A Clockwork Orange

by: Anthony Burgess

Part One, Chapter 1

Summary Part One, Chapter 1

Burgess holds no love for youth and youth culture, which he has described in interviews as essentially conformist, conventional, passive, and smug. With the description of the scene at the Korova Milkbar, Burgess satirizes many salient characteristics of teen culture, from their pop music (“You Blister My Paint”) to their shared fashion sense (boys uniformed in big-shouldered jackets, cravats, tights with crotch inserts, and boots; girls uniformed in motley wigs with makeup and accessories that assert their promiscuity). In mocking the trappings of youth culture, Burgess undercuts that culture’s self-satisfiction and ostensible rebelliousness. We are continually reminded that, although these children are incredibly violent and destructive, they are nevertheless children. After the boys rob the corner store, for example, they return to the Duke of New York and the arms of the older women, who protect them maternally. This reminder of the droogs’ essential juvenility will become especially significant in the final chapter, when Alex reflects on the connection between violence and immaturity.

As Alex and his droogs thwart the police with the help of the older women, Alex can’t help being disappointed by the lack of a real, substantive cause worth fighting for. In the face of what he sees as an essentially banal culture, Alex values a sense of commitment and purpose. In a similar vein, he disparages the hallucinogens sold at the Korova Milkbar because they cause the Korova’s patrons to become dull and apathetic. The importance of purpose and intent was also one of Burgess’s central concerns, as he believed that indifference and moral neutrality were pervasive in postwar Britain.