A Clockwork Orange
Part Three, Chapter 5
Heartened by a good night’s sleep, Alex walks around the top floor of the house, trying to figure out the name of his caring host. In the man’s room he finds a copy of “A Clockwork Orange,” by F. Alexander. He begins to leaf through F. Alexander’s book, though he understands little of what he reads. As far as he can glean from the somewhat overwrought prose, F. Alexander thinks of people as fruit that grow on a great tree planted by God, and that God needs those people to slake his thirsty love. These same people, however, are in danger of being turned into machines by the modern world. Reading these words, Alex doubts F. Alexander’s sanity.
F. Alexander eliminates Alex’s doubts, however, when he greets Alex heartily and cheerfully. F. Alexander has been hard at work this morning, having already written an article about Alex’s victimization at the hands of the totalitarian-leaning State, and waiting for Alex to sign it before it goes to publication. He also mentions that he’s spoken about Alex over the phone to his associates, to which Alex unthinkingly responds that he thought F. Alexander didn’t have a phone. At this, F. Alexander tenses up, and Alex wonders if F. Alexander remembers that the thugs who raped his wife tried to trick her into letting them in by asking to use the phone. F. Alexander’s moment of suspicion passes quickly, but Alex resolves to stay on his guard nevertheless.
Over breakfast, Alex asks F. Alexander what they’ll get out of this spate of activism. For F. Alexander, the answer is clear. F. Alexander sees himself as a defender of liberty, and a triumphant defense of that liberty would be its own reward. He doesn’t seem to have given much thought to what Alex stands to gain, however, and simply urges Alex to finish his breakfast so that they may look over the article. Commenting on the article, Alex momentarily slips into nadsat, which seems to trigger another bout of suspicion in F. Alexander, who remembers the slang from two years ago.
Soon, F. Alexander’s associates arrive—Z. Dolin, Rubinstein, and D.B. da Silva. They delight in gawking at Alex, their “poor victim” and weapon against the government. Dolin only wishes Alex could look “more zombyish,” a sentiment that Alex doesn’t appreciate. Offended and annoyed, Alex carelessly addresses them in nadsat when he asks what their plans are for him. F. Alexander notes this strange language again, growing more suspicious, but only frowning for now. Meanwhile, Alex becomes upset in his own turn because the men offer him no tangible solution for returning to the way he was, and further, treat him as “a thing that’s like got to be just used” in their political struggle. During this rant, Alex lapses into nadsat almost entirely, even using the word “dim.” This elicits a crazed gleam in F. Alexander’s eyes, making Alex nervous. Alex tries to leave, but realizes the futility of resisting their plans when Dolin approaches him to grab his arm.
Alex goes with F. Alexander’s associates back into town, to an apartment not far from Alex’s former home. There, the men plan to leave him for a while, but before they go, they ask Alex if he is responsible for F. Alexander’s wife’s death. Though they promise to be discreet, Alex says only that he has paid for his sins and the sins of others. This thought causes him to feel a bit sick, so he lies down to get some sleep.
When Alex wakes, he hears music coming through the wall; a symphony by a Danish composer named Otto Skadelig. He listens in joy for the better part of two seconds before the sickness wells up in him. Distressed, he tries to bang on the wall, but the music only grows louder. Alex then tries the door, but it has been locked from the outside. Driven mad by his sickness, he cries out to God and stumbles around the room until he sees two pamphlets, one that reads, “DEATH TO THE GOVERNMENT,” and another that reads, “Open the window to fresh air, fresh ideas, a new way of living.” He takes these as a sign to jump from the window, several stories above ground. Alex screams out that he hopes God forgives the world for ruining his life, and then jumps.
In the previous chapters, Burgess emphasizes the growing filial relationship between Alex and F. Alexander, who recruits Alex in his efforts to discredit the government. But as the novel progresses, the father-son relationship becomes strained, as the truth about F. Alexander’s wife starts to emerge. In this way, the relationship between the two men starts to resemble the Oedipal struggle described by psychologist Sigmund Freud, in which a rivalry develops between father and son for possession of the mother. F. Alexander finds himself both solicitous toward Alex as a “poor victim” and furious at him as the scoundrel who raped and murdered his wife. In this way, Alex represents the Freudian son who, having wrested the mother from his father (by raping her, in this case), elicits feelings of bitterness and vengeance from the scorned father. Thus defeated, F. Alexander vows revenge, which he nearly succeeds in exacting by driving Alex to suicide.
In light of this Freudian element, Alex’s mistaken characterization of F. Alexander as a “kind protecting and like motherly veck [man]” reveals Alex’s innocence. Throughout A Clockwork Orange we see numerous references to the government as a paternalistic institution. Tensions between father figures and young men emerge at several points in the novel—for example, in Billyboy and Dim’s condescension toward the old men in the library, and in the abundance of male officials who patronize Alex. Given these instances, it comes as no surprise that Alex would associate fatherhood with the forces that seek to manipulate his will for their own devices. By initially showing humanitarian concern for Alex, F. Alexander seems to act in contrast to the other male figures in Alex’s life, causing Alex to refer to him as “motherly.” But as we see later in this chapter, F. Alexander makes his fatherly presence felt when he uses Alex as a tool against the government.
Despite their opposition to the State in the worthy cause of “Liberty,” F. Alexander and his associates are not heroes. Their conduct in this chapter satirizes the liberal tendency to forsake concrete human realities for political and philosophical ideals. To these men, Alex is not a pitiable human being, but rather, a “superb device” to be “installed” in their activist plans. This language better describes a machine than a human, and Alex’s anger at being treated as a “thing that’s like got to be just used” is well warranted. Alex’s subsequent lapse into nadsat functions as an assertion of his individual will, though it also causes F. Alexander’s men to change their mind about how they will use him politically. Having found that individuals are inconvenient to the cause of individualism, they decide that Alex is worth less to them as a living witness to the State’s injustices and will have a stronger impact as an abstract “martyr to the cause of Liberty.”
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