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A Clockwork Orange

Anthony Burgess

Part Three, Chapter 5

Summary Part Three, Chapter 5


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.”