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The concept of belonging is essential. To belong is to form a connection which will allow a sense of identity, without this we lose our humanity; however, conformity is in a sense a facade of belonging, as it restrains our freedom and forces us to only mimic. My studied texts show how society demands us to conform, yet conformity prevents a sense of true identity being ever created. This notion is elaborated in the novel, A Clockwork Orange. Alex is a criminal who doesn’t belong anywhere within society.
In the novel, the government attempts to suppress his criminality by physically preventing him from thinking of violence—thus making him conform to their standards. This is a prime example of how society attempts to make us conform to what is considered ‘normal’. Towards the end of the novel, the character F. Alexander tells Alex: “They have turned you into something other than a human … being. You have no power of choice any longer. You are committed to socially acceptable acts, a little machine capable only of good. The quote shows us the central theme of the novel; if we cannot choose where we belong we lose our humanity—thus showing us the value of choice as well as the value of individuality. The metaphor and imagery of the title, a clockwork orange, symbolises what conformity does to a man. If we cannot choose where to belong we cease to be human but clockwork, or some type of mechanism. We need to be able to choose where we belong, for if it is not chosen its authenticity ceases. The novel ends with Alex choosing the path of goodness, the established normality of society.
He states; “Perhaps I was getting too old now for the sort of life I had been leading, brothers” Alex chooses to belong to society, thus allowing a connection to be formed between him and the world. Conformity and the need to conform to a group or community is the central theme throughout both of the chosen texts I have studied, those being Strictly Ballroom and A Clockwork Orange. “Strictly Ballroom” also supports the fact that society attempts to make us conform to what is considered ‘normal’.
The movie shows the disastrous effect conformity and fear have among members who gain their place inside the group at the price of conformity. Shirley Hastings, for example, lives a “life half-lived” cowering before what Barry Fife will say or think. She has let the Federation so dominate her that she has no respect for Doug and can only see her son Scott in terms of winning competitions. The movie represents belonging using a variety of techniques to distinguish between the world of artifice and the more realistic world. The image of the artificial world, shown as the ballroom world, is glitzy and colourful.
Luhrmann has presented this world as having power, whereas the character of Fran, shown in plain clothes and reading glasses, is initially shown as powerless, because she does not conform to the ballroom world. The movie traces the shift from a world of false belonging dominated by conformity, fear and the cynical manipulations of the ultra-sleaze Barry Fife, towards the iconic last scene where the line between spectators and professional dancers blurs and is dissolved as Scott dressed in Spanish costume and Fran in Spanish-style red dress put passion back into dance, rescuing it from the deadening effect of the old brigade.
Taking the similes of the two texts we can arrive at the conclusion that conformity allows us to become part of a functioning society but can in turn stifle individuality, expression and self-identity. I’ll leave you with two thoughts from “A Clockwork Orange”. “Goodness is something to be chosen. When a man cannot choose he ceases to be a man. ” And so I ask you, ‘Is it better for a man to choose to be bad than to be conditioned to be good? ” That is both the crux of the issues involved and the decision we must all, as individuals, make.