A Clockwork Orange | Study Guide

Anthony Burgess

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A Clockwork Orange | Part 1, Chapter 3 | Summary

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Summary

Alex and his gang, in a "hate and murder mood," push the stolen car into a canal and take the train back to town, acting "gentlemanly and quiet," although readers might disagree with this assessment. The gang vandalizes the upholstery, and Dim shatters the glass with his chain until it "cracked and sparkled." Yawning, they walk back to the now-crowded Korova Milkbar, where pop music plays as patrons talk and laugh. Alex shivers with delight when a woman nearby begins to sing an aria he knows, but Dim infuriates Alex by interrupting the song with rude sounds. After Alex smacks Dim in the mouth for not knowing how "to comport yourself publicwise," Dim says they are no longer brothers. "It isn't right droogs should behave thiswise," Pete insists, trying to defuse the tension. Alex exerts his authority. "Discipline there has to be," he says, but then Dim ends the argument by saying that they are tired. Each heads home, Alex to his parents' house. He passes a mural depicting "the dignity of labour," defaced by crude drawings; walks up ten flights, since someone has vandalized the elevator doors; and eats the dinner his mother left for him. In his room, he listens to classical music, fantasizing violent scenes. Recalling the violence at the cottage, Alex wishes he had "ripped" the man and woman "to ribbons on their own floor."

Analysis

Chapter 3 contains the decrescendo from the violent intensity of the attack on the cottage—the "death of the evening," as Alex calls it—and reveals more about Alex, the novel's engaging yet appalling narrator. Alex, who so enjoys flowing blood and shattered windows, is oddly fastidious about some things, especially smells and dirt. He desires order. Readers see this in the neatly organized and filed records in his room, in his detailed knowledge of composers and historical periods, and in his disgust with sloppy habits in other people. Alex feels superior to most people. Habits that strike him as disorderly or dirty disgust him. This is one reason he feels he has the right to hit Dim, the "[f]ilthy drooling mannerless bastard," when Dim makes rude noises in the bar. Another reason for that attack is Alex's intense reaction to classical music.

Alex's response to Dim may also be motivated by Dim's size and power. When Dim fights, he is worth several of the others in his mad rage. He wields his chain precisely. Dim serves as Alex's enforcer, but enforcers have to be kept under control. Alex justifies striking Dim by saying that Dim "has got to learn his place"—that is, under Alex's leadership. When Georgie objects, with "What's all this about place?" tension rises in the chapter. Alex's control is less firm than it has seemed so far. Dim's suddenly wise advice that they are tired and shouldn't continue the conversation hints to Alex that perhaps Dim is smarter than he acts.

This chapter also vividly demonstrates Alex's deep love of classical music. In the refuge of his room sit his stereo and speakers, the "pride of my jeezny [life]." His descriptions of the music are infused with poetic devices—wild metaphors and similes (a violin's sounds are "like a cage of silk around my bed"), exaggerated diction ("it was gorgeousness and gorgeosity made flesh"), and sensory detail ("trombones crunched redgold under my bed"). It comes as something of a shock to first-time readers when Alex uses the music as a soundtrack for violent fantasies more horrible than the acts he committed earlier in the night.

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