After reading A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess and watching the Stanley Kubrick film again on Netflix, I decided to put some thought into what has happened to our friend and humble narrator. I’ll look at elements from both the book and film to describe Alex’s transition.
The Young and Ultraviolent
In both versions, we see Alex and his Droogs at the height to their ultraviolent dealings – fighting, stealing, sexual assaults, and general lack of respect for the law and others. To young Alex, the world is his for the taking, and he acts as so. Alex participates in several acts of violence as part of a group, but the final straw turns out to be a solo act of murder. That is all on Alex as an action he chose. In both the film and movie, Alex appears to be disturbingly uneffected by the new of his victim’s death.
Alex’s dealings with even his closest of friends involves violent outcomes. When Dim and Georgie decide that they are tired of how thier group is operating and who is making the call on things, Alex pushes them into a river and slices into Dim’s hand with a knife.
The language created in the book (Nadsat) adds to the youthfulness of our main character and the world he lives in. The imaginary words (brilliant mashed up forms of cockney and Russian) shows the imaginative and juvenile world Alex dwells. Many of the words are childish, almost baby-like, derivatives of common words. this also illustrates the lack of respect he has for language and rules in general.
While Alex is in prison he makes appearances outwardly to be a changed young man. While he inwardly fantasizes of a life of luxury. He tells the preacher that he only wants to be good and do good, but it is easy to see that all of this is a rouse to get back out into the real world. He sees the opportunity for the Ludovico technique as an easy way out. Little did he know that what horrors were to follow him.
The scenes with the lovely, lovely, lovely Ludwig Van (Beethoven) playing to scenes of the very levels of violence he was saw as his modus operandi. The difference in the Ludovico technique was the little injection that made those very things a source of his illness and a conditioned response.
His very change was not something that created by choice, but rather forced upon him in the treatment. The scenes of him strapped to a chair with his eyelids held open, forced to view the scenes of mayhem, remain one of the most stirring images for me of all the films I have seen. I think only the “eye scene” from Un Chien Andalou by Luis Buñel surpasses it.
The result from the treatment is a man free from the ability to chose to do wrong, due to the illness that sets on him with the urges of his youth to do wrong.
The Missing Link
The endings of the book and the film vary greatly and had been a point of discussion when the tales of Alex DeLarge and his droogs crossed the Atlantic to come to the U.S. The original story concluded with what I consider to be the best, more sensible, and true to life tale of Alex. The British version contained the conclusion to where the Stanley Kubrick film left off. The film leaves the viewer with a sense that either Alex’s treatment has worn off or he is off to continue the mischief.
When the story came to the US the final chapter was left out to show what Alex had turned into. So, for decades we were left with Alex being what he was originally – violent and immature. Even the most radical form of torture and treatment was unable to fix this. Things cannot be changed.
As I mentioned, I prefer the 21st chapter ending to the story of our humble narrator. Alex matures and sees the errors of his ways on his own. Making this second evolution of Alex DeLarge one of choice and not of a forced nature. This ending offers a vision of hope in the dystopian future.
While many see this story (primarily the film version) as a study in the ultraviolent, I prefer the to look out in the world of the modern Alex DeLarge characters seen in real life and hope that they too can evolve into not into conformity but not as a detriment to others. If you have read this far without reading the book or seeing the film, then check them out and I apologize for the rambling.