The leading character and narrator of 'A
Clockwork Orange' is Alex; a very violent and cruel 15 year old boy and
his droogs (friends) Dim, Pete and Georgie. After sitting in the Korova Milk
bar, a place where one can order milk with LSD, Alex and his droogs decide to
hit the town. Within the next few hours of night, he and his friends; assault
an old man returning from a library, hold up a small shop, fight a rival gang,
steal a car, drive it to a house called "Home", where they proceed to attack
the writer that lives there and rape his wife in front of him. This describes
just a regular night of Alex and his droogs.
As the book continues, Alex falls into bad standing
with his droogs, who set him up to be arrested. The plan is to call the
police when Alex breaks into a rich old lady's house. Alex quite accidentally
kills the old lady and the police arrest him. He is found guilty for murder
and should go to prison for fourteen years.
After almost two years in Prison, Alex hears of a
new programme that can 'reform' a prisoner and have him out of
prison in a week's time. Alex has no idea of what the treatment really is and
jumps to volunteer.
At first, the accommodations are
much better than prison - Alex is given his own room and good food.
Everything seems normal except for an injection he is given 'to improve
his appetite.' The next day, the true treatment begins. Alex is brought
into a movie screening room, and is bound in a straightjacket, tied to a
chair which allows him only to look at the screen, and his eyelids are forced
open. The doctors administering the 'Reclamation Treatment' (or
Ludovico Treatment) begin playing many films which contain brutal violence
and rape and in one film you could also hear Beethoven's 9th
symphony. Normally Alex wouldn't have minded these films, but the injection
he was given makes him feeling intense pain all over his body. This treatment
continues for several hours per day for a hole week. Now Alex can only
associate a sickening pain with the violent lifestyle he once led.
At a press conference held upon
his release (to prove the effectiveness of the treatment), he is confronted
with situations to fight, but each time he feels sickness and pain and can't
do anything. After Alex is released, he enters into a world that has changed
drastically since his arrest. People who Alex has brutalised and taken
advantage of in the past recognise him and naturally want revenge.
His old 'droogs' are
policemen now and they beat him too. Alex crawls to the home of the writer he
and his droogs assaulted, seeking refuge and food. At first, the writer
doesn't recognise that it is Alex but then the man realises who was in his
house and calls some friends over to help him get revenge. The man had read
about Alex's controversial treatment in the news and remembered something
about Beethoven, so after locking Alex in an upstairs room, the writer plays
the 9th Symphony very loud. Alex can't stand the pain and jumps out of the
His suicide attempt is made
public, and the masses demand that his treatment is reversed.
After leaving the hospital Alex
meets with the third of his original droogs, who now has a family and is
living a socially acceptable life. Alex, who now has new droogs, realises
something is missing in his life. A new found maturity and the overwhelming
urge to settle down falls over him and he essentially grows up.
The time and place of the story was not quite
properly given, but the dark and despicable state of the society in which
Alex lives suggests that it is set in a quite probable near future. The
author, being from England, is thought to have set it in England, but the
novel is written so that it could have happened anywhere.
The moral of the novel is centered on free will,
specifically the difference of "being good" and the CHOICE of "being good."
The 'Ludovico Treatment' makes Alex step
by step to 'A Clockwork Orange' a mixture of machine and man.
The treatment of Alex in the novel can represent
what society thinks should be done about a criminal population.
And in the last chapter, Alex's emptiness that he
later realises to be a need for settling down, symbolises that most people
grow and learn and change.