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Alex doesn’t wake up until quite late in the evening.
When he emerges from his room, he finds his parents having dinner
and tells them that he’s off to work. His father timidly asks him
where he works and what he does. Alex gives a vague answer— “it’s
mostly odd things, helping like”—and points out that he never asks
for money. Then, his father tells him a worrisome dream that he
had, about Alex lying on the street, beaten up by the sort of toughs
Alex used to hang out with before he went to reform school. Alex
gives his father some of the money he stole from the corner store
the night before, for a drink out with mum, and tells him not to
Alex goes downstairs to find the droogs waiting for him.
They are cross and sarcastic, and before long a confrontation occurs. Georgie
leads the charge, accusing Alex of thinking childishly and acting
despotically. They let Alex know that a new, more democratic arrangement
is in place. Georgie announces that he has concocted a “mansize”
plan for the night. Reluctant to provoke them in this tight spot,
Alex plays along, but as they leave the building, Alex hears a bit
of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto and, inspired, draws his razor on
Georgie. Georgie responds with his knife, and the two boys swipe
at each other until Alex slashes Georgie’s hand. Dim comes at Alex
next, with his chain. Alex isn’t fast enough to completely avoid being
hurt, but he soon overcomes Dim by cutting his wrist badly. Alex
then invites Pete to the fray, but Pete declines, afraid for Dim. Now
triumphant, Alex uses his own handkerchief to bind Dim’s wound,
and brings them all to the Duke in the hope of reconciliation. Having
given all his money to his father, Alex can’t buy the boys drinks,
though as a peace offering he agrees to Georgie’s plans for robbing
an old house called the Manse. Georgie has heard from Will the English,
an older and prominent thug, that the Manse is filled with gold
and silver and other valuables.
If the last chapter explored the duality of goodness vs.
evil, Chapter 5 explores the opposing forces of intuition and intellect.
Alex decides to attack George when he catches a bit of Beethoven
pouring out of a passing car. At that point, he says: “I viddied
[saw] that thinking is for the gloopy [stupid] ones and that the
oomny [smart] ones use like inspiration and what Bog [God] sends.”
Alex’s implication that only stupid people rely on intellect may,
at first, seem like a paradoxical conclusion. However, Deltoid and
his colleagues have spent years studying and analyzing teen violence,
to no avail. Given their academic and scientific worldview, they
can’t comprehend the ways in which non-intellectual impulses, like
desire and pleasure, can affect human behavior. Just as Alex’s commitment
to violence serves to resist the oppressive force of the State,
his commitment to intuition and instinct mocks the State’s dedication
to rational, logical thought. In Alex’s eyes, intuition becomes
the smart choice because it affirms the individual free will. Alex
claims that he received his inspiration from God, which echoes his
earlier claim that criminal behavior—because it affirms the validity
of free will—affirms the power of God. The debate over intuition
vs. intellect continues throughout the book, becoming especially
significant when the State uses Alex’s intuitive urges against him
in order to prevent him from committing violence.
In this chapter, Alex notices that he’s picked up one
of Deltoid’s verbal tics: a tendency to add a “yes?” to the end
of each of his sentences. With this minor transference, as well
as with the widespread use of nadsat, A
Clockwork Orange depicts language as something strangely
contagious. In Part Two, Dr. Branom describes nadsat as
a kind of “subliminal penetration,” and argues that speaking in nadsat conditions
one’s perceptions in a particular way and shapes one’s thinking
process. Alex may not be aware of it, but by narrating his account
in nadsat, he shapes our perceptions as readers.
Initially, the foreignness of Alex’s vocabulary insulates us from
the violence he commits, since we end up spending most of our time
puzzling through the language rather than critically interrogating
Alex’s actions. Nadsat, then, also insulates Alex
from our immediate condemnation. As the book goes on, and we grow
accustomed to the strange rhythms and vocabulary of nadsat,
we feel gratification at our increasing comprehension. The danger
here lies in the potential confusion of that gratification with
an implicit sanction of Alex’s violent, reprehensible actions. Through
his linguistic choices, Alex wields considerable influence over
the readers’ reactions, a fact Burgess subtly suggests by giving
him a name that evokes the word “lexis,” Greek for “word or phrase.”
In this chapter, Alex casually compares himself to Jesus
Christ. He says, “Mum gave me a tired little smeck, to thee fruit
of my womb my only son, sort of.” Referring to himself as the fruit
of his mother’s womb, Alex makes a direct allusion to the Hail Mary prayer.
In the Christian tradition, Jesus Christ is believed to have died
in order to atone for the sins of others. Though Alex’s fate won’t
be nearly as dire—a fact he suggests by the offhanded “sort of”
he tacks to the end of the allusion—he will, in fact, suffer a terrible
fate for the redemption of others like him. The Christ reference not
only serves as an important instance of foreshadowing, but also serves
as a structural motif for the entire novella. Just as Jesus dies, is
buried, and is resurrected on the third day, the novel’s three-part structure
charts Alex’s fall, his interment in prison, and finally, the return
to his former self.
Ace your assignments with our guide to A Clockwork Orange!