A CLOCKWORK ORANGE And The Consequences Of Maternal Unconcern

Don't raise a droog.

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A Clockwork Orange’s protagonist Alex is a privileged, charismatic, loquacious, no-holds-barred, sadistically cut-throat sociopath. Kubrick was criticized for his portrayal of Alex, whose immoral actions seem bereft of any emotional motivation, as if he just beats and rapes people for the hell of it, especially when considering the fact that Alex’s home-life is pretty typical at first glance. Alex isn’t a product of an abusive environment, just a young student, the son of two well-adjusted, working-class parents who house and provide for their son. But beyond the dichotomy of seemingly spontaneous violence and the facade of a regular home life is a troubling relationship between Alex and his mother, who takes little interest in her son’s personal life, so when the details of Alex’s crimes are revealed she reacts surprisedly and hyper-emotionally, unable to fully process the fact that her lack of presence as a maternal figure partly contributed to Alex’s violent crimes.

The first scene between Alex and his mom is the morning after one of Alex’s nights of debauchery. She wakes him up for school by knocking on and speaking through his bedroom door, suggesting both barrier and distance between mother and son. Alex successfully convinces his mom that he’s too sick to attend school without even getting out of bed, and instead of going inside his room to make sure that her son is okay, she leaves him be and finishes breakfast with her husband. Alex’s father isn’t much more interested, he asks about his son’s whereabouts from behind a newspaper, but he does pose the question to his wife regarding what Alex really does during his late nights, perhaps suspectful of the violence his son indulges in. Ultimately, however, he’s placated by his wife’s subscription to Alex’s lie that he takes in odd jobs to earn money.

The second scene between Alex and his mom is shortly after Alex’s early release from jail. Alex shows up unexpectedly to surprise his parents, only to find that a tenant named Joe has been renting Alex’s room and treating Alex’s mom and dad as his own surrogate parents. Joe, who has a vested interest in keeping Alex from taking his room back, embellishes the stories he’d heard of Alex’s crimes and the emotional toll it took on his parents, causing Alex’s mom to break down into a sobbing mess, which in turn prolongs Alex’s father’s indecisiveness with regards to whether they should take Alex back in or not, ultimately causing Alex to storm out.

The final scene between Alex and his mom is some time after Alex’s attempted suicide. Alex’s parents approach their son cautiously and apologetically, prompting Alex to passive-aggresively ask what makes them think they’re welcome to visit him, which in turn causes his mother to cry out of shame. Alex’s father admits to his son, for both himself and his wife, that “your home’s your home, when all’s said and done, son”, suggesting that both of Alex’s parents accept their partial responsibility for Alex’s behavior.

Alex’s mother’s lack of concern for the going-ons of her son’s life is what allowed Alex to freely hurt people without any consideration for the consequences. Instead of taking the time to integrate herself into her son’s life, she assumes his honesty and self-sufficiency. Her overly emotional reactions to Alex’s crimes are self-pitying and probably guilt-ridden, considering that she essentially replaced her son with Joe, and also reflects her lack of expectation for both her son’s return and his moral redemption. Her unconcerned attitude towards Alex gave Alex’s father an excuse to mirror that unconcern, and her later hyperbolic emotionality towards Alex caused her husband to consider whether or not taking their son back in was worth the trouble. If anything, A Clockwork Orange demonstrates how harmful the lack of a mother’s interest can be.