Clockwork Orange Essays

Essay Free Will in Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange

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Is it better to be a man choosing wrong than a man who is forced to choose right?
In the classic novel, A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, a theme emerges. This is the theme of free will. Through the main character, Alex, Burgess is able to convey his ideas about free will and the oppressive nature of establishments such as governments and the media. Aside from these suggestions made by Burgess the question persists: When a man ceases to choose, is he still a man?

Free will is one of the features that separates us as humans from animals and allows us to attain intelligent thought and reasoning. Of course, all of the features mentioned are unique to humans; the ability to exercise free will enables us to engage in all…show more content…

Life is sustained by the struggling that occurs between good and evil. Take, for instance, the evening new which eradicates this fact of life. Unfortunately, the tendency for mankind to destroy rather than create is due to a certain amount of “original sin.” But there is a fundamental importance of moral choice, and that is what Burgess intends for us to learn about this free will aspect of life. When he added the controversial 21st chapter he solidified the books meaning by saying, “Eat this sweetish segment or spit it out. You are free.”

When Alex is left alone to decide to what he will do, he looks back on his violent youth with shame and remorse. He then decides he wants a different kind of future. “Perhaps I was too old for the sort of jeezny (life) I was leading” (Burgess189). At this point Alex begins to come to the conclusion that he must undergo a change of sorts. The difference between this reform and his previous reform was desire. Alex truly wanted to change, and this desire to change made it valid. This leaves only one question; what would happen if Alex never reached this desire to change? The only answer is Free Will, my brothers.

The answer to the enduring question is yes. It is better to be a man choosing wrong than it is to be a man forced to choose right. For the man who is forced to choose right is not a man at all. “So what’s it going to be then, eh?” (Burgess 1). Will it be free will or no choice at

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Of the fifty books Anthony Burgess wrote, this satiric, futurist novel surely is the most famous. It was popularized by the controversial film adaptation made by Stanley Kubrick in 1971. The book speaks to the social and political concerns of its times—random violence by teenagers, crime and punishment, scientifically engineered rehabilitation, and the power of the state over the individual. The novel is autobiographical, in that it concerns a writer whose wife was raped and brutalized by a gang of thugs. Burgess’ own wife, Lynne, was beaten by American soldiers while pregnant, lost the child, and could never have another. Reared as a Roman Catholic in Protestant England, Burgess was sensitive to Catholic notions of sin and redemption and to the importance of free will.

Philosophically, the novel is about moral choices, and each section begins with the question, “What’s it going to be then, eh?” There is satiric justice in Alex’s choices and their consequences. Science is able to change Alex by a process of psychological and moral castration, but the “cured” Alex can survive only in an orderly, neutered world of automatons. The transformed Alex is an “innocent,” discharged into a world that is still brutal and corrupt.

The novel is a satirical allegory in the guise of science fiction. Burgess satirizes scientists who remove themselves from ethical and moral issues in the service of a politically corrupt police state. The novel shows forcefully that there are no easy answers to complex questions involving the nature of good and evil or crime and punishment. Alex is shaped by the brutal technological world he inhabits. The psychological reasoning that motivates his violence and the perverse, sadistic pleasure he derives from it are not fully investigated. There is no attempt made to alter Alex’s beliefs, only to change into pain the pleasure he derives from violent sadism. Science is interested only in achieving results that will be beneficial to society and cares nothing about the individual in this dystopia.

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