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After a series of court hearings and ruinous testimonies
from P.R. Deltoid and his arresting officers, Alex gets sentenced
to fourteen years in Staja (State Jail) 84F, an adult prison. There,
he trades his clothes in for a prisoner’s brown jumpsuit, and his
name for a number, 6655321. While at Staja, he’ll only be known
by this number.
The first two years of prison are hellish for Alex. On
a daily basis, he copes with guards who routinely beat him and prisoners
who want to rape him, and has to toil in the prison workshop making matchboxes.
His only consolations during this time are the occasional reminders
of criminal behavior from his happy and carefree days. Later, he’s
cheered by the news that Georgie has died, killed while escaping
a house he’d been robbing with Dim and Pete.
As time goes by, Alex grows more comfortable in prison.
There’s one guard who doesn’t harass him, and his cellmates are
decent enough not to assault him. He also has a new job, playing
the stereo for the prison chaplain, or charlie, during Sunday mass.
Alex likes the job, and the chaplain likes Alex—partly because he’ll
snitch occasionally, which helps the chaplain look good to the Governor, and
partly because Alex takes an interest in the Bible. As a result
of the latter, the chaplain grants Alex the special privilege of
using the stereo while he reads. Alex takes this opportunity to
listen to Bach and Handel as he pores over the Old Testament, delighting
in the sex and violence he finds within its pages. At the urging
of the chaplain, Alex also studies Jesus’s divine suffering and
enjoys it greatly, imagining himself as a Roman who whips Jesus
and nails him to the cross.
One Sunday morning, after the chaplain delivers his sermon, Alex
asks him about a program he’s been hearing about, which allows prisoners
to shorten their sentences. The chaplain has heard of this experimental
program, called Ludovico’s Technique, but seems to disapprove of
it. Anxious to rejoin the free world, Alex presses to be recommended
for the treatment, but the chaplain wants to talk about it later.
Alex finishes his work without a further word about Ludovico’s Technique.
After lunch, a new prisoner gets added to his already-overcrowded
In its opening sentence, Part Two stresses the importance
of structural motifs in the novel. As in Part One, this chapter
opens with the simple question, “What’s it going to be then, eh?”
This time, however, it isn’t Alex asking the question, but a State-affiliated
priest. This shift signals to us that Alex is no longer in a position
of power. He has no authority to ask questions or demand answers,
as he might have done in the past. At this point, Alex’s voice has
been replaced by the State’s.
The question is also deeply ironic, since it appears to
offer Alex a measure of choice. As posed, the question implies that
Alex can have a say in “what it’s going to be.” While in prison,
however, Alex will actually have very little control over anything
that happens to him. Incarceration represents an annulment of free
will, as convicted criminals are deemed unworthy and undeserving
of the rights of self-determination. In this society, however, prison
doesn’t represent a punitive alternative to a free existence; rather,
it represents an extension of the social dynamics outside the prison
walls. A communist state, such as the one portrayed in this novel,
seeks to condition its citizens in myriad ways to abdicate their
individual will, and replace self-determination with the collective
will. Ludovico’s Technique—an experimental treatment that Alex will
be subjected to in Part Two—forcefully attempts to do just that,
by ridding criminals of their antisocial impulses and instituting
State-approved behavior instead.
The replacement of Alex’s name with a number, 6655321,
reinforces the effacement of Alex’s identity at the hands of the
State. As nothing more than a string of numbers, Alex and his fellow
prisoners remain indistinguishable in the State’s eyes. The government’s use
of numbers to identify the objects it controls—besides Alex’s new
identity as a seven-digit code, we have already seen Staja 84F and
Municipal Flatblock 18A—suggests the massive scale on which the
government operates, and the thorough depersonalization it imposes.
Alex’s association with Jesus Christ is another motif
that returns from Part One. In Part One, Alex styles himself a Christ-like
martyr, betrayed by his disciple droogs. In this chapter, Alex emphasizes
his own suffering, warning us that this will be “the real weepy
and like tragic part of the story.” He calls himself “brother Alex,”
and stresses that he is a humble man. This protestation of meekness
and deference suggests Christ’s own modesty and humility, but we should
also keep in mind that Alex is far from a neutral narrator, and
that he may be trying to curry our favor or win our sympathy.
Part Two also has a somewhat surprising moment that finds
Alex identifying not with Christ but with Christ’s captors. While
reading the chaplain’s Bible, Alex enjoys imagining himself as a
Roman soldier charged with torturing Christ. In doing so, Alex unwittingly aligns
himself with the State ideology. This isn’t the first time Alex has
unknowingly supported the government’s machinations. In his thuggish
days, the free Alex played a role in suppressing insurgency by making
the streets unsafe at night, preventing law-abiding citizens from
assembling and thus hindering any rebellious tendencies that the
population might harbor. The State has demonstrated its ability
to appropriate chance acts of violence for its own repressive purposes.
The nature of Alex’s interest in the Bible suggests that
he’s still not mature enough to understand his self-destructive
behavior. Viewed as a whole, the Bible’s progression from the Old
Testament to the New provides a template for the evolution of human
morality. In the Old Testament, God rewards his subjects for unquestioningly following
divine law, but the more complicated New Testament requires its
hero, Jesus, to develop individual moral principles. Alex’s fondness
for the more lurid stories of the Old Testament indicates that he
still revels in vice and criminal behavior. But this fondness also
signifies that Alex’s own sense of morality still remains entrenched
in a rigid concept of law and lawbreaking. As he grows older, Alex
will begin to abandon this binary outlook in favor of a more nuanced
understanding of morality.
Ace your assignments with our guide to A Clockwork Orange!