LITERATURE: A Clockwork Orange – Government Control

So Alex has been sensitized to violence.  There is an ethical question here of course, as his total feedom of choice has been compromised permanently by the procedure he was subjected to at the prison.

Alex does try to go back to his prior life, but a child’s worst nightmare is real:  His parents have rented out his room while he’s been gone.  His former mates and enemies have become policemen, a strange turn of events when they are called to the scene where Alex, in a bar, is beaten up by older men.  Of course his friends haven’t changed; they simply can do legally what they did before–beat up on their captives.  When Alex, broken and bloody, stumbles into a house looking for help, he finds it.  But it is where he and his cohorts have beaten and raped before, though the man doesn’t recognize him.  The man also is anti-government, and is thrilled to find Alex who represents victimization by the government.  Once more, Alex cannot escape.  He fails at a second suicide attempt.

Alex’s despair is over the loss of his former life, and that includes his parents, any form of friendship or love, and his ability to enjoy as well as get money from bullying others.  He feels abused and alone, though others are anxious to use him to protest government power.

So which is right?  If Alex was left alone, there’s no doubt he would be up to his old life and likely imprisoned again.  But that would be up to his own choice to do.  As he is, he cannot help but change, forced by the changes made to his mind.  However, he is allowed to be free–at least to change, and he is not a threat to society.  Interesting questions here as to the rights of the individual versus the whole.

Brings to mind Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas, and for now, Alex is the scapegoat, held as a poster child for the future of crime and punishment.

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