Alex’s conversation with the Minister allows us to reconstruct the events that occur outside the hospital during Alex’s convalescence. For a week or so, the State has foundered, awash in a media blitz concerning Alex’s attempted suicide. Dolin, Rubinstein, and da Silva inform Alex of all this, happy to call him “friend” at this point because, with his damaged mouth, they can’t understand Alex’s words. By the time Alex can speak again, though, the State has nearly recovered from the onslaught of bad press. The Minister tells Alex that F. Alexander has been apprehended “for his own protection” as well as Alex’s, yet Alex’s clipped expression of gratitude—“Most kind of thou”– suggests that he knows who the real beneficiary is.
That the outcome of the State seems to hinge on Alex underlines the book’s political dilemma. With each faction prepared to sacrifice the individual—as represented by Alex—for the sake of its political aspirations, Burgess presents us with a difficult choice. F. Alexander’s faction may concern itself with, in one critic’s words, “the tradition of liberty and the dignity of man,” but it readily abandons its own doctrine when it tries to use Alex as a disposable pawn. The Minister’s oppressive party, ultimately concerned with domestic stability, has no such pretensions of individual liberty, and in its commitment to that principle, at least, it demonstrates a kind of moral consistency. Each party remains equally condemnable for its exploitation of Alex, and Alex is a “friend” to each only insofar as he provides a means to a desirable end. Burgess doesn’t prod us to decide between the two, but he does compel us to recognize that there should, indeed, be a choice.
While it shouldn’t be read as a tacit approval of the State’s policies, the government’s triumph does allow for Alex to be restored to his old self. Having regained his old psyche, Alex has grandiose visions of “carving the whole litso of the creeching world with [his] cut-throat britva” to the sounds of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. And though the State hopes to minimize the damage he may cause by bribing him with gifts and a lucrative job, we may expect Alex to commit more acts of violence. The implication, though, is that this conclusion is preferable to Alex’s “thingness” because, in his decision to act criminally, Alex is at least expressing his human capacity for moral choice.