English ISU: Abuse of Power within A Clockwork Orange
by Christopher Borycheski
The choice between good and evil is a decision every man must make throughout his life in order to guide his actions and control his future. This element of choice, no matter what the outcome, displays man's power as an individual. Any efforts to control or influence this choice between good and evil will in turn govern man's free will and enslave him. In the novel A Clockwork Orange, the author uses symbolism through imagery, the characterization of Alex, and the first person narrative point of view to prove that without the ability to choose between good and evil, Man becomes powerless as an individual.
The symbolism through imagery proves how Alex's ability to choose between good and evil is his ascendancy over the innocent and the weak. The first symbol is the music to which he listens and loves. It is the only thing in Alex's life that he truly cares for. This music represents the element of his choice and free will. When his ability of choice is robbed in an attempt to better him, he loses his love for music in which he exclaims, "And all the time the music got more and more gromky, like it was all a deliberate torture, O my brothers . . . then I jumped"(131). The music that represents his freedom to choose is now gone. He is left without any reason to live. When he realizes that he is no longer a man because of his absence of choice, Alex decides to end his life. The author illustrates through Alex's violent actions, how they represent his abuse of power through his freedom of choice. Alex consistently chooses evil as a means to display his power over the innocent and the good. While beating and raping a young girl, he states with pride, "So he did the strong-man on the devotchka, who was still creeching away . . . in very horrorshow groodies"(22). This proves that he feels he must display his power through his abuse of choice. His love for violence symbolises his abuse of power as an evil trait, but his love for music symbolises his human side. In the end of the story Alex decides that he is ready to become a man. During this rapid evolution from adolescence to manhood, Alex chooses a wife, a family, a life, and in essence he chooses good for the first time in the story. "There was your humble narrator . . . I knew what was happening, O my brothers. I was growing up"(147). Alex realizes that he may choose good and still maintain a strong element of choice. He becomes stronger because he now has a broader selection to choose from. He sees that the abuse of the ability of choice is not what makes Man powerful. It is instead, the realization that the choice between good and evil, no matter what decision, is the power within Man.
Using the characterization of Alex, it effectively illustrates how the element of choice is linked to the power within man. The author uses violence to represent the abuse of power when the right of free will is controlled. Alex believes that his decision towards evil proves his freedom of choice; subsequently it also proves his abuse of the power within him. The violent acts described are graphic and are intended to shock the reader. They also show that the suppression of others is wrong, because it is destructive to the natural rights of man. He consistently chooses evil and violence to show his power of choice, "And now I was ready for a bit of twenty-to-one . . . then I cracked this veck"(7). Alex beats, rapes, robs and pillages the weak and innocent to prove domination and control, thus proving his choice towards evil. In a society that "lets the young get on to the old . . . there's no law nor order no more"(14). He takes on a role of authority in a society of anarchy, and uses violence to portray his abuse of this ascendancy over the weak. Although he is impervious to the choice of good, Alex does not remain ignorant to this choice throughout the entire novel. In the beginning, he believes that violence is the only way to prove his control. This then leads to his loss of control through the loss of his ability of choice. Only in the very end does Alex finally evolve and become a well-rounded character. He realizes that he does not have to choose evil and abuse his position to prove his right of choice. Proven is his freedom to decide between good and evil. "But where I itty now, O my brothers, is all on my oddy knocky, where you cannot go. Tomorrow is all like sweet flowers"(148). Alex now knows that his future is open for his choices to lead him. For good or for evil, it is his right to decide, and this is what truly proves his power. Through these thoughts narrated by Alex, he illustrates how horrible it is to be powerless and how it proves through characterization that man develops power through the element of choice.
These thoughts and feelings prove that through a first person narrative point of view, the author is able to effectively demonstrate how the element of choice is essential to man. Throughout the story, Alex is the narrator for the reader. The only feelings and insight originate from Alex's point of view. This view is very biased and one sided, thus evoking a sense of sympathy and compassion from the reader. Even though he commits horrible, senseless acts of violence, they are lightened by his narrated thoughts to prove his control. Alternatively, any attempt to control Alex is shown as a horrendous attack and abuse of power. When the ability to choose independently between good and evil is stripped from Alex, he realises the importance of choice to his rights as an individual. "I was not your handsome young narrator any longer, but a real strack of a sight"(55). Alex has lost all of his rights and control of himself, which leads to his loss of self respect. He has now lost what gave him ascendancy over the weak, his free will and ability of choice. As stated in the story, "goodness is chosen from within"(67). When choice is forced, man no longer has any power within himself. He is told from the prison warden, "When a man cannot choose, he ceases to be a man"(67). After being told, Alex is still able to sign over his rights as an individual. In each stage, his point of view proves how he loses his natural power as he loses his choice. When Alex regains his ability to decide between good and evil, he narrates, "And there was the slow movement and the lovely last singing . . . I was cured all right"(139). Through this thought, he proves power through the ability of choice. He once again decides upon evil to display his power through violence. This thought is crucial to the reader's understanding of how close the ability of choice is related to individual power. The demonstration of his free will and his loss of power through the absence of choice is effectively accomplished through the use of first person narration.
Throughout this story, choice has proven many aspects of power and it's abuse. Through strong symbols in imagery, Alex's characterization, and his point of view, the absence of choice is proven as the most debilitating and most overlooked depravation of man's individual power. In everyone's life, the struggle for power exists in all situations. The decision between good and evil is the power that anyone must have as an individual. The choice of which path to take is dependant on the person and the situation, but the realization that both exist is a power unto itself.