A Clockwork Orange. Anthony Burgess s controversial novel and Stanley Kubrick s awe inspiring film. Despite the intimidating reviews of critics nation-wide, Burgess s masterpiece was stocked full of intensity, perspicacity and innovation. The main theme of the story is that of free will (or lack thereof). Burgess uses this story to display his own feelings on free will and spirituality.
The action centers on a young man, Alex DeLarge, who is fascinated with a bit of the old ultra-violence. He and a ruffian gang of teenagers spend each and every night rampaging through a futuristic Britain beating and raping anyone whom would happen to cross their path. His life consists of sex, senseless violence, and all else that would enter a mind of a criminal. After what seems to be years of this behavior, Alex is setup by his comrades and jailed. While in jail, Alex is prompted to partake in a revolutionary new aversion therapy. He is promised a shortened sentence if he agrees to partake in the experiment. It is centralized around new medicines, exposure to grotesque and violent films and worst of all: electro shock therapy. He agrees to the treatment, and shortly after becomes a whole other person. The violence that he was once desensitized too now makes him violently ill at the very thought of it. Alex becomes a tool of those who had supposedly cured him. He is unable to make his own decisions, hence, lacking free will and/or freedom of choice. This is where Burgess s true feelings come out. Burgess considers this lack of freedom to be spiritually murderous and terribly wrong. Burgess knows that it is better to choose to be evil, than to be forced to be good (http://www.geocities.com/Athens/4572/discussion.html). By taking the easy way out, Alex has given up free will and with that, has given up his personality and his all that is important to him.
Upon reentering society oppression moves into the forefront of Alex s life. He is unable to protest mental or physical battering he receives from his family, his acquaintances or even past victims. When one is forced to do right, and he does what is right, it is not out of any ethical or moral conviction. When one does what he is forced to, he is merely a programmed pawn of the state. He becomes sub-human, he is merely a robotic existence (http://www.geocities.com/Athens/4572/discussion.html). Due to this torment, Alex feels the only way to gain freedom is by suicide. After a failed attempt, his oppression is eminently publicized. Through these series of events, Alex gains his freedom of choice, but Burgess still lets his views shine through. He showed his burning hatred for totalitarian governments ability to take away an individual’s freedom of thought. Totalitarian governments take away one s individual choice and therefore suffocate his soul (http://www.geocities.com/Athens/4572/discussion.html).
In retrospect, while Anthony Burgess s A Clockwork Orange stunned critics with scenes of violence and hatred, it still dazzled literary scholars with is portrayal of free will and spirituality. Through this novel, and many other outstanding works, Burgess has become one of the greatest authors of the twentieth century.