The Importance of Free Will in A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess

Powerful Essays
“What’s it going to be then, eh?” is the signature question in Anthony Burgess’s novel, A Clockwork Novel that not only resonates with the moral identity of the anti-heroic protagonist, Alex, but also signifies the essential choice between free will that perpetrates evil and deterministic goodness that is forced and unreal. The prison chaplain and the writer F. Alexander voice the most controversial idea in the novel: man becomes ‘a clockwork orange’ when robbed of free will and tuned into a deterministic mechanism.

Burgess points out the necessity of free will to maintain humanity at both the communal and individual level. The novel represents a futuristic dystopian society through its anti-hero Alex and charts the protagonist’s journey from a perpetrator of violence to a partially reformed and matured man in the end. The paper argues both the concept of free will and deterministic goodness from the character analysis of Alex and the society, as reflected in the conduct of government against prisoners and gives an unbiased conclusion in favour of one of the concepts.

From the beginning, the novel depicts a struggle between violent free will and a safe but regulated environment. Alex and his friends, the droogs, violent free will as they disassociate themselves from the government’s clutches. They display the cold-hearted aspect of free will through their actions such as stealing, attacking innocent people and raping women as their free will dictates. Burgess seems to argue that in a society that depends much on safe and predictable behaviour, the action of Alex and the gang is a reaction or a way of expressing themselves against the expected behaviour. Their display of violence is an assertion, a force against individuals...

... middle of paper ...

...ocess signifying that the choice of goodness and badness cannot be forced on any individual.

The argument presented here has its allegiance towards free will than forced conformation to goodness. Leading life as a ‘clockwork orange’ is as derogatory as committing heinous acts under the pretext of free will. Ethical goodness is necessary to live life in a civilized society as much a control on evil is necessary to keep the same society free of crime but in both contexts, neither can be achieved through force. As mentioned in the beginning, every individual has an inherent nature, either good or bad. An evil person cannot be reformed forcefully. Only when the individual realizes his erroneous ways and wills to reform, a change can happen. If free will can lead to evil, the same free will can propel goodness, without any necessity for forceful interference.
Get Access