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A Clockwork Orange Essay, Research Paper

The new American edition of the novel A Clockwork Orange features a final chapter that was omitted from the original American edition against the author’s preference. Anthony Burgess, the novel’s author, provided for the new edition an introduction to explain not only the significance of the twenty-first chapter but also the purpose of the entire book, which was the fundamental importance of moral choice.

Burgess states that the twenty-first chapter was intended to show the maturation or moral progress of the youthful protagonist, Alex. The omission of the twenty-first chapter resulted, according to Burgess, in the reduction of the novel from fiction to fable, something untrue to life. Human beings change, and Burgess wanted his protagonist to mature rather than stay in adolescent aggression. The twenty-first chapter shows this change, and the chapter is important because it includes Alex’s mature assessment of his own adolescence and shows the importance of maturity to moral freedom which is Burgess’s main point. Burgess has presented his definition of moral freedom in both his introduction and in his novel.

Burgess’s definition of moral freedom as the ability to perform both good and evil is presented by implication in his discussion of the first kind of clockwork orange. In his introduction, he states that if one “can only perform good or only perform evil, then he is a clockwork orange – meaning that he has the appearance of an organism lovely with color and juice but is in fact only a clockwork toy to be wound up by God or the Devil or (since this is increasingly replacing both) the Almighty State.” Burgess goes on to say, “It is as inhuman to be totally good as it is to be totally evil. The important thing is moral choice. Evil has to exist along with good, in order that moral choice may operate.” This hypothetical type of clockwork orange nowhere appears in the novel because Alex is neither totally good nor totally evil but a mixture of both. This remains true even after Alex’s conditioning by the Government. It is true that the Government tries to make Alex totally good through conditioning; however, in the last chapter you can see that since it is a coerced goodness, against Alex’s will, total goodness is not achieved.

Although Burgess considers one kind of clockwork orange inhuman, he does allow for another kind of clockwork orange that is human. Burgess’s little Alex is a clockwork orange until he reaches maturity in the twenty-first chapter. Stanley Hyman, a literary critic, provided an afterward for the original American edition of A Clockwork Orange. In it he states that “Alex always was a clockwork orange, a machine for mechanical violence far below the level of choice…”. One must remember that this after word was written for an edition in which the important twenty-first chapter was missing. In that chapter, Alex himself states:

Youth must go, ah yes. But youth is only being in a way like it might be an animal. No, it is not just like being an animal so much as being like one of these malenky toys you viddy being sold in the streets, like little chellovecks made out of tin and with a spring inside and then a winding handle on the outside and you wind it up grr grr grr and off it itties, like walking, O my brothers. But it itties in a straight line and bangs straight into things bang bang and it cannot help what it is doing. Being young is like being like one of these malenky machines.

Alex goes on to apply this condition to his own hypothetical son and says that even if he explained this condition to him, he wouldn’t understand or want to understand. He would probably end up killing somebody and Alex wouldn’t be able to stop him any more than he would be able to stop his own son. And this repetition of youthful, clockwork aggression would continue until the end of the world. This repetition is compared to someone, like God, continuously turning an orange in his hands. Also, for the perceptive reader, it is compared to the repetition of the phrase “what’s it going to be then, eh?” which begins the first chapter of each part until Alex states his intention of finding a wife to mother his son which is “like a new chapter beginning”. He then concludes, “That’s what it’s going to be then, brothers, as I come to the like end of this tale.” Therefore the last chapter shows that Alex has grown up and become morally responsible. He is no longer a human clockwork orange.

Personally I agree with the author in that the last chapter is crucial to understanding the whole point of the novel. Without the last chapter the novels theme changes almost interlay. The last chapter shows that the coerced goodness brought on by the government did not fully work and that it is not possible to make someone totally good trough conditioning, you will always have moral choice.

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