgess was remarried to Lilina Macellari. They left England in 1968 and settled in Monaco, where Burgess remained a prolific writer through 1980. Burgess writing career was at its peak while Llewela was in the hospital. Durring this emotional time he was able to write such books as A Clockwork Orange and Inside Mr. Enderby, and create such a dynamic character as Alex.

When Alex is first introduced, he is depicted as a disillusioned, corrupted youth. He is the stereotype of what parents dont want their children to be, possibly what parents would blame on the media and TV if their did turn out like him. Although this much is known about Alex, what caused this behavior in him is a mystery. Could it have been an alcoholic abusive father, a mother whose painstakingly high expectations were only belittled by her sons prepubescent violence, or was he just affected by the ultraviolent society in which he lives in?

Although this question goes unanswered, it is discovered why it is that Alex does recover from his moral laxness as we focus on his journey starting at moral numbness, venturing through his clockwork conscience, to finally result in his being a man. The life of Alex takes place in an unspecified country that shares aspects of both Russian and American society (Kilvert 190). It takes place in a strange futuristic land whos moral values seem to differ greatly from ours, yet there is still a strong relationship felt towards Alex.

Since the novel is written from his point of view the reader seems to sympathize with Alex despite his brutal acts of violence and rape (Magill 469). From a one-sided description Alex could appear to be a monster that cares not for the well being of others, but as the reader gets to know him, he becomes more and more human. We find out early in the book that Alex is fond of Beethoven and other classical music. He appreciates art and other various forms of self-expression.

When Alex is with his friends he always seems to be the brains of his droogs (friend), and he is revered as the leader. Although these good qualities draw the reader closer to Alex, it is nearly impossible to condone his acts of heartless violence. Throughout the book Alex commits such atrocities as raping two little girls whom he drank into a stupor, killing a homeless man, crippling a writer for life and killing his wife. When the reader tries to discover Alexs motivation for doing these evil things he draws a blank.

There are no signs in the book pointing to a reason for this violent behavior. Ian Scott Kilvert, a literary critic said The bourgeois middle class in the novel have become so quiet and so passive that the young who have succeeded them have chosen evil as their way of life, as assertion of the will. During Alexs last and most grand acts of ultraviolence, his conspiring droogs called the police on him, which resulted in a fourteen-year sentence in jail. After spending only two years in prison, Alex already wants to get out.

He passes a lot of his time talking to the Prison Chaplain, helping serve mass and at the same time expands his knowledge of the Bible and God. Through all of this religious refinement Alex still doesnt have any remorse for the things he has done, and he doesnt let it affect his violence in the future. In fact Alex goes on to kill another inmate, while in prison. As a result of this murder Alex sent away for a new type of treatment that would defiantly cure him of his evil in roughly two weeks.

This treatment is called Ludovicos treatment, and it disables a human from making any choice other than a good choice. This treatment transforms him  via electroshock therapy and films of Nazi-like horrors  into an emotionally neutered creature, sickened by even art music and sex (Parker 387). Soon before he is sent to become a guinea pig the Prison Chaplain and Alex have a deep and foreshadowing conversation. In this conversation the Prison Chaplain states, When a man ceases to choose, he ceases to be a man” (Burgess  67).

If Alex only knew how true the Prison Chaplains words were he would have regretted his entire past as a corrupted youth. Ludovicos treatment made Alex physically ill whenever he was encountered with a potentially evil situation; therefore it made it impossible for him to take part in it. Although this sounds like a great solution it caused more trouble than it prevented. It rendered Alex incapacitated whenever he was physically assaulted, leaving him an open target for all battering. Out on the street again he is encountered by his vengeful droogs who take advantage of his disability.

He is also beaten and abused by those whom he has hurt, especially the crippled man whose wife he had killed. During this period of his life Alex is what Burgess describes as a Clockwork Orange, he Becomes a piece of machinery (Parker 387). He operates as if programmed, and makes nearly no decision for himself. Everyone is in some sense a clockwork orange, a victim of his or her society, compelled to act in a social order that celebrates only power, manipulation, and control (Magill 469). Alex realizes what the government has done to him and he realizes that he is a target for society to pick on.

Friedrich Nietzche said in Beyond Good and Evil, Nobody wants to do harm to himself, therefore all that is bad is done involuntary. For the bad do harm to themselves: this they would not do if they knew that the bad is bad. Hence the bad are bad only because of an error; if one removes the error, one necessarily makes themgood (Nietzsche 103). After Alexs suicide attempt, he ends up in the hospital. He leaped out of a four story window in hopes of ending his pain and suffering for good. He didnt succeed in killing himself, but he did end his pain.

Somehow in the course of the injury the Ludovicos treatment wore off. Alex first notices this as he is lying the hospital bed and he remarks to a nurse What gives, O my little sister? Come thou and have a nice lay-down with your malenky droog in this bed  (Burgess 170). While Alex was still cured he would not have been able to say such a thing without feeling an overwhelming sickness and vomiting sensation. After recovering from his physical injuries he takes to the streets again and finds a new group of droogs. Ludovicos treatment obviously didnt work because then Alex wouldnt be able to commit any violent acts.

The treatment and jail time did nothing. Look, droogies. Listen. Tonight I am somehow just not in the mood. I know not why or how it is, but there it is. You three go your own ways this nightwise, leaving me out (Burgess 185). This point in the book marks Alexs second metamorphosis. It is similar to the first in the way that he changes from good to bad, but different, in that the first change was forced, and this was a change in his heart. Now Alex becomes sick of his old ways and wants to change. At this point he meets up with his old droog, Pete.

Pete is now married and happily settled down. Alex realizes that this is the lifestyle he wants to pursue. Now it becomes obvious to the reader that Alex has now truly matured. The treatment could not have truly done anything for him because all it did was transform him into a living-breathing clock. Now he is truly a person. Not just a person, but a mature person of increasingly reputable morals. Now Alex wants to break away from the group and adopts more the philosophy that Madness is rare in individualsbut in groups, parties, nations, and ages it is the rule  (Neitzsche 90).

In conclusion it is seen that Alex has effectively changed into a man and has become a morally sensitive individual. He, for himself has chosen good over evil and needed no treatment to help him do so. It is realized that in being unable to choose, one is not at liberty, and free will is taken away. Also if one has no say whether good or evil is chosen, it is of no importance because such a decision could be made by a machine. Alex was able to make two evolutions. He evolved from a machine into a human, and the evolved from a human choosing evil, to a human choosing good.

Cite This Work

To export a reference to this essay please select a referencing style below:

Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.

Leave a Comment