By Yana BondarchukSat. 20 Apr. 20243min Read

10 Famous A Clockwork Orange Quotes

Anthony Burgess's "A Clockwork Orange" is renowned for its inventive language and deep philosophical questions about free will and ethics.
10 Famous A Clockwork Orange Quotes

If you are a fan of dystopian literature that delves into the darker sides of human nature and societal control, you may have encountered Anthony Burgess's provocative novel, "A Clockwork Orange." Below, we look at some of our team's favorite quotes from this influential work.

"A Clockwork Orange" is a novel by Anthony Burgess, first published in 1962. It has remained a significant and controversial piece in the realm of dystopian fiction due to its exploration of themes such as free will, morality, and the impacts of societal order. Set in a not-so-distant future England, the novel follows Alex, a delinquent youth who revels in acts of ultra-violence. Captured by the authorities, Alex undergoes an experimental psychological conditioning process aimed at reforming criminals into well-behaving citizens.


"Is it better for a man to have chosen evil than to have good imposed upon him?" – Alex


This philosophical question lies at the heart of "A Clockwork Orange." Burgess challenges us to consider the value of free will, even when it leads to destructive choices. This quote always strikes me as a profound inquiry into the nature of morality and autonomy.

"When a man cannot choose, he ceases to be a man." – Prison Chaplain

The Chaplain's statement during a debate on morality and free will captures the novel’s central theme. Burgess uses this character to express concerns about governmental control over individual morality, emphasizing the importance of choice in human identity.

"The important thing is moral choice. Evil has to exist along with good, in order that moral choice may operate." – Prison Chaplain

This quote further delves into the concept of moral choice. Burgess’s exploration of good versus evil, and their necessity for true moral autonomy, provides a deep philosophical underpinning to the story’s violent narrative.

"A little of the old ultraviolence." – Alex

Alex's casual mention of ultraviolence reflects his perverse delight in chaos and brutality. Burgess uses Alex's character to explore the impact of societal breakdown on youth culture and the potential for redemption.

"I see what is right and approve, but I do what is wrong." – Alex

This confession by Alex highlights the conflict between societal norms and personal desires. Burgess portrays a protagonist who is aware of societal expectations but chooses to defy them, adding layers of complexity to the discussion of free will.

"It's funny how the colors of the real world only seem really real when you watch them on a screen." – Alex

This observation by Alex offers insight into his distorted perception of reality, influenced by media and technology. Burgess subtly critiques the media's role in shaping our understanding of the world.

"Music always sort of sharpened me up, O my brothers, and made me feel like old Bog himself had given me a heave in the back." – Alex

Music plays a crucial role in Alex's life, serving as both a source of inspiration and a catalyst for his violent tendencies. Burgess’s inclusion of classical music as a motif enriches the narrative, illustrating the complex relationship between art and morality.

"Youth must go, ah yes. But youth is only being in a way like it might be an animal." – Alex

Alex's reflection on youth and its transient nature touches on the theme of growing up and the loss of innocence. Burgess captures the angst and confusion of adolescence, framed within a dystopian context.

"I was cured all right." – Alex

The novel's closing line is chillingly ambiguous. It suggests both the success and the horror of the state's attempt to reform Alex. Burgess leaves us questioning the cost of societal control over individual freedom and the nature of psychological conditioning.

"Goodness is something chosen. When a man cannot choose he ceases to be a man." – Prison Chaplain

Echoing earlier themes, this quote encapsulates the novel's critique of enforced morality through state control. Burgess champions the idea that goodness loses its meaning if it's not chosen, a notion that resonates deeply in discussions of ethics and governance.

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If you liked this collection of quotes, you will also like our list of classic romance novels, available to read about, download and to import to PDF Reader Pro, right here on our blog. 

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