In ‘A Clockwork Orange’ the character of Alex is both the protagonist and the vessel used to impart the novels unusual views on morality. Burgess initially presents Alex as a psychopath who commits various acts of violence, ruthlessly raping and robbing, showing no remorse for his actions. Alex is the classic example of an ‘Evil individual’ in such a way it is almost unrealistic. However, it is not until Part two, Chapter six that we truly begin to see Alex in another light, one which allows the reader to start forming an opinion on the message Burgess is trying to portray through Alex.Burgess questions the morality of both good and evil and whether ‘a man ceases to be a man’ if he has no moral choice, something Alex begins to show us in this chapter.
Emotionally and physically distressed, Alex is forced to further endure the Ludovico treatment. Helplessly, he screams out ‘Stop it, stop it, stop it’ forcing the reader to feel sympathetic towards him and somewhat disturbed. Ironically, the very thing that is meant to be helping Alex to become a ‘better’ person is the very thing that seems to be destroying him.This effect of tripling allows us to view Alex in a different light, one which we have previously forgotten; as a child. His desperate attempt for attention from adults who are meant to care for him really reveals the child within Alex and represents his wider life of how he has been ignored. Through this, Burgess allows the reader to realise that Alex is still a child who needs guidance and help from those older than him, but instead this power is abused and used to manipulate the future generation by a corrupt state.
Ironically, Dr Brodsky says to Alex ‘It will soon be all over.In less than a fortnight now you’ll be a free man’ which is exactly what the state wants Alex to think, that this is what ‘freedom’ truly is. Alex shall be free physically to roam the earth but mentally he is trapped, something we know is Alex’s greatest fear, soon to be realised. Burgess allows us to question Dr Brodsky’s statement and wonder what is it that actually makes us human, is it our physical freedom or is it the freedom of our minds, allowing us to form opinions and thoughts on the physical acts we are allowed to do?He also suggest to us that even though Alex has been forced into this treatment to make him behave, are we as humans even without this treatment being forced to behave by our own government.
We are taught that the government are here for our protection, just as they are said to be in Alex’s world.
But when Alex is merely a child who needs protection and he is being harmed by the very people who are meant to protect him, we are shown that in this dystopian society security is something unavailable.During the screenings, Alex recognises his beloved ‘Beethoven’s fifth symphony’ and in anguish cries out that it is a ‘filthy unforgivable sin’. This Classical music motif has always played an important role throughout the novel, if not for the structural pattern based on musical forms, but for its use on a narrative and thematic level. It would seem that Alex’s love of Classical music within the confines on the novels repressive government invokes Plato’s argument. He argued that the enjoyment and love of music must be suppressed if any form of social order is to be preserved.He identified music with a revolutionary pleasure which can easily be applied to Alex.
Alex rarely thinks of violence without music as his love for the two is entwined and for a state seeking platonic order, the two must be eradicated. Burgess refutes the argument that the ethical goodness has any relationship to a kind of ‘aesthetic’ goodness, Alex has always had a refined taste in Classical music, especially when compared to his pop song listening counterparts, but as we know the sophisticated music has always coincided with sex and violence.But now through the Ludovico technique, music becomes associated with immorality, it is then we see how Burgess demonstrates the malleability of aesthetics and ethics. This ironic treatment intended to cure Alex of his violence does not cure him at all and changes him into nothing but a windup toy.
But what is most shocking is how pleased the doctors appear to be with what they have done and the power they harness.The more Alex cries out for help and for the treatment to stop, the more the doctors seem to revel in his pain and rejoice that the treatment is working. Dr Brodsky says to Alex ‘You’re doing really well’ and that the treatment was ‘first class’. However we cannot help but once again see Alex as the child he is as typically a line such as ‘You’re doing really well’ would be delivered to a child as encouragement that they are making progress and that whatever it is, is for the best.But this just shows Burgess’ wider message and how dystopian this society really is where those who are meant to guide others and help them are maliciously deceiving them for their own gain.
What is even more saddening to the reader is when Alex realises this –as he says ‘An act of treachery’ – and once again Alex living this dystopian world has been let down by everyone who is meant to have his best interests at heart. But then again, can we blame all of these clockwork windup toys, who ultimately have become the play toys of a powerful state?