A slow tracking shot reveals Alex from the legs up, lying in a hospital bed - his whole body is wrapped in casts and bandages. He explains that although he fell, he did not "snuff it", though he is clearly quite badly injured. He starts moaning slowly, and a woman's voice echoes his. After a few moments, the nurse and the doctor, half-clothed, scramble out from behind the curtain, quickly pulling their garments on - Alex is awake. Cut to a series of newspaper articles criticizing the government for the "inhumane" attempt at crime reform that led Alex to attempt suicide.
Back in the hospital, Mum and Dad have come to see their son, fruit basket in hand - saying that the Minister called them. They are smiling - but Alex asks them what makes them think they are welcome. Mum starts crying. In a shot from Alex's point of view, Dad says that the papers claim the government did terrible things to Alex. Dad wonders if it was also their fault and expresses regret for kicking Alex out of the house.
Cut to Dr. Taylor wheeling a cart through the hospital. She stops at Alex's bedside and introduces herself as his psychiatrist. Alex tells her about a dream he's been having about a bunch of doctors fiddling inside his head. Dr. Taylor says that for someone with the kinds of injuries that Alex has, those kinds of visions are only natural.
Dr. Taylor then asks Alex to look at the small projector she has brought over, and he has to look at each picture and imagine what the people in the picture are saying - the first thing that pops into his mind. He babbles and makes jokes, and seems to be very pleased with himself. At one point, he gets excited when describing smashing some eggs and manages to hurt himself. Dr. Taylor tells him he seems well on his way to making a recovery.
In the next shot, a nurse is feeding Alex a big steak dinner. He is recovering well and chomps away happily. Meanwhile, the Minister has come to visit Alex, and remarks that he has a whole ward to himself. The Minister says he has kept up with Alex's recovery, and Alex replies that he has experienced the tortures of the damned. The Minister apologizes for what has happened to Alex, as he takes over feeding him.
The Minister says that he wants Alex to think of him - and the government he represents - as a friend. He continues by saying that there are some people who did want Alex dead, so they could use him as a weapon against the government. The Minister describes Mr. Alexander as a writer of "subversive literature" who wants Alex's blood - and says that Mr. Alexander has now been put away to protect Alex. When he leaves the hospital, the Minister promises, Alex will have a good job with a good salary.
Additionally, the government has lost a lot of popularity because of Alex's case, and the Minister is concerned that his party will lose the next election. The Minister is asking Alex for his help and Alex agrees happily. The Minister says that he has arranged a surprise for Alex, whom he knows is fond of music. Suited minions wheel in large speakers and a record player, along with huge floral arrangements.
Beethoven plays as photographers circle around Alex's hospital bed, and flashbulbs go off. Alex and the Minister pose as if they were the best of friends. Alex gives an enthusiastic thumbs-up, with a big smile on his face. He imagines himself, with a naked blonde on top of him, writhing in the snow while people dressed in turn-of-the-century British garb applaud politely. Over this image, Alex's final line echoes - "I was cured all right."
Blake Morrison writes about A Clockwork Orange (the novel), "there is the devastatingly simple, yet profound moral dilemma, which underlies the book: is it better for a man to choose to be bad than to be conditioned to be good? To which Burgess, not hedging his bets, answers clearly: yes." (viii). In the film adaptation, Stanley Kubrick does the same. According to Theodore Dalrymple, "Kubrick even suggests that [the end of the film] is a happy outcome: better an authentic psychopath than a conditioned, and therefore inauthentic goody-goody. Authenticity and self-direction are thus made to be the highest goods, regardless of how they are expressed" (Dalrymple).
The ending of the film was also the main point of contention for Anthony Burgess, who was famously unhappy with his American publisher's decision to lop off the last chapter of the book. This 21st Chapter showed young Alex as an adult, married with children. Kubrick opted not to use this ending in the film. He had already finished writing the screenplay when Burgess told him about the phantom chapter that appears in the British version of the novel but not the American one. Regardless, Kubrick claimed that the missing chapter was "unconvincing and inconsistent with the style and intent of the book - I certainly never gave any serious consideration to using it" (McDougal 9).
Burgess disagreed, and wrote years later about his disappointment with Kubrick's adaptation. He wrote, "To lop off the final section of the story, in which the protagonist gives up his youthful violence in order to become a man with a man's responsibilities, seemed to me very harmful: It reduced the work from a genuine novel (whose main characteristic must always be a demonstration of the capacity of human nature to change) to a mere fable" (Burgess). Kubrick's choice leaves the film version of Alex as an unchanged man at the end of A Clockwork Orange. The last image we see of our protagonist is his fantasy of raping a woman while a group of stiffly dressed men and women look on, applauding politely - as this self-serving government is now forced to embrace Alex and his wayward delights.
In addition, the Minister of the Interior tells Alex that Mr. Alexander has been "sent away", where he can no longer cause harm to Alex or to himself. In this way, Kubrick's depiction of Alex's victims makes them nearly as vile, if not more, as Alex. Just as Alex pretends to be good and god-fearing to get out of prison, so does Mr. Alexander temporarily forget his liberal leanings when he realizes who Alex actually is and tortures him to the point of suicide. Kubrick wrote about the dichotomy - "The Minister... is clearly a figure of the Right. The writer... is a lunatic of the left. They differ only in their dogma - their means and ends are hardly distinguishable" (Ciment 149).
At the end of the film, though, Kubrick portrays Alex's brand of evil as less dangerous than that of the fascist government that wants to use him as their pawn. Roger Ebert writes, "Alex turns into a wide-eyed child at the end of 'A Clockwork Orange', and smiles mischievously as he has a fantasy of rape. We're now supposed to cheer because he's been cured of the anti-rape, anti-violence programming forced upon him by society during a prison 'rehabilitation' process" (Ebert).
Perhaps this is true, but if Alex's story is an allegory of Christian Free Will, we are also cheering for the right to moral choice - whether those choices are harmful to society or not. Kubrick apparently wrote the following line on the call sheets for the production: "it is a story of the dubious redemption of a teenage delinquent by condition-reflex therapy. It is, at the same time, a running lecture on free will". The fact that the last scene in the film takes place entirely in Alex's head brings him back to the position of controlling his own mind. What he does with that power, now, will be entirely up to him.