Alex the Large is bad...in the 'not good' sorta way. As head hoodlum in a gang of equally vicious "droogs", he's responsible for thefts, rapes, murders and other "ultraviolence" in an urban dystopia overrun with lawlessness. A woeful absence of authority essentially voids the 17-year-old's actions until a betrayal by his own cronies lands Alex in prison among "smelly perverts" and "hardened prestoopniks". Upon learning of an experimental 'reconditioning' program which releases prisoners after treatment, Alex instigates the fatal beating of another inmate--effectively 'nominating' himself as a candidate for "The Ludovico Technique". A few pokes and prods and he'll be out and about again, home free so he thinks...but what kind of freedom awaits him?
In part, Burgess penned A Clockwork Orange to characterize the then (1962) public outrage over a marked rise in juvenile delinquency. Indeed, at face value the book may seem like another crime and punishment fable, recompensing "Your Humble Narrator" (Alex) for abuse of his free will. But further themes are revealed in the context; not the least of which are highlighted through Burgess' inventive slang and double-speak. A subterranean language all its own, "Nadsat" gives a twisted appeal to the action, slanting and distorting events to varying degrees.
Miscreant that he is, there's a sensitivity to Alex that's umistakable, marked by his love of Beethoven and innovative--if warped--ethical philosophy. Nowhere is this more evident than with the aversion therapy employed to 'cure' him. Aimed to deprive Alex of evil tendencies, the "Ludovico Technique" works too well eradicating his affinity for untainted assertion and rendering his natural sensibilities unstable. Stanley Kubrick's 1971 film adaptation starring Malcolm McDowell earned (and maintains) cult status, firmly cementing the anti-hero as a cinematic draw.