Study Guide

A Clockwork Orange Criminality

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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?

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