A Clockwork Orange highlights the question of whether people are destined to their fate, or whether free will and external circumstances can influence people's outcomes. Alex believes that humans are born evil and need cultivation to avoid evil. F. Alexander believes that humans are born good, but are corrupted by society and culture. The Government believes that the stability of the State trumps the happiness of its citizens, and readily abolishes moral choice (a fundamental human trait) in the name of stability.
In contrast to this, Alex fights vehemently against the notion that his freedom to choose should be compromised at all, as free will is what makes him human to begin with.
A central part of being human is free will, the ability to choose among different options. While Alex has freedom of choice, he is as human as possible. When Alex is rendered unable to choose violence, thanks to Ludovico's Technique, Burgess sends the message that he no longer is human, but a mere clockwork orange.
People are born innocent, only to be corrupted by society and its ills. Societal corruption, though, is neither necessary nor irreversible. Alex, the protagonist-narrator of A Clockwork Orange, is the perfect case in point.
The central message of A Clockwork Orange seems to be that the freedom to choose (good or evil) is fundamental to mankind. Indeed, this element of moral choice distinguishes humans from machines and robots.
However, is moral depravity better than forced morality? Are evil and suffering (freely chosen and caused by people) better than a docile, peaceful state (engineered by the Government)? People like Alex, the prison chaplain, and F. Alexander seem to think so. The State is more interested in stability than any debate on morality and ethics, however.
Behavior that is not chosen, but dictated or forced, is neither moral nor immoral, because the freedom to choose one's actions underlies the very concept of "morality."
Alex is the ultimate poster-child for amorality, since he delights in violence for violence's sake.
The Government in A Clockwork Orange will do anything to ensure its own survival—as well as the stability of the State. To that end, it employs questionable scientific techniques in order to manipulate its citizens into becoming moral exemplars. The manipulation technique used on Alex is, essentially, behavioral modification through associative learning.
Forcing Alex to undergo the Reclamation Treatment is just one out of the many ways the Government manipulates its citizens to ensure stability in the State.
Alex is forced to endure Ludovico's Technique, which employs the principles of associative learning, whereby a person's behavior is modified through prolonged manipulation of her normal responses to select stimuli. In this day and age, Ludovico's Technique would be considered torture, or at least the unethical treatment of criminals.
The battle between good and evil gets complicated in A Clockwork Orange, because the novel really presents the battle between forced good and chosen evil. Who is better: someone incapable of doing evil, only good, or someone with the freedom to choose whatever path she wants, but opts do evil? Is a "clockwork orange" more interesting than the likes of Alex? Or is evil Alex more human than the clockwork doer of good deeds?
We know this at least: Burgess sides with Alex.
The prison chaplain says that personal choice is required for a person to be deemed "good." Per this view, a religious person who does not thoughtfully choose her actions, but blindly follows the words of her religion's instructions to do only good deeds cannot be seen as a "good" person.
Despite all the talk surrounding the good vs. evil debate in A Clockwork Orange, Burgess has included precious few instances of true, freely chosen goodness in the book.
In A Clockwork Orange, the Government seeks to suppress individuals and individual choice in favor of the stability of the State, largely to ensure its own survival. Towards this end, the Government is prepared to do anything necessary, including distributing propaganda and censorship, employing morally questionable scientific techniques to "reform" criminals, and employing criminals as state patrol to threaten other citizens (and potential political dissidents).
From its treatment of Alex, one can clearly gauge how the Government is willing to sacrifice the individual liberties of its constituents for the stability of the State.
The Government is the chief antagonistic force against Alex in A Clockwork Orange, because of the differing views it espouses on the subjects of morality, personal liberty, and freedom of choice.
Burgess values transformation and has famously said that a book without a hint of "moral progress" or personal transformation has no point and is better left unwritten.
Yeah: A Clockwork Orange is not better left unwritten.
Despite all the crime Alex commits, at the end of the day, he grows up. The transformation Alex experiences in the novel is hard-earned and long overdue; it is also freely chosen and deeply personal for him.
Alex's "transformation" in the last chapter is completely superficial and will not last, for he has come by it due to boredom with his current life and out of envy for Pete's "normal" life.
The transformation F. Alexander has experienced might more appropriately be called degeneration. He goes from being an aspiring writer who loves his wife to a vengeful political dissident.
Violence and instances of criminality are ubiquitous in A Clockwork Orange. In just a few chapters, Alex and his entourage have performed every trick in the criminal's book: doing drugs, mugging, robbing, gang fighting, grand theft auto, reckless driving, vandalism, arson, rape, and murder.
What is more, there's also plenty of discussion of probation officers, juvenile delinquents, prison life, police brutality, and even a forced suicide.
Alex commits crimes for the sheer joy of it; Dim is too dim to be thoughtful about his motivations; and Georgie commits crimes for monetary gain. Thus, Alex and Georgie are your typical criminals, while Dim is a mere victim of his circumstances.
In his vivid descriptions of brutality in the work, Burgess uses violence not only to contrast the forces of good and evil, but also to cause readers to look within themselves at their own capacities for nastiness. Thus, the depictions of violence are indispensable to A Clockwork Orange.
Language, specifically nadsat, has an important several important functions in A Clockwork Orange. First, it works as a literary device that seeks to temporarily alienate the reader from the world of the protagonist-narrator. We are initially barred from making moral judgments of Alex & Co. because we aren't sure of what they are doing; we are shielded and removed from some of Alex's brutality against others.
As we toil for the first several chapters learning to decipher the language, however, we build rapport with the violent teens, and even feel we understand them...because we've learned their language.
The origins of nadsat betray the political message Burgess intends to convey through its usage – that Alex's Britain is not that far off from being a totalitarian state like Russia.
Nadsat is indispensable to A Clockwork Orange as a literary device. Without it, readers would never have the opportunity to develop the requisite rapport with the protagonist to stick with him through the end.