A Clockwork Orange: Futuristic City Governed by a Repressive, Totalitarian Super-State

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A Clockwork Orange takes place in a futuristic city governed by a repressive, totalitarian super-state. In this society, ordinary citizens have fallen into a passive stupor of complacency, blind to the insidious growth of a rampant, violent youth culture. The protagonist of the story is Alex a fifteen-year-old boy who narrates in a teenage slang, which incorporates elements of Russian and Cockney English. Alex leads a small gang of teenage criminals through the streets, robbing and beating men and raping women. Alex and his friends spend the rest of their time at the Korova Milkbar that serves milk laced with drugs and a bar called the Duke of New York. 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 books 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...
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