Of the write-ups listed above, only RalphieK has really glimpsed what makes A Clockwork Orange so important as both a book and a film. Both are stylistically brilliant, well constructed works that effectively pose the question: What is the price of human choice?
Alex, our humble narrator and protagonist, is a monster. He does not see others as human, even his companions Dim and Pete are nothing more than extensions of his own ultraviolent self. He shows this in the scene where he humbles Dim when that put upon character wants more choice inside the gang.
And these are his friends.
The rest of us, (except for his probation officer P.R. Deltoid -- who alone has power over him), are simply things, toys to be used and discarded, vessels for Alex’s immense anger and lust. He is a true sociopath in the vein of Ted Bundy and gang-banger Sanyika Shakur. Only one thing about him is human, his love of music.
When he is betrayed by his friends and pastured, and put into the Ludovico technique. There he spots a few "malchikis about to give a little devotchka a little of the old in-and-out . . . All to the lovely strains of Ludwig van . . .” And so he sits taking the drugs and watching films of rape and murder until the conditioning wins, and he becomes ill at even the thought of violence or sex.
After Ludovico Alex is fit to resume his place in society, able to work again, never again a rapist, murderer or thief. But he has no choice in this, the desire remains, the deep hunger. This is indicated by the scene where Alex is displayed publicly, the first success of Ludovico. A beautiful woman clad only in her panties is brought on stage and paraded in front of Alex. He reaches for her breasts, and doubles over in sickness.
He returns to society and there meets Pete and Dim, who have channeled their rage in a more acceptable direction. They have become policemen, who now direct their violent rage against criminals. The see Alex and beat him mercilessly because they can. Alex is unable to defend himself, even from an unprovoked assault. He cannot choose any more. He can only endure, a perpetual victim.
Worse, he can no longer bear the music he loves. The first bars of the lovely Beethoven's Ninth Symphony ring out and the illness comes. He cannot enjoy the one thing that made him human.
Well meaning people seek to cure him to reverse the Ludovico technique. And they succeed. This is brilliantly handled in the film, where he sits in his sanatorium bed, surrounded by gigantic PA speakers, playing beautiful music. And above the brilliant music of Wendy Carlos, you hear Alex’s narration, “Aye, and I was cured alright,” with the viciousness and malice of the true psychopath.
And here lies the question: If we could use mind control to change a vicious person like Alex, should we? His state after the Ludovico conditioning has a certain ironic symmetry, the monster reduced to helpless victim. But at the price of his humanity? Is the Ludovico technique better than death, better than prison?
The implication at the end is that Alex may return to rape and murder, though that is not certain. At the end, he is free to choose. He is human. For better and worse. A Clockwork Orange makes no attempt to answer this question. But this important question has never been better posed.