Study Guide

A Clockwork Orange Transformation

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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.

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