Symbols are objects, characters, figures, or colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts.
As a substance that primarily nourishes young animals, milk symbolizes the immaturity and passivity of the people who habitually drink it at the Korova Milkbar. Their drinking of milk suggests the infantilization and subsequent helplessness of the State’s citizens. By virtue of its whiteness and homogenization, milk also symbolizes uniformity among the teenagers who drink it. The fact that the milk is laced with drugs is ironic, suggesting that these youths are less wholesome and innocent than adults, not more.
Referred to generically as hallucinogens in this study guide, these three drugs symbolize neutrality, or “thingness.” The people in the novel who use them become inhuman while experiencing the effects of them, receding from the reality around them.
These things are associated with Alex’s domain, and thus represent peace and security to him. The chaplain, who is garbed in black and defends Alex against the State, might also fall into this category of objects. Darkness represents the privacy and solitude necessary for an individual will to exist and make choices freely.
Daytime and sunlight represent danger for Alex. In Part One, Alex notes that there are several more policemen—figures of repression—out patrolling during the day. The harsh lights of the police station interrogation room create a kind of artificial day, and the doctors, with their white jackets, continue the trend of brightness being associated with threat and menace. The only time the chaplain wears white is during an exchange with Alex, where the chaplain gets Alex to snitch on his fellow prisoners in order to further his own career ambitions. Lightness represents the demystification of the individual.
More main ideas from A Clockwork Orange