Alex, the teenage anti-heroic protagonist and narrator of the novel, is addicted to two things: violence and classical music. He runs rampant over London with his gang of Dim, Pete, and Georgie, his name containing three relevant meanings: the allusion to Alexander the Great (Alex is the gang's leader), the Latinate meaning of "without law" ("A-lex"), and the allusion to Alex's creative use of nadsat-based slang (a "lexicon" is a dictionary). The central question in the novel - whether forced goodness is better than chosen evil - pivots around Alex's behavior when he undergoes Ludovico's Technique in Part Two. He becomes, in the novel's central image, a "clockwork orange," a human deprived of free will and reduced to a deterministic mechanism. Even his capacity to enjoy classical music is gone. His goodness is inauthentic, and only in the final chapter of the novel does he outgrow his immature tendencies toward violence and decide to join the world of adulthood.
Minister of the Interior
The most pervasive antagonist in a novel filled with them, the Minister of the Interior symbolizes the repressive, totalitarian influence of the socialist government, or the Government, as it is called in the novel. He orders Alex undergo Ludivico's Technique, believing prisoners need to be cured of their reflex. The solution is a purely pragmatic one designed to rid the streets of criminals and free up prison space for political prisoners; he ignores the loss of free will on the part of the criminals. Likewise, he and the Government use mass media to penetrate subliminally the minds of London's working population.
The chaplain is a mouthpiece for many of Burgess's ideas on free will, namely that "'goodness is something chosen'" and that without it, man ceases to be human. The chaplain takes Alex under his wing after Alex shows an interest in the Bible, and tries to convince Alex not to undergo Ludovico's Technique. Though he is worried that speaking up may hurt his career, the chaplain finally does take a stand against the treatment after seeing the demonstration of Alex's aversion to violence.
The author of the manuscript "A Clockwork Orange," which gives the novel its central image of man turned into a deterministic mechanism, Alex's gang rapes and kills F. Alexander's wife at the start of the novel. In Part Three, F. Alexander enlists Alex in his party's crusade against the totalitarian government. While foremost being another mouthpiece for Burgess to express his views on free will, F. Alexander also becomes a father figure to Alex. Complicating this status are the Freudian tensions that arise when F. Alexander realizes Alex is the one who raped and killed his wife. F. Alexander's attempt to kill Alex (ostensibly to help the cause against the Government) reflects not only these confusing Oedipal issues, but the capacity for violence in anyone, even those most opposed to it.
The overseer of Ludovico's Technique, Brodsky is portrayed as a sadistic doctor who revels in torturing Alex. He and the other doctors, including Dr. Branom, have just as natural inclinations toward violence as Alex does.
Though the stupidest member of Alex's gang, Dim is perhaps the most important. Alex's hitting Dim incites the group's eventual betrayal of their leader, and a great irony occurs when Dim shows up in Part Three as a member of the new, brutal police force.
The most subdued member of Alex's gang, Pete eventually becomes middle-class and inspires Alex to join him in the march to maturity.
Georgie, the member of Alex's gang most dissatisfied with Alex's dictatorship, dies while Alex is in prison.
Well-intentioned, Alex's mild-mannered middle-class mother and father are too intimidated by their son to notice his violent ways or put a stop to them. They embrace Joe in Alex's absence, but beg forgiveness at Alex's bedside once Joe leaves.
Alex's Post-Corrective Adviser, Deltoid has a farcical way of speaking and does not understand why London's youth is running wild.
The Governor of the prison oversees Alex's reformation. He believes in eye-for-an-eye justice and is not a supporter of Ludovico's Technique; he wants the prisoners to be punished, not cured.
A rival gang member, Billyboy joins Dim on the police force while Alex is in prison.
A burly lodger who displaces Alex in his bedroom and parents' hearts, Joe resents Alex and encourages Alex's parents to reject him when he returns.
Dr. Brodsky's assistant in the hospital.
Rich old woman with cats
Alex's murder victim (though his second, as he learns later), her death lands Alex in jail.
Man with the science books
Alex and his gang beat him up in Part One, Chapter 1; Alex is beaten up by him and his old friends in the library in Part Three, Chapter 2.
Old homeless man
Alex's gang beats up an old homeless man who rails out against the anarchy of the modern world.
Z. Dolin, Rubinstein, and D. B. da Silva
F. Alexander's friends in his liberal party.
Bully, Rick, and Len
Alex's new gang in Part Three, Chapter 7.
A Clockwork Orange Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for A Clockwork Orange is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
The setting is in al dystopian England, where a juvenile delinquent undergoes state-sponsored psychological rehabilitation for his aberrant behaviour. The government in A Clockwork Orange, or "Government," as it is called, is socialistic in many...
Alex is evil. he perpetuates acts of violence because he enjoys it; there's no other reason than the fact that it gives him pleasure in the same way it pleasures other people to do good things. This novel doesn't explore the transformation...