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A Clockwork Orange

Anthony Burgess

Part One, Chapter 4

Part One, Chapter 3

Part One, Chapter 5

Summary

Alex wakes the next morning too tired to go to school. His mother seems skeptical when Alex claims to have a headache, but she merely sighs and puts his breakfast in the oven to stay warm. Alex explains that the State requires all adults to work. His father is employed at the dyeworks, his mother at a Statemart, a State-controlled food market.

As Alex dozes off again, he dreams about Georgie and Dim. In the dream, Alex is standing in line with a group of boys, as an older, tough-looking Georgie shouts orders at them. Georgie then tells Dim, also much older, to whip Alex repeatedly, while Alex begs for mercy and tries to run away. Alex wakes with a start and hears the doorbell buzzing. At the door is P.R. Deltoid, Alex’s Post-Corrective Adviser. An overworked and weary man, Deltoid eases into Alex’s father’s rocking chair and warns Alex to keep clear of trouble. Deltoid has heard about the fight with Billyboy, and tells Alex that he and his friends have been implicated. Despite Alex’s genial assurances that he’s innocent, Deltoid has his doubts. He expects that Alex will soon have another run-in with the law, and wonders aloud why Alex, who has a good mother and father as well as a good head on his shoulders, has turned out the way he has.

After Deltoid leaves, Alex dismisses Deltoid’s apprehension. As far as Alex is concerned, a government that doesn’t allow its citizens to behave badly is a government that denies its citizens their right to be human beings. Alex takes pleasure in his crimes, which is why he commits them. The only motivation to stop would be the threat of being caught, and even that’s not enough to deter Alex.

Having reasoned this out, Alex eats breakfast and peruses the morning paper. The articles on the violent, unruly “Modern Youth” interest him most. He scoffs at most of the articles’ analyses, which mainly argue that a lack of discipline on the part of parents and teachers leads to delinquent behavior. Alex remembers one article by a priest, however, which claimed that “IT WAS THE DEVIL THAT WAS ABROAD” that led young people to commit heinous acts, and that adults should be held responsible for juvenile violence. Alex finds this theory convenient, as it absolves him of responsibility for his crimes. He also remembers another theory he once read, about how a greater appreciation for the arts would pacify modern youth. This theory strikes Alex as ridiculous since, for him, art has always gone hand in hand with violence.

After eating and getting dressed, Alex goes to the record shop to pick up a copy of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. As he walks, Alex notes that the day, unlike the night, belongs to the middle-aged “bourgeois,” and that there are always more police patrolling during the day. As he picks up his record, he sees two girls, no older than ten. They are obviously ditching school as well, and sifting through the pop music section. Alex proposes they all go to his flat to listen to records, to which the girls consent after Alex agrees to buy them lunch. Alex takes them back to his place, where he gets the girls very drunk, injects himself with a drug, and then rapes them to the choral movement of Beethoven’s Ninth (the “Ode To Joy”). The girls leave in hysterics as Alex dozes off to the symphony recording.

Analysis

“What gets into you all?” P.R. Deltoid asks Alex. “We study the problem and we’ve been studying it for damn well near a century, yes, but we get no farther 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 you?” A Clockwork Orange makes it very difficult to answer Deltoid’s questions satisfactorily. None of the classic rationalizations for juvenile delinquency—broken families, extreme poverty, or histories of child abuse—can be applied to our narrator. Alex doesn’t lash out because he’s been victimized or because he has been socially or financially disenfranchised. Rather, Alex chooses to be brutal. He does sadistic things because he derives pleasure from them and for no other reason. Alex’s depraved behavior eludes deterministic explanation; his violence has no cause, and, as such, undermines the kinds of theories that Deltoid and the newspapers espouse, which seek to interpret human behavior without fully crediting the anarchic potential of free human will.

In Alex’s opinion, Deltoid, the newspapers, and the State are fundamentally mistaken in their belief that wickedness represents a perversion of goodness, as opposed to an equally valid, alternate state of being. Goodness, these institutions believe, is a naturally occurring phenomenon, yet they argue that evil, the opposite of goodness, somehow requires a rationally explicable cause. When Deltoid leaves, Alex scoffs that “[t]his biting of their toe-nails over what is the cause of badness is what turns me into a fine laughing malchick [boy]. They don’t go into what is the cause of goodness, so why of the other shop? . . . More, badness is of the self . . . and that self is made by old Bog or God and is his great pride and radosty [joy].” If God created man’s potential for goodness, Alex argues, then God must have also created man’s potential for evil. Virtue and wickedness are both natural elements of humanity, and, in Alex’s eyes, a government that attempts to eradicate one is a government that rejects the human self, which is God’s most beloved creation.

The problem with Deltoid’s government, as A Clockwork Orange presents it, is that it operates on the assumption that humans are morally perfectible. P.R. Deltoid promotes the State ideology that, through education and reform, humans can always become virtuous and good. Because he firmly believes this theory of human nature, Deltoid finds Alex puzzling. Alex has the right environment yet continues to be incorrigible in his violent, criminal behavior. Deltoid can’t understand how Alex could sanely and soberly choose his actions and derive pleasure from them. And though it is dangerous to wholly attribute Alex’s violence to a carefully considered ideology, his criminal actions do have political ramifications. Since good behavior reinforces the social order—an order that Alex believes to be fundamentally flawed—Alex resists the State and affirms his individual will most clearly when he misbehaves. In Alex’s eyes, his commitment to evil becomes the only legitimate choice available to him, as well as a potentially authentic way to live under a repressive, totalitarian regime.

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laaaamwe

by Chuck-Norris, September 12, 2012

time machine is boooring

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1 out of 10 people found this helpful

So yeah.

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.

Or something.

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2 out of 6 people found this helpful

Horrorshow

by ilotaatoli, November 04, 2013

I don't think I saw anything about the importance of this word anywhere in the guide, but it's a very loaded word. If you think about most of the other slang Alex uses, they tend to be Russian influenced, but this one isn't. Throughout the story, the meaning of this word changes to the reader: in the beginning, the way the teens use "horrorshow" for something positive leads the reader on to how violent they are. As you move into part two of the book however, you realize that "horrorshow" also alludes to the ultra violent films that Alex is f... Read more

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17 out of 30 people found this helpful

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