A Clockwork Orange
The freedom of choice and the rehabilitating form of corrections encase
the realm of A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess. It produces the question
about man's free will and the ability to choose one's destiny, good or evil.
"If he 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 colour
and juice but is in fact only a clockwork toy to be wound up by God or the Devil
or State"(Burgess ix). Burgess expresses the idea that man can not be
completely good or evil and must have both in order to create a moral choice.
The book deals upon reforming a criminal with only good morals and conditioning
an automated response to "evil." Burgess enforces the idea of the medical model
of corrections, in terms of rehabilitating an offender, which is up to the
individual. That one should determine the cause and then find an exclusive
treatment to resolve that individual's case, then apply it. This is the case
with the character Alex, a juvenile delinquent introduced into prisonization
then conditioned by governmental moral standards. This lack of personal moral
choice imposed upon Alex creates conflicting situations in which he has no
control over. This is apparent when trying to readjust into society. As
conflicts arise within the spectrum of criminal justice the main focus is
revolved around the corrections aspect of reforming the criminal element.
Within the confines of the seventies Londoner. The character, Alex is
created as the ultimate juvenile delinquent leading a small gang. Living within
his own world the use of old Londoner language and attire reflect the non-
conformity with society. Let loose within a large metropolitan, Alex is
engulfed in the affairs of several criminal practices, from rape to aggravated
assault. As a juvenile delinquent, Alex is finally caught and seen as an adult
offender. Like all offenders he promotes his innocence and sets blame upon his
companions. "Where are the others? Where are my stinking traitorous droogs? One
of my cursed grahzny bratties chained me on the glazzies. Get them before they
get away. It was their idea, brothers. They like forced me to do it"(Burgess 74).
Betrayed by his cohorts Alex is beaten by local officials and confesses to all
the crimes. As a point to retribution a sergeant states, "Violence makes
violence"(Burgess 80) and proceeds to through Alex back into the cell. All the
while Alex detests the treatment and conditions of the local jail, " So I was
kicked and punched and bullied off to the cells and put in with about ten or
twelve other plennies, a lot of them drunk"(Burgess 81). Unlike the fair
treatment of most juveniles Alex was finally getting the taste of adult
corrections, being held in a drunk tank along with other felons. Faced with the
reality of prison life, Alex is introduced to prisonization by the same system
which incarcerated him. Showing him one must be tough and violent to survive
within the penal system.
The term prisonization refers to the effect when an offender is
subjected to the culture, morals, rules, and values of a penal institution. Then
this is inscribed into his or her own behavior and deems them fit as a norm.
This is the case involving Alex when he must prove his worth in a correctional
institution by beating a fellow inmate. "If we can't have sleep let's have some
education, our new friend here had better be taught a lesson ...I fisted him all
over, dancing about with my boots on though unlaced, and then I tripped him and
he went crash crash on the floor. I gave him a real horror show kick on the
gulliver"(Burgess 102). Although being brutal deems fit for Alex, he realizes
that only repentance and good behavior in the eyes of the officials can release
him from the jaws of justices. So in order to be viewed as a reforming
criminal Alex turns to religion. As the prison minister clearly states, "Is it
going to be in and out of institutions like this, though more in than out for
most of you, or are you going to attend to the Divine Word and realize the
punishment that await the unrepentant sinner in the next world, as well as in
this?"(Burgess 90) and the main focus for reforming is in the hands of God and
individual moral choice. Through religion Alex soon becomes a model prisoner,
externally, yet internally still willing to do anything to get out. This also
included experimental rehabilitation methods done by the state.
Being a juvenile in an adult prison one would have the urgency to be
released as quickly as possible. When the word got out of a new experimental
reforming process and a chance for early release, it immediately caught Alex's
attention. To be chosen, this meant constant pressuring and questioning to the
officials, plus showing that he is trying to reform. " You've been very helpful
and, I consider, shown a genuine desire to reform. You will, if you continue
this manner, earn your remission with no trouble at all"(Burgess 94). However
Alex's intent on reforming was not a religious aspect but the quickest. He
finally realizes a new way to get out and questions the proceedings. "I don't
know what it's called, I said, All I know is that it gets you out quickly and
makes sure you don't get in again"(Burgess 95). However the minister has
doubts about the medical treatment techniques involved in forcing a person to be
morally better. He brings up the question of what makes a real moral person.
"I must confess I share those doubts. The question is whether such a technique
can really make a man good. Goodness comes from within, 6655321. Goodness is
something chosen. When a man cannot choose he ceases to be a man"(Burgess 95).
This does not deter Alex from the thought of early release but only intensifies
his desires. With his determination and pure will Alex is finally permitted to
be experimented on for rehabilitation.
With an early release in site Alex's willingness overshadows any
curiosities of the treatment. Transferred from a state prison to a private
facility insures his release from incarceration. "In a little over a fortnight
you will be out again in the big free world, no longer a number"(Burgess 108).
With the increase in population comes an increase crime, this has also brought
on encouraging new rehabilitating techniques to corrections. Stated by one
government official the importance of reforming in corrections rather than
retribution. "The government cannot be concerned any longer with out moded
penalogical theories. Cram criminals together and see what happens. You get
concentrated criminality, crime in the midst of punishment . . . Kill the
criminal reflex, that's all"(Burgess 105,106). The rehabilitating technique
used upon Alex is that of responsive conditioning with the use of drugs and
visual aids. Conditioning is the implementation of either teaching or forcing
one to feel or think a certain way when given a decision. Alex is therefore
forced to feel and think negative responses when shown evil sites or thoughts.
Yet the an error had occurred when the state was conditioning "good" into him.
The use of classical music along with the treatment conditioned Alex to respond
to that as well. As Alex detested the use of music, he states the cruelty of
the technique, "But it's not fair on the music. It's not fair I should feel ill
when I'm slooshying lovely Ludwig van and G.F. Handel and others"(Burgess 133).
Yet the state feels the use of music is only an enhancement to the treatment,
"It's a useful emotional heightener, that's all I know"(Burgess 131). As the
treatment ends the sick feeling is only increased when Alex is confronted with
any "evil." With this conditioning set in place Alex is finally released into
society and deemed healthy, pure of all morals.
The readjustment into society's values seems to be the main question.
Was the implementation of conditioning a person to strictly good morals proper
and humane? As the title suggests one can not be purely good or evil to be a
man. One must have both in order to create humanistic choice. If not, the
creation would be that of a robot like person incapable of feeling or self
awareness. As Alex is released into the world as the states' example of a
"healthy" person, he is tested by all extremes. One test was the incapability
to defend himself against the smallest attacks on his character. Another error
the state had provided is the use of music in the treatment of Alex. Not only
does he feel physically sick when he thinks or looks at violence but also when
he hears classical music. "It was that these doctors bratchnies had so fixed
things that any music that was like for the emotions would make me just sick
like viddying or wanting to do violence"(Burgess 161). Within the conditioning
techniques of repulsing him to violence, the state had also forced him to hate
music. The use of this correctional treatment failed due to the
implementations on morality of human choice. Is it better to have a criminal
make human choices, good or bad, or a purely good person not capable of making
any choices. As most opinions state, criminals should all be locked up or dealt
with in some harsh manner. There are also those who believe that offenders are
diseased by some element and can and/or should be cured. As far as corrections
is concerned, society can not lock up every offender and can not come up with
plausible means of curing the criminal element. With the rise in population
there will always be a rise in crime. However this does seem to be the present
trend, 5.3 million people were on probation, in jail, in prison, or on parole in
1995 (B.J.S. 1). As seen in Alex's case the corrections techniques to cure the
element did not work. Perhaps the best means was to incarcerate him for his
term and let him pay his debt to society. The only correct method of
corrections is that of self correcting ones.