Deltoid: “We study the problem. We’ve been studying it for damn well near a century, yes, but we get no further with our studies. You’ve got a good home here, good loving parents. You’ve got not too bad of a brain! Is it some devil that crawls inside of you?”
Deltoid, Alex’s probation officer, speaks these lines to Alex in an early scene in the film when he visits Alex at home. Deltoid is referring to the problem of youth violence and rebellion. When he says, “We’ve been studying,” he means that science and the social sciences have long tried to understand and control humanity’s destructive impulses through rationality. Adults have tried to understand and control youthful rebellion and impulsiveness. Social reformers often suggest that an unstable home produces violence, but Deltoid can’t find the culprit here. Ultimately, the film suggests that these violent impulses are irrational and innate and cannot be eradicated by science and rationality. The dark and destructive, the disorderly and the rebellious, are part of who we are. The state cannot get rid of that part of us except by making us inhuman. Alex may be simply an animal, a creature of instinct—but he may also be human, capable of moral choice. The film leaves ambiguous the question of whether or not we as individuals have control over ourselves.