In A Clockwork Orange, the main character is that of a mildly young child of 15 who, along with his fellow friends, or ‘Droogs’, partake in evenings of Ultra-Violence. Ultra Violence consists of random beatings, theft, destruction, and rape. The main character, Alex, is the self-proclaimed leader of the pack, and makes judgment on their actions pending on his mood. His Droogs eventually find themselves under his direct rule, following his every word, and decide to challenge his authority.
The three Droogs (Dim, Georgie, and Pete) join Alex on his romp to a local ‘fat farm’ to pillage the goods therein. Inside, Alex stumbles upon the owner of the resort, and after a length scuffle with her, ends up giving her a blow to the head with a rather large, ceramic replica of an erect penis. When he leaves the outer gates of the complex, Dim surprises him by smacking a milk bottle against his face. His counterparts escape while little Alex is left bleeding and blinded to deal with the police.
Upon interrogation of Alex, he discovers that the blow he delivered to the young lady was a fatal one. He is charged with first-degree murder and sentenced to 14 years in prison. While there, he befriends the resident minister and becomes a helper to his service. The minister, Alex soon discovers, is a part in a new form of treatment that is trying to be implemented prisons to help ‘cure’ inmates from committing acts of violence. Through luck and discussion with the higher officials in the prison, Alex is chose to be a guinea pig for the experiment, and is sent to become ‘inoculated from violence’.
The treatment consisted of Alex being strapped down to a chair in front of a cinema screen, having electrodes attached to his head, and being kept focused by small pairs of clamps used to disable his ability to blink. This, along with the injection of an experimental serum, is monitored whilst he views movies of UltraViolence. The serum leaves him vulnerable to his surroundings, which are destructive films, and induces such feelings of helplessness, fear, and near-death paralysis, similar to that of drowning. Alex soon associates this feeling of distraught with the violence, and with the background music being played throughout the entire ordeal: Beethoven, Alex’s main love. The final result is that whenever Alex is confronted with either violent acts of any kind, or the sweet strings of Ludwig Van, he is soon on his knees in pain and agony.
When he is released, his parents abandon him. He meets up with a few members of his old gang that have turned into crooked cops, and with their newfound power and long-lasting loathe of Alex, they beat him much and leave him for dead, this of which brought on the sickness that he was conditioned for. Stumbling in the dark for help, he comes across a polite looking residence that looked vaguely familiar. Eventually, Alex realizes that he is in the presence of a former victim of his, but believes that the owner would not recognize him.
To his dismay, the author did recognize him after hearing Alex sing a song in a very similar fashion to the way his attackers did 2 years ago. After slipping a sedative into Alex’s wine, Alex wakes up to find himself in a locked room on the second floor of an apartment high-rise. Through the floorboards, Alex starts to hear the hateful sounds of Beethoven, and goes into his sickness fits. No exits, No escapes. His only way out is to jump out of the closed window and end his life. He does just that.
Alex wakes in a hospital. The author was jailed for attempted murder, and the government officials that started the program were ridiculed and harassed out of their positions. Alex finds himself broken and hurt, but his thoughts are that of the Ultra-Violence. Alex was cured and ready to live again.
In A Clockwork Orange, Alex is portrayed as two different people living within the same body. As a mischievous child raping the world, he as seen as filth. His actions and blatant disrespect towards society are categorized under that of the common street bum. However, when he is away from his evening attire, he is that of suave. His clothing, his words, his overall attitude. The distinction between the two is triggered by the gentle sounds of Ludwig Van Beethoven.
The psychology of Alex would be that of a serial killer. He is a classic example of Darwin’s, Skinner’s, Freud’s, Erikson’s, and Adler’s major theories.
Alex is not truly close to any other person that he comes in contact with in the film. He is using his parents for a place to live, and they show no emotion towards him, good or bad. His love for his gang is not that of a male/male platonic relationship that is common in brotherhoods. It is that of a marriage of like interests, when the parties involved loathe each other personally. Society is against him for all his mortal sins. The only living creature that he shows love for is his snake.
Darwin’s theory of man having the same thought process’s of animals holds an interesting bearing upon Alex. Alex’s love is for his snake. Generally love is defined by an understanding, or a closeness between two items. The snake is represented by many things in the natural world today.
Freud’s analyzation for the male closeness to the snake is that the person involved is questioning his sexuality, or his love towards the female gender. Alex keeps coming back to his snake after his nights on the town, and his first concern with life after he is paroled is his dear snake. This, combined with the fact that keeps his snake in a chest under his bed ( the most recognized sexual item in an average household), show’s his inadequacies with his sexual performance and his penis. He feels that by keeping in contact with his snake, he will be more of a man then he already is, thus making him more noticeable and attractive towards the opposite sex. Therefore, Alex doesn’t view his snake as an equal, but as a greater being capable of becoming a close friend and a security blanket.
The snake is also used in many different cultures to represent the evil and hate that man kind dwells on. When something evil happens, culture blames all of it’s fears upon the snake, the idol of fear. The love that Alex feels for his snake could fall under the love of understanding. With this love, Alex feels that he can relate to his snake, and to what society views the snake as. Alex finds the snake to represent sin and the hate that spawned the world as we know it today. In Genesis, the serpent convinced eve to disobey her god and to eat an apple from the tree of life, thus causing man to not be eternal, and for woman’s childbirth to be complex and painful. In Christianity, the snake is the originator of sin. Alex feels that he is the modern bringer of sin.
Alex often finds himself in many situations where he is surrounded with scenes of graphic sex or some sort of phallic reference. After a night of Ultra-Violence, Alex and his droogs find themselves relaxing at the Karova Milk Bar drinking Milk Plus, Milk Plus Dreminol, and Milk Plus Synthemesc. The bar is adorned with images and sculptures of naked women in various positions of sexual encounters, all of which with exaggerated colors and lengths of fluffy hair. This corresponds with Harlow’s experiments with monkey babies finding comfort in soft items in times of distress. Alex finds comfort in the fluffy hair and softness of the environment of the bar. When he has committed an act of distressing nature, be it violence or everyday normal occurrences, he retreats to Karova to bring him a feeling of warmth, satisfaction, and justification of his previous deeds.
This form of relaxation is common from children of broken homes. Freud believes that the self-image within a man is shaped in the first 5 years of life. With the response that Alex’s parents give to him in his home-life, it is obvious that they did not offer much love to the growing child. By Freud’s belief, if the child does not receive the proper love from a mother that it should, it will find other means to replace the comfort that a mother provides. Alex’s comfort was the violence and the pleasure brought from a night completed.
There is no reference in the movie about Alex’s parents being his natural born parents, or if one of them died and remarried. My beliefs are that Alex’s natural born mother was beaten and eventually left his father. Alex was in the middle of this action, and like Bandura’s findings, the child imitates the action that he views and takes it as natural, thus using it in everyday life. Alex’s aggression upon society are truly the natural urges and feelings that he experiences, thus making him normal, being unaware of the wrongs that his violence induces.
In a Freudian aspect, this could explain a vast majority of his aggression that he displays. His actions interpret his hatred towards his father for being the reason he lacks a parental security blanket. As quoted in one of the first few scenes: ‘…and in the mess of wobbly chaos the drunken old malchek had found himself lying in, he had managed to be able to push out an ugly lyric or two. Now, the one thing that I truly hate in the world is a drunken old malchek singing out the songs of his father with an occasional ‘blurp,blurp’ in between.’, this shows his loath for
1) Disrespect for music
3) Men in his fathers image
The music was his salvation, for it could snap him in and out of his dementia. The music was used in a pseudo-Pavlov experiment to eliminate Alex’s love for violence. In the experiment, Alex ingested a serum that would induce a deathlike paralysis. While the serum was taking effect, he was bombarded with sights of violence and the sweet sounds of Ludwig Van Beethoven, both leaving an impression in his psyche, relating the sickness to the sights and sounds that he was subjected to.
In Pavlov’s experiments, his major goal was to prove that he could train a subject to give a conditioned response with no reinforcement. This was accomplished by training a dog to salivate when he heard a bell ring. The dog was use to the sound of a ringing bell before receiving his food. Eventually, Pavlov removed the food from the experiment, but the dog retained the conditioned response of salivating whenever he heard the bell ring. Thus a conditioned response without positive nor negative reinforcement. Alex’s conditioned response was to fall to the ‘sickness’ when subjected to Beethoven. With the sickness being the conditioned response, there is no Reinforcement because the sounds of Beethoven were not intentional, thus not needing reinforcement.
However, Alex’s trauma could also be referred to as a Skinner approach to treatment. Skinner’s theory was that one could achieve a conditioned response by giving the subject positive or negative reinforcement. In his experiments, a mouse was put in a cage with nothing but a pressable button and a light. When the bar was depressed, the light flashed and food was delivered into the cage. If the mouse were dropped into a similar cage, it would be safe to assume that it would retain the reaction to hit a bar and receive food. The conditioned response was to hit the bar when hungry. The reinforcement was the food that was provided by completing the response. In Alex’s case, the reinforcement would be the metal satisfaction of not going through with his violent needs when he is subjected to violent surroundings.
In conclusion, the theories used as a basis behind Stanley Kubrik’s A Clockwork Orange, resemble that of the theories that came from the greater thinkers of modern time. Alex, the guinea pig in this tale, is a classic example of many psychologist’s case studies, and could be analyzed differently from each.