A Clockwork Orange

by: Anthony Burgess

Part One, Chapters 6–7

Another recurring motif—classical music—plays a central role in Alex’s downfall. Alex becomes distracted by a bust of Beethoven, and subsequently trips and becomes vulnerable to the old woman and her cats. Alex finds himself drawn to the statue, even though, at that moment, he’s in no position to lose his concentration. Disregarding reason, Alex impulsively moves toward the bust; in this case, Alex would have been better off following his intellect over his instinct. Alex’s love for classical music, however, will also be depicted as a redeeming force. Near the end of Chapter 7, Alex manages to comfort and protect himself by concentrating on Beethoven’s Ninth.

In Burgess’s eyes, the State’s cruelty toward Alex is a far graver perversion of morality than any of Alex’s crimes. Burgess has said that “the violence in the book is really more to show what the State can do with it.” The State of A Clockwork Orange has a legal monopoly on the use of violence, and as such, it may observe or reject the law as it sees fit. As the arm of government, the police who arrest Alex instantiate this power, and they exploit the law for their own pleasure when they beat Alex without cause. These men are as thuggish and brutal as any of Alex’s droogs, and Alex bitterly notes the hypocrisy of their esteemed place in an institution that supposedly upholds goodness—“if all you bastards are on the side of the Good then I’m glad I belong to the other shop.” This is the second time Alex refers to “the other shop,” and here the phrase takes on a richer meaning. Alex at this point is not expostulating abstractly from his kitchen—he is bloodily revolting against the hypocrisy of a State that wishes to harm him while simultaneously exhorting him to be a good, dutiful citizen. Alex’s subsequent confession of all his crimes, then, represents an impassioned assertion of his identity against the State.