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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
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
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.
“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
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
Ace your assignments with our guide to A Clockwork Orange!