"Milk with Knives in It"
"What's it going to be then, eh?"-- Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange
This question opens A Clockwork Orange ( 1962), and it is echoed fourteen times in the novel's twenty-one chapters. 1 It serves as a refrain, continually reminding the reader of the central issue in Anthony Burgess's dystopia--moral choice. A Clockwork Orange asks whether it is better for individuals to choose freely between good and evil or for the State to protect itself by removing the capability of choice and enforcing only good through behavioral conditioning. As the prison chaplain asks, "Does God want goodness or the choice of goodness?" ( Burgess 1987a, 95). 2 But the chaplain's question, "while it affords the concision necessary to a reviewer, is totally insufficient to the critic. For there is something at once delightful and horrible, dogged and elusive in A Clockwork Orange that even so profound a rhetorical question cannot contain it" ( Petix 1976, 42). This "something" is not at all "elusive," but rather is clearly visible, beginning in the novel's second paragraph:
There was me, that is Alex, and my three droogs, that is Pete, Georgie, and Dim, Dim being really dim, and we sat in the Korova Milkbar making up our rassoodocks what to do with the evening, a flip dark chill winter bastard though dry. The Korova Milkbar was a milk-plus mesto, and you may, O my brothers, have forgotten what these mestos were like, things changing so skorry these days and everybody very quick to forget. . . . They had no licence for selling liquor, but there was no law yet against prodding some of the new veshches which they used to put in the old moloko,