Anthony Burgess’s novel A Clockwork Orange presents us with the unmistakable intrinsic value of the freedom of moral choice. Choice enables us as humans to decide for ourselves whether to dedicate our lives either to servitude and goodness or violence and evil. Burgess seeks to tell his readers that while all humans have this crucial choice, our inclination is naturally toward the latter. When we choose this latter option, we find only transitory satisfaction and eventually frustration. Through Burgess’s use of language and structure, he conveys to the reader the importance of desiring to do what is right.
In A_ Clockwork Orange_, Burgess portrays the main character, Alex’s, thoughts, words, and surrounding narrative in a special dialect called Nadsat. Nadsat is a type of invented Russian slang used in this book by both the teenage and criminally inclined, both of which are accurate descriptions of our dear “droog” Alex. It is also symbolic of immaturity. At first, this language is alien and hard to understand, which helps distance the reader from the brutal violence depicted by Alex and his gang. However, as the novel progresses and this language becomes familiar and endearing, the author uses this dialect to draw us into Alex’s character and to help us relate to him. Our developing understanding of his speech allows us to feel as if we are a part of his character, and consequentially a part of his violent deeds and ensuing misfortunes.The language almost serves as a type of brainwashing, connecting us to the character deeply but not consciously. This is what causes the reader to feel sympathetic to Alex’s plight.
... Vardaman's feelings become our feelings, and this type of character / reader interaction is repeated several times during the book. ... of components... ." It is this sort of language that reveals Vardaman's character as an intellectual force to be reckoned with ... confusing. The narrators, unfortunately, are no less confusing. Their language aside, each individual personality serves to put a spin on ...
Through this connection the author draws the unwitting reader into a world where things are not quite right, and senseless violence is a prerogative of youth. We see the narrator and his gang take advantage of harmless unsuspecting people, and commit horrible acts of violence and inhuman atrocities. All we can do is watch as we see mankind’s natural knack for destruction take its toll, and our subconscious connection to Alex makes us a part of this violence. Burgess seems to argue through means of his character’s actions that teenagers are incapable of goodness because of their lack of direction. He once compared teenagers or “nadsats” to wind up toys. They have plenty of energy but all they can do with it is bump into things mindlessly, and cannot help what they are doing. So with this undirected energy, many nadsats destroy things for their own satisfaction. Imagine the immediate gratification of making a building crumble into a cloud of dust and noise compared to the hard and endless task of composing a symphony. With such a lack of patience and direction, nadsats are more naturally geared toward destruction of the beautiful and elegant rather than the creation of it, because destruction is instantly rewarding. This natural disposition toward violence and destruction is embraced by some, which is illustrated in the character of Alex.
As a response to his incessant violence, Alex is placed by authorities into a controversial and untested correctional facility, where his body is trained to despise violence through involuntary chemical treatment and daily torture. Through this inhumane training, Alex is sensitized to the point where it literally makes him ill to even think of swatting at a fly. However, it is not the act of violence itself that makes it despicable to him, but rather his body’s programmed intense reaction to violence. He begins to beg for beatings rather than harming others, because even merely thinking of others as subjects for violence causes him intolerable physical pain. He becomes the most polite gentleman imaginable within two short weeks. This may seems like a wonderful thing, but, in actuality, he has not gotten over violence. What has happened to Alex is that his freedom of moral choice has been taken from him. He still desires to do evil, but is rendered physically incapable. He is just as heartless in his being “cured” of physical brutality as he was in his days of committing horrible acts of violence. In reality, he is no better off than he was before. His inability to be who he is is only frustrating and torturous. In fact, Alex’s lack of ability to make choices for himself drives him to where he no longer sees purpose in continuing to live. However, he cannot even consider the option of ending his now miserable existence because the act would be violent, and he has been rendered incapable.
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This presents us with a question that is vital to understanding the author’s purpose for this novel. Is it better to choose to do evil, or to be forced to do good? There seems to be no answer to this question. The author clearly illustrates that doing evil is despicable and disgusting, and evildoers have a horrible knack for destroying the lives of the innocent and helpless. He also vehemently argues that doing good is not really good if one is not able to make the moral choice to do good for oneself. If moral choice is taken away from us, we become nothing more than clockwork oranges. We still have all of the appearance of flesh and consciousness, but in reality we mindlessly run on gears and wheels and wind-up energy with no direction or ability to think and choose, which takes away life’s purpose in Burgess’s opinion, and Alex’s as well.
To Alex, freedom was everything. Now that it is gone, he cannot figure out what to do with his life. So he decides to end it, no matter what pain entertaining the thought may cost him. However, his suicide attempt fails, and leaves him as violent as ever before. At the end of the 20th chapter, we see Alex lying in the hospital bed thinking as well as voicing violent ideas with no remorse or pain. Then, he smugly thinks to himself, “Oh , it was all gorgeosity and yumyumyum…I was cured all right.”
At the end of the 20th chapter, we are left with a cynical hopeless picture of our beloved main character, and thus, a cynical hopeless picture for mankind. This is the way the American version of A Clockwork Orange ends. It leaves the reader with the impression that tendencies cannot be overcome, and that good cannot ever come from evil people. Evil people either must remain evil, or become miserable clockwork oranges, with no moral choice and thus no desire to live. The American publisher’s felt that this was the most “realistic” ending. However, this was not the author’s intent. He originally wrote the book to be 21 chapters long, 21 being a number symbolic of maturity. With the 21st chapter included, the intended message of the author is clear and unadulterated.
... one's destiny, good or evil. "If he can only perform good or only perform evil, then he is a clockwork orange-meaning that he ... by governmental moral standards. This lack of personal moral choice imposed upon Alex creates conflicting situations in which he has no control ... is in the hands of God and individual moral choice. Through religion Alex soon becomes a model prisoner, externally, yet internally ...
In the 21st chapter, Alex is the leader of a new gang, but he does not seem happy. He seems almost bored with the repetitiveness of brutality. We see a genuine soft side to him for the first time. He has a chance encounter with an old droog of his who has outgrown his violence and Nadsat talk and gotten married. This gets Alex thinking, and he realizes that destruction can only be enjoyed for so long. It was about time for him to create. After all, he realizes, “At eighteen old Wolfgang Amadeus had written concertos and symphonies and operas and all thatcal, no, not cal, heavenly music. And then there was old Felix M. with his Midsummer Night’s Dream overture. And there were others.” He realizes that it isn’t too late for him. He has finally grown up and realized that violence is juvenile and boring, or as Burgess himself would put it, “the repartee of the stupid and ignorant”. Alex, the kid who could never make the right choices himself, has finally made his own choice to create rather than to destroy.
So you can clearly see the difference between the two potential endings of A Clockwork Orange. While the American version serves as a model of unregenerable evil, the 21st chapter offers mankind some semblance of hope. Alex did not need to be forced into goodness. He came into it on his own. If Alex, the worst case scenario, overcame his awful addiction to evil, than so can the rest of us. But we need to decide this for ourselves. Morality cannot be thrust upon anyone. Realistically or not, Burgess believes that humanity can overcome its sinful nature and make our own moral choice to do what is right.