Prison chaplain: “Choice. The boy has no real choice, has he? Self-interest, the fear of physical pain drove him to that grotesque act of self-abasement. Its insincerity was clearly to be seen. He ceases to be a wrongdoer. He ceases also to be a creature capable of moral choice.”
The prison chaplain speaks these lines after he watches state officials test Alex in order to prove that he has truly been cured of his violent impulses. Alex stands on a stage in front of a room filled with doctors and political figures. To test Alex, a man comes out from behind the curtains and insults him, slaps him, and makes him lick the bottom of his shoe. Alex complies because after the conditioning he has undergone, fighting back would make him too horribly ill. This is the “grotesque act of self-abasement” that the prison chaplain refers to. Then a near-naked woman comes out and tries to seduce Alex, but he turns away in illness at the thought of sex.
While these displays impress most of the audience members, the prison chaplain voices dissent using traditional religious rhetoric. He holds up religious values of good and evil and the importance of moral choice in opposition to the value of ultimate state control. His statement echoes the traditional belief that what makes people different from animals is their ability to make moral choices. Evolutionary science maintains that self-interest and the fear of physical pain drive animals to act, and that this instinct allows them to survive. Religion, however, maintains that people exist on a higher plane than animals and are not driven by their instincts alone, but rather have a divine element in their natures that enables them make moral choices.