"A Clockwork Orange" Themes

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A Clockwork Orange THEMES Themes are the fundamental and often universal ideas explored in a literary work. The Inviolability of Free Will More than anything, Burgess believed that “the freedom to choose is the big human attribute,” meaning that the presence of moral choice ultimately distinguishes human beings from machines or lower animals. This belief provides the central argument of A Clockwork Orange, where Alex asserts his free will by choosing a course of wickedness, only to be subsequently robbed of his self-determination by the government. In making Alex—a criminal guilty of violence, rape, and theft—the hero of the novel, Burgess argues that humanity must, at all costs, insist that individuals be allowed to make their own moral choices, even if that freedom results in depravity. When the State removes Alex’s power to choose his own moral course of action, Alex becomes nothing more than a thing. A human being’s legitimacy as a moral agent is predicated on the notion that good and evil exist as separate, equally valid choices. Without evil as a valid option, the choice to be good becomes nothing more than an empty, meaningless gesture. The novel’s treatment of this theme includes, but is not limited to, the presentation of a Christian conception of morality. The chaplain, the novel’s clearest advocate for Christian morals, addresses the dangers of Alex’s “Reclamation Treatment” when he tells Alex that “goodness is something chosen. When a man cannot choose he ceases to be a man.” F. Alexander echoes this sentiment, albeit from a different philosophical standpoint, when he tells Alex that the treatment has “turned [him] into something other a human being. [He has] no power of choice any longer.” Burgess’s novel ultimately supports this conception of morality as a matter of choice and determination and argues that good behavior is meaningless if one
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