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The boys find the Manse in Oldtown, an older section of
the city where the streets are quieter and the houses statelier.
Anxious to establish his leadership, Alex insists on trying his
usual ploy of sweet-talking his way through the front door. This
time, however, Alex’s scheme doesn’t work, and the old woman inside
refuses to open the door. Determined, Alex has Dim boost him up
to the window above the front door. Once inside, Alex decides that
he’ll do the job alone. By the time he opens the front door for
his droogs, he plans to have incapacitated and raped the old woman
and located the most valuable possessions in the house.
Alex’s idea backfires, though, when he finds the old woman
in a large, well-lit room completely overrun with cats. As Alex approaches
her, he becomes distracted by a bust of Beethoven on the mantle,
and slips on one of the many milk saucers littering the floor. The
old woman begins rapping him on the head with her walking stick.
Stunned, Alex manages to knock her off balance, but as he kicks
her he steps on a cat, which responds by attaching itself to Alex’s
leg with its teeth and claws. Frantic, Alex trips on another saucer,
and as he comes crashing down, the old woman attacks him, calling
on her cats to help. To Alex’s amazement, the cats swarm around
him, hissing and scratching. Now in a rage, Alex rises and, with
a silver statue he has taken from another room, hits the woman on
the head and knocks her unconscious.
Hearing a police siren in the distance, Alex runs for
the front door, figuring the old woman must have called the police
before he broke in. He finds Dim waiting for him outside with his
chain. Before Alex realizes he’s been betrayed, Dim whips him in
the eyes and runs off, laughing. Abandoned by his droogs, Alex gropes blindly
in the hallway until the police arrive. The policemen taunt Alex
as they kick and punch him, and they seem to know Alex by name.
Alex is then driven away in a squad car.
Beaten and dismayed, Alex finds himself in a very bright,
white room with four officers. Alex demands a lawyer and gets laughed
at and punched in the stomach. He makes his situation worse by retaliating
and kicking an officer in the shin. The police respond by beating
Alex until he vomits, which Alex seems rather ashamed of. On top
of this, Alex receives a discouraging visit from P.R. Deltoid. Deltoid
looks at Alex coldly, as if Alex were only a “thing,” and although
he assures Alex that he’ll come the following day to speak on Alex’s
behalf, he spits in Alex’s face before leaving.
The officers then force Alex to make a statement confessing
his crimes. Alex tells them everything from the past twenty-four
hours, making sure to include his treacherous friends. When Alex
finishes his statement, the police drop him in a holding cell crowded
with criminals and drunks. As soon as Alex is thrust in there, he
has to fight off two prisoners who try to molest him. With the help
of a guard, Alex is eventually left alone to get some sleep. He
dozes, transfixed by thoughts of Beethoven’s Ninth. During this
reverie, Alex envisions a place where satyrs play flutes and Beethoven’s
head floats in the sky, shining like the sun. He imagines new, violent
lyrics for the “Ode To Joy.” An officer wakes him up and Alex is
taken to a new office, where he learns that the old woman he assaulted
If, in previous chapters, Alex feels justified in praising
the virtues of intuition over intellect, in these two chapters he
experiences firsthand how intuition can fail him. Alex’s trouble
with the cat-lady and his subsequent arrest are caused by his youthful
impetuousness. Whereas earlier chapters exhibit, in one critic’s
words, “the naked beauty of an uninhibited psyche,” these chapters
reveal the self-endangering potential of a cocksure punk, ruled
by his immature urges. Juvenility proves both a benefit and a disadvantage
for Alex. In the past, being underage has allowed Alex to avoid
serious legal trouble, but now it seems to have led him toward punishment
and incarceration. The saucers of milk that Alex trips over recall
the Korova Milkbar, a haven for young delinquents. Milk is also
a substance closely associated with youth and infancy, and we’re reminded
of its nurturing quality when the older women in Chapter 1 protect
the boys, maternally, from the policemen. At the Korova, milk becomes
associated with the brash, violent power of youth; at the cat-lady’s
house, it becomes a symbol of youth’s arrogance and foolhardiness.
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.
Ace your assignments with our guide to A Clockwork Orange!