A Clockwork Orange

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Christianity Symbol Icon
Christianity encapsulates the ethical dilemma at the core of the novel. The book’s only religious figure, the prison chaplain, is particularly bothered by the way that Reclamation Treatment deprives Alex’s capacity for moral choice. The chaplain worries about the theological implications of this lack of free will: “What does God want?” he asks. “Does God want woodness or the choice of goodness? Is a man who chooses the bad perhaps in some ways better than a man who has the good imposed upon him?” In contrast to the chaplain’s skepticism about the therapy, Dr. Brodsky asserts that Reclamation Treatment has turned Alex into the “perfect Christian.” Alex even inadvertently compares himself to Jesus, when, after his treatment, he is unable to resist violent treatment from an orderly: “If that veck had stayed I might even have like presented the other cheek.” Thus, the debate about whether or not Alex is truly a Christian extends to the debate about Reclamation Treatment as a whole: is a clockwork man a moral one, or a will-less machine?

Christianity Quotes in A Clockwork Orange

The A Clockwork Orange quotes below all refer to the symbol of Christianity. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Language Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the W. W. Norton & Company edition of A Clockwork Orange published in 1995.
Part 2, Chapter 3 Quotes

It may not be nice to be good, little 6655321. It may be horrible to be good. And when I say that to you I realize how self-contradictory that sounds. I know I shall have many sleepless nights about this. What does God want? Does God want woodness or the choice of goodness? Is a man who chooses the bad perhaps in some ways better than a man who has the good imposed upon him…You are passing now to a region where you will be beyond the reach of the power of prayer. A terrible terrible thing to consider. And yet, in a sense, in choosing to be deprive of the ability to make an ethical choice, you have in a sense really chosen the good.

Related Characters: The Prison Chaplain (speaker), Alex
Related Symbols: Christianity
Page Number: 106
Explanation and Analysis:

In this important passage, Alex--about to begin scientific treatment that will render him unable to be violent or criminal--meets with the Prison Chaplain once more. The Chaplain warns Alex that he won't enjoy his treatment at all. The Chaplain's other reasons for discouraging Alex from the Ludovico technique are complicated and subtle. As the Chaplain sees it, conditioning violates man's most sacred gift: the gift of free will. God has created human beings with the potential to be wicked: if God wanted, he could have forced men to be good, but he didn't. With the Ludovico technique, the Chaplain believes, human beings are essentially taking the "short cut" that God himself did not take: they're forcing each other to obey the law, at the cost of free will.

In the end, the Chaplain doesn't seem to have a clear-cut answer, even for himself. He believes that free will--i.e., the rights of the individual--is crucial to one's humanity (and the state of one's soul in a Christian worldview), but he also recognizes that society as a whole would benefit from fewer criminals. Furthermore, the Chaplain recognizes that Alex himself has chosen to be robbed of choice--so in a sense even the Ludovico technique requires free will and a decision to want to be good.

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Part 2, Chapter 6 Quotes

And what, brothers, I had to escape into sleep from then was the horrible and wrong feeling that it was better to get the hit than give it. If that veck had stayed I might even have like presented the other cheek.

Related Characters: Alex (speaker)
Related Symbols: Christianity
Page Number: 135
Explanation and Analysis:

Alex has just finished his scientific conditioning, and to test whether the conditioning has worked, a man hits Alex in the face. Instead of fighting back, as Alex was once apt to do, Alex cowers on the floor--he wants to defend himself, but at the same time he feels a deep sense of pain and disgust, the product of his conditioning.

The passage includes a sly allusion to a famous Biblical verse, in which Jesus Christ urges his followers to "turn the other cheek" if an enemy hits them. Where Christ wanted his followers to choose to be righteous pacifists, Alex has no real choice but to submit to his enemies' authority. Alex is behaving morally, but he's not a moral agent: he's just a puppet, pushed and prodded into submission by the Ludovico technique he's just completed.

Part 2, Chapter 7 Quotes

He will be your true Christian…ready to turn the other cheek, ready to be crucified rather than crucify, sick to the very heart at the thought even of killing a fly.

Related Characters: Dr. Brodsky (speaker), Alex
Related Symbols: Christianity
Page Number: 143
Explanation and Analysis:

In response to the Prison Chaplain's objection that Alex's scientific conditioning has rendered him incapable of making the most basic free decisions, Dr. Brodsky--one of the men responsible for organizing and supervising Alex's treatment--offers a spirited defense. Brodsky, recognizing that the Chaplain is attacking the Ludovico treatment from a Christian standpoint, insists that Alex has become the perfect Christian. Brodsky argues that Alex will be selfless and moral at all times--he'll "turn the other cheek," as Christ urged his followers to do.

Brodsky's words are ironic and contradictory on many different levels. As we know very well, Alex's instinct to "turn the other cheek" is a bastardization of Christianity. Alex doesn't choose to be selfless, as Christ advocated; rather, he's forced to behave morally by a physical sense of disgust and pain. In a broader sense, then, Alex's inability to exercise free will contradicts the strong emphasis on individual freedom that has always been a cornerstone of the Christian faith (in most denominations). Finally, it's important to remember Dr. Brodsky's sadistic attitude during Alex's treatment--he enjoyed causing Alex pain, and even seemed to enjoy watching some of the films that caused Alex disgust. Brodsky is hardly a "true Christian," making his sanctimonious speech particularly hard to swallow.

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Christianity Symbol Timeline in A Clockwork Orange

The timeline below shows where the symbol Christianity appears in A Clockwork Orange. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 2, Chapter 6
Language Theme Icon
Sadism and Society Theme Icon
Free Will vs. the “Clockwork Orange” Theme Icon
Art and Humanity Theme Icon
Conformism Theme Icon
...fearful feeling that it may be better to receive a blow than to deal one. “If that veck had stayed I might even have like presented the other cheek,” he observes. (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 7
Language Theme Icon
Sadism and Society Theme Icon
Free Will vs. the “Clockwork Orange” Theme Icon
Conformism Theme Icon
...To conclude the presentation, Dr. Brodsky claims that Alex has been made into a “ true Christian ” by the treatment. (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 2
Language Theme Icon
Sadism and Society Theme Icon
Free Will vs. the “Clockwork Orange” Theme Icon
Art and Humanity Theme Icon
Conformism Theme Icon
...of decrepit old men. Alex tries to consult some reference books, but finds them impenetrable. He grabs a Bible off a shelf and begins to read it instead , but the accounts of violence threaten to sicken him. Alex is near tears when... (full context)