Study Guide

A Clockwork Orange Fate and Free Will

By Anthony Burgess

Fate and Free Will

Part 1, Chapter 4

But, brothers, this biting of their toe-nails over what is the cause of badness is what turns me into a fine laughing malchick. They don't go into the cause of goodness, so why the other shop? If lewdies are good that's because they like it, and I wouldn't ever interfere with their pleasures, and so of the other shop. And I was patronizing the other shop. More, badness is of the self, the one, the you or me on our oddy knockies, and that self is made by old Bog or God and is his great pride and radosty. But the not-self cannot have the bad, meaning they of the government and the judges and the schools cannot allow the bad because they cannot allow the self. And is not our modern history, my brothers, the story of brave malenky selves fighting these big machines? I am serious with you, brothers, over this. But what I do I do because I like to do. (1.4.21)

To Alex, just as goodness can be natural or inherent to some people, so can badness. People can be born good or bad – either way it is natural. To come up with a causal explanation for certain characteristics is nonsensical, at least to Alex. A Clockwork Orange seems to argue that what is most important is having the free will to choose to act accordingly to one's inherent nature.

Part 2, Chapter 3

"Very hard ethical questions are involved," he went on. "You are to be made into a good boy, 6655321. Never again will you have the desire to commit acts of violence or to offend in any way whatsoever against the State's Peace. I hope you take all that in. I hope you are absolutely clear in your own mind about that." (2.3.11)

The prison chaplain cautions Alex about how his fundamental nature will be changed by enrolling in the Reclamation Treatment program. Specifically, his desire to be violent will be abolished altogether, and he will not have the free will to choose actions that spring from a violent nature.

Prison Chaplain

"It may not be nice to be good, little 6655321. It may be horrible to be good. And when I say that to you I realize how self-contradictory that sounds. I know I shall have many sleepless nights about this. What does God want? Does God want goodness or the choice of goodness? Is a man who chooses the bad perhaps in some ways better than a man who has the good imposed upon him? Deep and hard questions…" (2.3.13)

The prison chaplain suggests to Alex that he might not enjoy losing his free will and being forced to be "good." Are we supposed to be what we are supposed to be? That is the real question.

Part 2, Chapter 5
Dr. Brodsky and Dr. Branom

"Life is a very wonderful thing," said Dr. Branom in a like very holy goloss. "The processes of life, the make-up of the human organism, who can fully understand these miracles? Dr. Brodsky is, of course, a remarkable man. What is happening to you now is what should happen to any normal healthy human organism contemplating the actions of the forces of evil, the workings of the principle of destruction. You are being made sane, you are being made healthy." (2.5.9)

Interestingly, Dr. Brodsky believes that Ludovico's Technique is restoring "human nature" to Alex, rather than taking it away from him. Even if it means the removal of Alex's free will, Dr. Brodsky believes in forcing people to conform to a "norm" of human instincts and behavior.

"You felt ill this afternoon," he said, "because you're getting better. When we're healthy we respond to the presence of the hateful with fear and nausea. You're becoming healthy, that's all. You'll be healthier still this time tomorrow." (2.5.13)

It is noteworthy that Dr. Brodsky treats Alex as sick, needing to be made healthy in order to act normally or "humanly" towards violence and crime. This "healing" also removes Alex's ability to act freely.

Part 2, Chapter 6

And what, brothers, I had to escape into sleep from then was the horrible and wrong feeling that it was better to get the hit than give it. If that veck had stayed I might even have like presented the other cheek. (2.6.39)

To Alex, it is not natural for a person to do what Jesus Christ advises – to "turn the other cheek" when attacked. In this situation, Alex laments that he might have been conditioned (forced) to act upon this advice against his free will.

Alex

I thought to myself, "Hell hell hell, there might be a chance for me if I get out now." (2.6.34)

Towards the end of Alex's treatment, he contemplates escape, because he does not want to be transformed into a clockwork orange, a nonhuman, an automaton without moral choice and free will.

Part 2, Chapter 7

"Choice," rumbled a rich deep goloss. I viddied it belonged to the prison charlie. "He has no real choice, has he? Self-interest, fear of physical pain, drove him to that grotesque act of self-abasement. Its insincerity was clearly to be seen. He ceases to be a wrongdoer. He ceases also to be a creature capable of moral choice." (2.7.13)

In other words, if Alex ceases to be a wrongdoer only because he is afraid of physical pain, he ceases to be human or, by extension, a creature capable of making moral choices or using his free will.

Dr. Brodsky and Dr. Branom

Dr. Brodsky said to the audience: "Our subject is, you see, impelled towards the good by, paradoxically, being impelled towards evil. The intention to act violently is accompanied by strong feelings of physical distress. To counter these the subject has to switch to a diametrically opposed attitude. Any questions?" (2.7.12)

How does Dr. Brodsky convince himself that it is natural for humans to choose to be nonviolent in order to avoid getting sick by thinking violent thoughts? How can it be natural if your acts are dictated by fear or avoidance behavior and not by free will?

Part 3, Chapter 4
F. Alexander

"They have turned you 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. And I see that clearly--that business about the marginal conditionings. Music and the sexual act, literature and art, all must be a source now not of pleasure but of pain." (3.4.17)

F. Alexander verbalizes a key point of A Clockwork Orange. Robbed of his free will and choice to do good or evil things, and compelled to perform only socially acceptable acts, Alex is no longer a human being.

"A man who cannot choose ceases to be a man." (3.4.19)

This may be the most lucid statement of what a clockwork orange represents. The moral of the story? If you have no free will and can't choose, you're not human. Likewise, if you can't choose, you can't be good or evil, because it no longer makes sense to talk about actions as good or evil.

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