Is it better to be a man choosing wrong than a man who is forced to choose right? In the classic novel, A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, a theme emerges. This is the theme of free will. Through the main character, Alex, Burgess is able to convey his ideas about free will and the oppressive nature of establishments such as governments and the media. Aside from these suggestions made by Burgess the question persists: When a man ceases to choose, is he still a man?
Free will is one of the features that separates us as humans from animals and allows us to attain intelligent thought and reasoning. Of course, all of the features mentioned are unique to humans; the ability to exercise free will enables us to engage in all other aspects that are unique to human life. For example, if we were not given free will, then we could not choose to act upon our reasoning achieved through intelligent thought. We see this when a priest in the book makes the statement when a man ceases to choose, he ceases to be a man (Burgess 67).
So the answer to the question at hand, according to Burgess, is yes. A man does lose his personhood when his free will is taken. In the novel, a totalitarian rehabilitation is forced upon the main character and he is unable to choose whether or not to participate in the violent behavior he once adored. A human being is endowed with free will. He can use this to choose between good and evil. If he can only perform good or only perform evil then he is a clockwork orange (Burgess ix).
This is the statement that Burgess himself made in his own preface to the novel. Life is sustained by the struggling that occurs between good and evil. Take, for instance, the evening new which eradicates this fact of life. Unfortunately, the tendency for mankind to destroy rather than create is due to a certain amount of original sin. But there is a fundamental importance of moral choice, and that is what Burgess intends for us to learn about this free will aspect of life.
When he added the controversial 21st chapter he solidified the books meaning by saying, Eat this sweetish segment or spit it out. You are free. When Alex is left alone to decide to what he will do, he looks back on his violent youth with shame and remorse. He then decides he wants a different kind of future. Perhaps I was too old for the sort of jeezny (life) I was leading (Burgess189). At this point Alex begins to come to the conclusion that he must undergo a change of sorts. The difference between this reform and his previous reform was desire.
Alex truly wanted to change, and this desire to change made it valid. This leaves only one question; what would happen if Alex never reached this desire to change? The only answer is Free Will, my brothers. The answer to the enduring question is yes. It is better to be a man choosing wrong than it is to be a man forced to choose right. For the man who is forced to choose right is not a man at all. So whats it going to be then, eh? (Burgess 1). Will it be free will or no choice at all?