A Clockwork Orange

by: Anthony Burgess

Important Quotations Explained

3. They don’t go into the cause of goodness, so why of the other shop? . . . Badness is of the self, the one, the you or me on our oddy knockies, and that self is made by old Bog or God and is his great pride and radosty. But the not-self cannot have the bad, meaning they of the government and the judges and the schools cannot allow the bad because they cannot allow the self. And is not our modern history, my brothers, the story of brave malenky selves fighting these big machines?

This passage comes from Part One, Chapter 4, when Alex challenges P.R. Deltoid’s attempts to ascertain the source of wicked behavior. Deltoid and his government colleagues have labored over this problem for years, and are still no closer to an answer. Alex’s point is that there is no answer because evil is a natural part of man, and is therefore as inexplicable as goodness. Furthermore, evil, just like goodness, is a choice, which Alex accentuates by referring to it as “the other shop” that he patronizes. In asserting the validity of his choice of evil, Alex produces one of his most philosophically substantive ideas of the novel. It is rational and sober, as suggested by the low frequency of nadsat words, and about as intellectually abstract as Alex gets. By invoking God in the process, Alex brings up the notion of the immortal soul as God’s greatest creation, or, as Alex says, “his great pride and radosty.” This idea is important because it introduces a Christian understanding of the self as an autonomous moral being with the power and duty of choice. Having this choice is a prerequisite for having a soul.

Alex’s comments about “the government and the judges and the schools” are also perceptive. Badness is socially disruptive, and thus damaging to the welfare of the State. Because of this, the State seeks to deprive the individual of its choice, which in essence is tantamount to depriving the individual of his soul. In this manner, Alex identifies himself with the cause of badness, which he equates to the cause of the individual. He sets the individual, or the human being, against the government, or the machine. Lastly, Alex’s mention of modern history alludes to our own world, where revolutions that have bettered society on the whole have been fought in the name of individual liberty.