ALEX: There was me, that is Alex, and my three droogs, that is Pete, Georgie, and Dim and we sat in the Korova milkbar trying to make up our rassoodocks what to do with the evening. The Korova Milk Bar sold milkplus, milk plus vellocet or synthemesc or drencrom, which is what we were drinking. This would sharpen you up and make you ready for a bit of the old ultra-violence.
This is the first line in the film, and it lets us know what to expect—nonsense slang and violence. Also, Alex seems to imply that the milk is laced with a chemical that gets them amped up. It doesn't cause them to be violent—they would be without it—but it enhances their capacity for it.
TRAMP: Oh! Ow!
After our brief introduction to our protagonist, we see him and his gang beat up a homeless man. What a guy, right? Seeing him beat up a helpless man makes it hard to root for Alex from early on.
ALEX: It was around by the derelict casino that we came across Billyboy and his four droogs. They were getting ready to perform a little of the old in-out, in-out on a weepy young devotchka they had there.
However, after beating up an old man, Alex seems to "save" a woman who is about to be raped by a rival gang. Alex waits until she's completely naked before stepping in, though, so this is less about being chivalrous than it is about taunting Billyboy's rival gang just as they're about to harm the woman.
ALEX: Soon it was trees and dark, my brothers, with real country dark. […] We fillied around for a while with other travelers of the night, playing "Hogs of the Road." Then we headed west, what we were after now was the old surprise visit, that was a real kick and good for laughs and lashing of the ultra-violent.
After beating up Billyboy's gang, Alex is still feeling an adrenaline rush from the violence, so he goes on a destructive drive, and arrives at the home of the writer to beat him and rape his wife. There really isn't anything about this violent young punk to like.
ALEX: As I slooshied, I knew such lovely pictures.
Alex's masturbatory fantasies are violent in nature, showing us that he is turned on by the violence he commits. It doesn't repulse him at all.
ALEX: But, suddenly, I viddied that thinking was for the gloopy ones and that the oomny ones use like inspiration and what Bog sends, for now it was lovely music that came to my aid. There was a window open with the stereo on, and I viddied right at once what to do.
Later, Alex becomes sick when he listens to Beethoven, and it is seen as a tragedy that he can't enjoy the 9th Symphony. But here, we see that even Beethoven inspires Alex to violence. Everything makes him violent, even classical music.
INSPECTOR: Violence makes violence. He resisted his lawful arrestors.
This brief quote is interesting, because it is about the dilemma of what to do with violent offenders. How to punish them? Or rehabilitate them? Violent punishment will only make them more violent, but what can the justice system do?
ALEX: I read all about the scourging and the crowning with thorns and all that, and I could viddy myself helping in and even taking charge of the tolchocking and the nailing in, being dressed in the height of Roman fashion.
Alex reads the Bible, but he relishes the violent portions of it, of which they are many. He doesn't think of himself as a Jesus figure or a martyr. He wants to be the one killing the martyr.
ALEX: The sounds were real horrorshow. You could slooshy the screams and moans very realistic and you could even get the heavy breathing and panting of the tolchocking malchicks at the same time. And then, what do you know, soon our dear old friend, the red, red vino on tap. The same in all places like it's put out by the same big firm, began to flow. It was beautiful. It's funny how the colors of the real world only seem really real when you viddy them on a screen.
It's unclear, but Alex may be watching a snuff film here, which is why the blood looks so real. However, it shows his disconnect from reality. He has drawn plenty of blood from his violent acts, yet he only thinks it looks real on screen. He is detached and desensitized to violence in real life.
ALEX: Now all the time I was watching this, I was beginning to get very aware of like not feeling all that well, and this I put down to all the rich food and vitamins. But I tried to forget this, concentrating on the next film, which jumped right away on a young devotchka, who was being given the old in-out, in-out, first by one malchick, then another, then another. When it came to the sixth or seventh malchick, leering and smecking and then going into it, I began to feel really sick. But I could not shut my glazzies and even if I tried to move my glazballs about I still not get out of the line of fire of this picture.
This is when Alex talks about the Ludovico procedure, which sensitizes him to violence. It does it through a chemical process that makes him sick. Deep inside, he still enjoys what he sees, and he is still a violent person at heart, but he doesn't enjoy the upset-stomach feeling.
MR. DELTOID: A big black mark I tell you for every one we don't reclaim. A confession of failure for every one of you who ends up in the stripy hole.
Creepy Mr. Deltoid is in charge of reforming Alex, it seems, but we're never shown what he does to reform him, other than intimidate him. What do you think his process is like, if he has one?
CHAPLAIN: What's it going to be eh? Is it going to be in and out of institutions like this? Or more in then out for most of you? Or are you going to attend the divine word and realize the punishment that awaits unrepentant sinners in the next world as well as this. […] Well we have undeniable proof, yes, incontrovertible evidence that Hell exists. I know, I know, my friends. I have been informed in visions that there is a place darker than any prison, hotter than any human flame of human fire, where souls of unrepentant criminal sinners like yourselves...
Religion, or at least the chaplain's version of religion, is about instilling a fear of the afterlife in criminals so that they will change their ways.
CHAPLAIN: You've been very helpful, and you've shown a genuine desire to reform.
It's difficult to say if the chaplain is gullible or not. Alex's desire to reform is genuine, yes. But he only wants to reform so he can get out of jail early. Does the reason for reformation matter?
CHAPLAIN: The question is whether or not this technique really makes a man good. Goodness comes from within. Goodness is chosen. When a man cannot chose, he ceases to be a man.
The chaplain doesn't think that Alex still has to choose. He will choose to not do violent acts to avoid being sick. How is choice being taken away from him?
ALEX: I don't understand about the whys and wherefores, Father. I only know I want to be good.
Here it seems like Alex is going too far into suck-up territory. He only wants to get out of jail. He has no desire to be good, because he has not changed from who he was before. The Chief agrees: "You'll have to watch this one. A right brutal bastard he has been, and will be again. In spite all his sucking up to the prison Chaplain and reading the Bible."
ALEX: I just don't understand about feeling sick the way I did. I never used to feel sick before. I used to feel like the very opposite. I mean, doing it or watching it, I used to feel real horrorshow.
This line confirms who Alex was before the procedure, and who he is after. He has changed in way, even if it is mostly superficial. He still doesn't think violence is wrong, but it makes him sick. For him, it's like getting food poisoning after eating your favorite food. You still want it, but you're scared to try it again.
THE MINISTER: What a change is here, Ladies and Gentlemen, from the wretched hoodlum the state committed to unprofitable punishment some two years ago, unchanged after two years. Unchanged, do I say— not quite. Prison taught him the false smile, the rubbed hands of hypocrisy, the fawning, greased, obsequious leer. Other vices it taught him as well as confirming him in those he had long practiced before.
The Minister argues that prison transformers prisoners in a bad way. It teaches criminals to become even criminal-ier—they learn how to con and swindle people.
ALEX: She came towards me with the light like it was the like light of heavenly grace, and the first thing that flashed into me gulliver was that I would like to have her right down there on the floor with the old in-out, real savage. But quick as a shot came the sickness, like a detective that had been watching around the corner and now followed to make his arrest.
This voiceover confirms that Alex still wants to do terrible things, but he doesn't because the Ludovico technique makes him sick. Is this any different than a person who wants to do something wrong, but doesn't because of fear of punishment from God?
ALEX: I'm completely reformed!
This line is presented comically, but it's actually true. Alex is reformed. Despite what you think of the ethics of the Ludovico technique, it works. Alex wouldn't ever commit a violent act again. He is reformed and transformed.
ALEX: One thing I could never stand is to see a filthy, dirty old drunkie, howling away at the filthy songs of his fathers and going blerp, blerp in between as it might be a filthy old orchestra in his stinking rotten guts. I could never stand to see anyone like that, whatever his age might be, but more especially when he was real old like this one was.
Alex makes his violent act into a statement on society of sorts. People shouldn't be loud and obnoxious or else they get beat up! We wonder if Alex would change his tune (pun intended) if this guy were humming Beethoven.
TRAMP: I don't want to live anyway, not in a stinking world like this. […] It's a stinking world because there's no law and order any more. It's a stinking world because it lets the young get onto the old like you done. It's no world for an old man any longer. What sort of a world is it at all? Men on the moon and men spinning around the earth and there's not no attention paid to earthly law and order no more.
Society has gone to heck in a handbasket according to the tramp, before he gets beat up. He seems to think that young thugs have taken over, and that it's no country for old men. Is this attitude common in every generation?
ALEX: It's wrong because it's like against like society. It's wrong because everybody has the right to live and be happy without being tolchocked and knifed.
The Ludovico procedure is intended to make Alex non-violent. It's difficult to determine whether it really changes him. Here, he seems to realize that he has to be a part of society, not outside it. But is he just saying that so they'll think he is cured, or does he believe it?
THE MINISTER: Our party promised to restore law and order and to make the streets safe for the ordinary peace-loving citizen. This pledge is now about to become a reality. Ladies and Gentlemen, today is an historic moment. The problem of criminal violence is soon to be a thing of the past. But enough of words. Actions speak louder than. Action now. Observe all.
There is a political aspect to the Ludovico technique. The Minister of the Interior wants the government to live up to its promises. If the technique is successful—which it is—does the intention behind it matter?
FRANK: Then, by God, you have been sent here by providence. Tortured in prison, then thrown out to be tortured by the police. My heart goes out to you, poor, poor boy. Oh, you are not the first to come here in distress. The Police are fond of bringing their victims to the outskirts of this village. But it is providential that you, who are also another kind of victim, should come here. Oh, but you're cold and shivering. Julian, draw a bath for this young man.
The writer whom Alex beats at the beginning turns out to be a subversive author against the government. He is also a hypocrite, having no compulsion against turning on Alex when he realizes he is the thug who raped his wife. Because of this character, it is difficult to tell which side the movie is on—the side of the government manipulating society, or of those trying to subvert it.
PEE: You were in the papers again, son. It said, they had done great wrong to you. It said, how the Government drove you to try and do yourself in...and when you think about it, son...maybe it was our fault, too, in a way. Your home's your home, when all's said and done, son.
Alex may have been brainwashed, but the government succeeds in manipulating society and Alex's parents, too. They believe they are responsible for his behavior. What is Alex's parents, and society's, responsibility for violent offenders?
ALEX: We were all feeling a bit shagged and fagged and fashed, it having been an evening of some small energy expenditure, O my brothers, so we got rid of the auto and stopped off at the Korova for a nightcap.
Alex's morality is definitely skewed. After beating up homeless people and raping a woman, how does he feel? Tired!
CHAPLAIN: Choice! The boy has no real choice, has he? Self-interest, the 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.
The Minister believes that morality comes from within. But aren't laws and religion just ways of persuading people to make the "right" choice? If so, the Ludovico technique isn't any different.
THE MINISTER: Padre, these are subtleties. We are not concerned with motive, with the higher ethics; we are concerned only with cutting down crime. And with relieving the ghastly congestion in our prisons...
In A Clockwork Orange, every decision a government makes is based on potential political gains. The morality, or lack of, is a side effect.
JOE: No, but there's much more than that, though. I mean I've got you two to think of. You've been like a father and mother to me. Well, it wouldn't be fair now, or right, for me to go off and leave you two to the tender mercies of this young monster who's been like no real son at all. Look, he's weeping now. That's all his craft and artfulness. Let him go out and find a room somewhere else. Let him learn the errors of his way, and that a bad boy like he's been doesn't deserve such a good mum and dad as he's had.
Joe is the good son that Alex's parents never had. Even though Joe pays rent, which Alex never did, he is grateful for being in his parents' house, and he seems to treat them well out of the goodness of his heart.
JOE: You've made others suffer. It's only right that you should suffer proper. You know I've been told everything you've done, sitting here at night round the family table, and pretty shocking it was to listen to. It made me real sick, a lot of it did. Now look what you've gone and done to your mother.
Joe, the boarder, has only one scene, but he's the voice of people who believe that Alex must be punished for his crimes. Which side are you on?
MRS. ALEXANDER: I'm sorry but we don't usually let strangers in in the middle of the...
Most people live in an area where they lock their doors and don't let people in. But the reactions to Alex banging on the door show us how dangerous society is in this world. Even when he says his friend his dying, people are reluctant to let him in.
ALEX: I suppose you can't be blamed for being suspicious with so many scoundrels and rouges of the night about.
Alex is talking about himself, and other gangs like his, here. Their crimes sow distrust in the community, and make it a more dangerous place.
ALEX: It had not been edifying, indeed not, being in this hell hole and human zoo for two years now, being kicked and tolchocked by brutal warders, and meeting leering criminals and perverts ready to dribble all over a luscious young malchick like your story-teller.
Even though Alex is a criminal, he seems to think he is different from the other people in prison. Alex has killed and raped people, so he is a criminal and a pervert just like they are.
THE MINISTER: Cram criminals together and what do you get? Concentrated criminality...crime in the midst of punishment.
The film raises the question about what to do with prisoners, saying prison isn't the answer. It says that prison simply trains more criminals. This is even more relevant today, especially in the U.S. with its high prison population. But the film gives us no answers.
THE MINISTER: Not a chance, my dear fellow. The Government can't be concerned any longer with outmoded penological theories. Soon we may be needing all of our prison space for political offenders. Common criminals like these are best dealt with on a purely curative basis. Kill the criminal reflex that's all. Full implementation in a year's time. Punishment means nothing to them, you can see that...they enjoy their so-called punishment.
The Minister is anti-prison, and his Ludovico technique is intended to reduce the prison population. That sounds like a good thing on the surface, but what are the drawbacks?
PRISON GOVERNER: Well, these new ridiculous ideas have come at last, and orders are orders, though I may say to you in confidence. I do not approve. An eye for an eye, I say. If someone hits you, you hit back, do you not? Why then should not the State very severely hit by you brutal offenders not hit back also? But the new view is to say no. New view is that we turn the bad into good. All of which seems to be grossly unjust, eh?
This guy gets only one scene and it's no surprise that he is pro-prison. He's in charge of the prison, so of course he is. There is a lot of conflict between the government and the prison system on how to deal with prisoners. Who is right?