A Clockwork Orange
Part Three, Chapters 3–4
When the officers arrive and, using excessive force, stop the elderly men from attacking Alex, Alex is shocked to recognize one officer as Billyboy, his old enemy, and Dim, his old friend. Close accomplices now, Dim and Billyboy aren’t surprised to see Alex, having heard from their superior that Alex was freed from prison and cured of his violent impulses. Dim and Billyboy accuse Alex of having attacked the library patrons, and drive Alex out to the countryside for what they repeatedly refer to as “summary.” All alone in the middle of farmland, Dim and Billyboy beat Alex brutally while Rex, the third officer, waits quietly in the car. When they finish with Alex, they put their helmets and tunics back on and drive away, promising to see Alex “some more sometime.”
Instead of trudging back toward town, Alex follows the sound of a farm machine to a familiar-looking village. Bruised and hungry, Alex barely manages to carry himself to the front door of a cottage marked “HOME.” He knocks on the door and begs the man who answers for a drink and a seat by his fire. Opening the door fully, the man sees the state that Alex is in and pities him. When he hears the full tale of police brutality, he calls Alex “a victim of the modern age” and offers him food and warmth while attending to his wounds. Though he doesn’t know it, the man has met Alex before. Two years ago, Alex and his friends raped his wife and tore up his manuscript. Alex knows this when he first sees the man, but, needing the man’s charity, chooses to remain silent.
The man does recognize Alex from the newspaper, however, and views Alex as “the poor victim of this horrible new technique.” As it turns out, the man is a political dissident, and after dinner, he listens, captivated, to Alex’s tale. He believes that fate has brought Alex to his house, and tells him that he thinks Alex can be used to help “dislodge” the imperious government. Alex, however, seems more concerned by the fact that the man has been drying a plate for a full ten minutes. When he calls attention to it, the man explains to Alex that his wife died, and he still doesn’t know how to do all the domestic chores properly. Alex learns that the woman died of shock after being raped by his gang.
On the surface, Alex’s reintroduction into society would seem to come at a good time. The state has become increasingly repressive and intolerant of crime, so we might expect that Alex would now be both well-adjusted and reasonably safe, despite his defenseless condition. As Alex learns in these chapters, however, he doesn’t have to commit a crime to find himself brutalized by the police. All the police need is some kind of pretext, as in the scene with the old men, or a score to settle, as in the case of Alex’s “summary” at the hands of Dim and Billyboy. Burgess was harshly critical of the police during his lifetime, calling them “a kind of alternative criminal body.” In A Clockwork Orange, Billyboy’s and Dim’s new positions as police officers demonstrate how the State has reached a point where it will appropriate criminal inclinations to maintain law and order. Where it once tacitly condoned lawlessness to keep its citizens in check, now the State officially sponsors thugs to patrol the streets. This practice is a far more efficient means of controlling the populace, because it appears to have the people’s interests in mind. In reality, though, the State remains less concerned with reducing crime than with maintaining the appearance of order. This notion is most apparent when Billyboy turns to Alex on their way to the country, saying that the “streets must be kept clean in more than one way.” The only things that separate these two from common criminals are their uniforms, which they shed before they thrash Alex.
Alex’s return to the cottage marked “HOME” represents yet another of the repetitions or symmetries that link the first and third part of the novel. We learn here that the writer, whose wife was raped by Alex and his droogs in Part One, is a political dissident by the name of F. Alexander. Since he shares a name with our protagonist, we can expect that F. Alexander will turn out to be either a double or a foil for Alex. He quickly becomes something of a father figure to Alex, a fact that may be suggested by the mysterious “F.” initial that precedes his name. In F. Alexander’s care, Alex receives the only compassion shown to him in the entire book, yet while this home provides a measure of respite and harmony for Alex, it nevertheless contains a seething, toxic hatred that threatens Alex’s safety. We learn in Chapter 4 that F. Alexander has remained in the cottage where his wife was raped, dedicated to ousting the government that he holds responsible, but all the while harboring a murderous rage for the teenagers whose atrocities killed her. This fact will become increasingly significant in the following chapters, as we discover more about how F. Alexander plans to use Alex to discredit the government.
The emptiness of Brodsky’s boast that Alex has become a “true Christian” is exposed the moment Alex learns of the death of F. Alexander’s wife. Alex’s face blanches at the news, which F. Alexander may mistake as evidence of Alex’s sorrow and revulsion. However, Alex’s appearance is deceptive. In truth, Alex suffers no regret for his actions and offers no internal penance for the wrongs he has committed. Alex’s criminal tendencies may have been eliminated, but he still lacks the ability to empathize with others or feel genuine compassion for his victims. He has become a machine, programmed to avoid bad thoughts and deeds but lacking the moral conviction to make those gestures meaningful. As we’ll learn in the next chapter, Alex doesn’t dwell on the woman’s death except to wonder how it might affect his wellbeing and security, should F. Alexander learn the truth. In fact, right after hearing about the wife’s fate, Alex enjoys a very restful night.
by ThatGenericUsername, November 29, 2012
Just wanted to say thank you for the post of the Nasdat dictionary. The language of the story was a bit overwhelming at some points, though this helped me pull through. I'd also like to mention the explanations under the "Important Quotes" were a very interesting read. If anyone reads this comment, I'd recommend them a read for a potential boost in the understanding of the subliminal contexts of Burgess's story.
1 out of 2 people found this helpful0