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A Clockwork Orange

Anthony Burgess

Part Two, Chapter 1

Summary Part Two, Chapter 1

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.