A Clockwork Orange
Part Three, Chapter 6
Alex’s fall from the building doesn’t kill him, but he does break his back, wrists, and feet, among other body parts, before passing out, a crumpled mess in the street. Just before he slips into unconsciousness, Alex comes to the realization that F. Alexander’s associates, his supposed new friends, meant to kill him for “their horrible selfish and boastful politics.”
Alex wakes up a week later in a hospital, covered in bandages and splints and unable to feel any physical sensations. The nurse, absorbed in a popular romance novel, doesn’t notice Alex until he begs her to lie down with him. All she can hear, however, is a garbled voice, since Alex has a stiff mouth and several teeth missing. She goes off, presumably to get a doctor, leaving Alex drifting in and out of consciousness. The next thing he knows, doctors are standing above him, and he believes he hears the voice of the prison chaplain, telling him that he’s quit the Staja to preach about Alex’s tribulations. Alex doesn’t remain awake long enough to remember any more, but the next time he opens his eyes, Dolin, Rubinstein, and da Silva are there, calling him “friend” and telling him he has served “Liberty” well. This upsets Alex, but when he tries to castigate them for their treachery, his swollen mouth makes his words incomprehensible. The men show Alex the numerous headlines from the past week, all of which indict the government and the Minister of the Interior, until the nurse chases them away.
Alex falls back into a dream, where he sees himself engaging in his old behaviors: stealing cars, running down pedestrians, and having sex with women while people cheer. When Alex wakes up, his parents are in his room, his mother in tears. According to his father, Joe went back to his hometown after being beaten in the street by police officers to whom Joe had been asserting his rights. Alex’s father then tells him that they’d like Alex to come home, feeling guilty now about how they turned their son away. Alex can talk at this point, and orders them out, telling them that if he chooses to come back, things will have to be run according to his orders.
Alone with his thoughts now, Alex realizes that he can once again entertain thoughts of violent and unlawful behavior. When the nurse returns, he asks her if something has been done to his head. The nurse gives a cryptic answer, but two days later, Alex obtains conclusive evidence that he has indeed been restored to his old self, as two young doctors tell him he has been cured by “deep hypnopaedia.”
Some days later, his health greatly improved, Alex receives a visit from the Minister of the Interior, who arrives with a swarm of reporters and photographers. The Minister offers his hand in friendship, explaining that as a representative of the government, he never meant Alex any harm. He points out to Alex that they have cured him and have arranged a well-paying job for him when he fully recuperates. Unlike F. Alexander—whom the Minister portrays as a murderous man whom the State has imprisoned, for his own and Alex’s protection—the Minister tells Alex that he should consider him his true friend. Caught up in the hysteria of the moment, Alex smiles when a photographer shouts at him and takes a picture of Alex and the Minister, looking very friendly with each other.
Before the Minister leaves, he gives Alex a present. Attendants roll out a large stereo, and Alex has merely to sign a form before they will leave him alone to listen to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Alex signs, and then rapturously listens to the Ninth.
Alex’s conversation with the Minister allows us to reconstruct the events that occur outside the hospital during Alex’s convalescence. For a week or so, the State has foundered, awash in a media blitz concerning Alex’s attempted suicide. Dolin, Rubinstein, and da Silva inform Alex of all this, happy to call him “friend” at this point because, with his damaged mouth, they can’t understand Alex’s words. By the time Alex can speak again, though, the State has nearly recovered from the onslaught of bad press. The Minister tells Alex that F. Alexander has been apprehended “for his own protection” as well as Alex’s, yet Alex’s clipped expression of gratitude—“Most kind of thou”– suggests that he knows who the real beneficiary is.
That the outcome of the State seems to hinge on Alex underlines the book’s political dilemma. With each faction prepared to sacrifice the individual—as represented by Alex—for the sake of its political aspirations, Burgess presents us with a difficult choice. F. Alexander’s faction may concern itself with, in one critic’s words, “the tradition of liberty and the dignity of man,” but it readily abandons its own doctrine when it tries to use Alex as a disposable pawn. The Minister’s oppressive party, ultimately concerned with domestic stability, has no such pretensions of individual liberty, and in its commitment to that principle, at least, it demonstrates a kind of moral consistency. Each party remains equally condemnable for its exploitation of Alex, and Alex is a “friend” to each only insofar as he provides a means to a desirable end. Burgess doesn’t prod us to decide between the two, but he does compel us to recognize that there should, indeed, be a choice.
While it shouldn’t be read as a tacit approval of the State’s policies, the government’s triumph does allow for Alex to be restored to his old self. Having regained his old psyche, Alex has grandiose visions of “carving the whole litso of the creeching world with [his] cut-throat britva” to the sounds of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. And though the State hopes to minimize the damage he may cause by bribing him with gifts and a lucrative job, we may expect Alex to commit more acts of violence. The implication, though, is that this conclusion is preferable to Alex’s “thingness” because, in his decision to act criminally, Alex is at least expressing his human capacity for moral choice.
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