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A Clockwork Orange

This study will use examples related to the topics of religion, self-identity, freedom, and ethics from Anthony Burgess's novel A Clockwork Orange to illustrate the same concepts in Robert C. Solomon's Introducing Philosophy.

Solomon writes of freedom that it "has the most practical consequences . . . of all abstract problems of philosophy" (455). In other words, if a person is free, he is responsible for his actions, and if he is not free, then it would be irrational or even cruel to hold him responsible for what he does. The central issue in Burgess's novel is this question of freedom and responsibility. The novel champions freedom, even if the individual expresses his freedom in anti-social and destructive ways.

Such a vision reflects the thoughts of Dostoevsky, from Solomon:

There is one most advantageous advantage . . . which is more important and more advantageous than all other advantages. . . . One's own free unfettered choice, one's own fancy, however wild it may be, one's own fancy worked up at times to frenzy. That is the "most advantageous advantage," which is always overlooked (Solomon 509-510).

Burgess certainly does not overlook it in his novel. Such freedom to do what he pleases is the singular obsession of his protagonist Alex. The horrible break-in at the Alexanders by Alex and his cronies is perhaps the most terrible of the sins committed in the book (22-24). In retrospect, however, as despicable as it is, the reader must conclude that Burgess would favor such activity over Alex's being truly "cured" by conditioning so that he never engage in such violence again, at the cost of his freedom of choice.

The issue of his being "cured" by conditioning is all too clearly meant to be resolved in the negative--he is not cured at all, even through force: "Cured? . . . Me tied down to this bed like this and you say cured? Kiss my sharries is what I say" (Burgess 176).

The question is not whether Alex...

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A Clockwork Orange. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 15:56, December 06, 2021, from