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A Clockwork Orange | Study Guide

Anthony Burgess

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Part 1, Chapter 2

Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Part 1, Chapter 2 of Anthony Burgess's novella A Clockwork Orange.

A Clockwork Orange | Part 1, Chapter 2 | Summary



The gang hears a drunk caterwauling outside the bar. His belches and filthy clothes disgust Alex. Dim hits the man in the gut as the drunk complains about living "in a stinking world like this one," where law and order no longer exist despite technological progress that has put "[m]en on the moon." The gang beats the man until he vomits blood, then moves on. They run into Billyboy and his gang near the power plant. Billyboy and Leo are restraining a young girl, preparing to rape her, but they let her go to fight Alex's gang. Excited, Alex expects a real fight, with knives, razors, and chains, and he gets it. Dim knocks Leo out of the fight, and Alex "waltz[es]" around Billyboy, whose weight makes him slow, bloodying his face. The fight ends when the gangs hear sirens. Alex and the boys rest in a dark alley as Dim watches the moon until Alex urges them on to their next violent adventure.

They steal a car and speed into the countryside, pausing to ram the car into a kissing couple before seeking a chance for "the old surprise attack." Alex knocks at an isolated cottage with the name HOME on its gate, feigning that a friend has been injured. When the young woman who opens the door a crack says they have no phone, Alex asks for a cup of water. Reassured by his polite manner, she goes to get it, and he and the boys don their masks and go roaring in to confront the woman and her husband, a writer seated at his desk. Alex picks up the top sheet of a manuscript and reads the "gloopy" title, A Clockwork Orange, and sentences describing humans as "capable of sweetness and change," as opposed to "mechanical" things. He shreds the pages, laughing as Dim beats the writer bloody and the young woman shrieks. Georgie and Pete come from the kitchen, gobbling stolen food until Alex, disgusted, tells them to restrain the writer. Dim holds the woman so that Alex can rip her clothing to expose her breasts. Alex rapes her and then trades places with Dim. Georgie and Pete also rape the woman as her husband screams obscenities.


Chapter 1 ends with Alex dissatisfied by how easy the night has been so far. Robbing the store and attacking the old man are activities not violent or dangerous enough for Alex, who elsewhere argues that both victim and attacker should spill blood. But the night is "still young," he says, foreshadowing worse attacks to come. On their way to these assaults, Alex narrates encounters that reveal more about the novel's dystopian world. The drunk's lament, for example, suggests the level of technology. Men are on the moon and "spinning round the earth" like "midges round a lamp," yet this technological advance has not been accompanied by ethical advances in humanity. No one cares for "earthly law nor order" now, the drunk says. Readers get a glimpse of popular culture, too—which Alex despises—from the movie posters Alex describes before the gang steals the car. The movies are made by "Statefilm," further evidence that the power of the State nears totalitarianism, and the movies are stale clichés like Westerns and "hound-and-horny" romances.

Readers also see Alex's traits as a leader emerge in this chapter, and not all of these are positive. He demands quick and total obedience from his gang. When Pete and Georgie emerge from the cottage's kitchen, eating and laughing with their mouths full, fastidious Alex is disgusted not only by their habits but by their disobedience. "I gave no permission," he declares, and they put the food down. Earlier, when Dim seems caught up in fascination with the stars and "Luna," Alex cuts shorts his musings: "Think thou not on them." Alex drives the stolen car, Alex cons the woman at the cottage door, Alex dictates the violence they do in the cottage, and Alex decides when to leave. He is, rather like the State he lives in, dictatorial.

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