A Clockwork Orange | Study Guide

Anthony Burgess

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A Clockwork Orange | Part 1, Chapter 4 | Summary

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Summary

Alex wakes feeling "fashed and bashed." He decides to skip school and listens as his parents head to work, his mother sighing over his truancy. Alex dozes, dreaming that Georgie is a "general" who orders Dim to flog Alex because Alex's clothes are filthy. The sound of the doorbell wakes him, and he hears his Post-Corrective Adviser, P.R. Deltoid, yelling at him to get up. Deltoid tries to trap Alex into admitting to violence and warns him that his next infraction will land him in jail and cost Deltoid "a confession of failure." After Deltoid leaves, Alex brews tea and wonders why no one studies "the cause of goodness." Badness, he thinks, is a matter of the State and other institutions rejecting the individual's free and God-given nature. Still, he admits, he acts violently not in opposition to these "big machines" but merely because he enjoys violence.

Alex eats breakfast and reads an article on "Modern Youth," which blames juvenile violence on a lack of punishment. Other articles blame the violence on the "devil ... ferreting his way" into teens or on the effect of living under threat of war. Listening to classical music as he dresses, Alex recalls an article that suggested that "Modern Youth" should become more "Civilised" by developing a "Lively Appreciation" of the arts. Yet Alex finds that classical music "sharpen[s]" him for violence. He heads to the music store to buy a new recording of Beethoven's "Ninth Symphony." Andy, the clerk, sells Alex the album while two 10-year-old girls giggle and flirt. An idea of "anguish and ecstasy" hits Alex. He invites the girls, Marty and Sonietta, to bring their pop albums to his room and listen to them on a good stereo. He decides they need "education," with him as their teacher. He makes the girls drinks, and soon all three are naked and jumping on the bed. The girls enjoy playing at sex, but when Alex rapes them, they scream that he is a "hateful animal." They leave, bruised and shocked, as Alex lies satisfied and naked on the bed, listening to "Ode to Joy."

Analysis

Alex's visit with his correctional officer, Deltoid, provides more information on the dystopian society in which the novel is set. The violent teens are not poor or parentless. They have opportunities for success, though readers may wonder why teens would embrace the lives the State has laid out for Pee and Em.

Alex enjoys, as usual, being the center of attention, even if not by name. He laughs over the "gloopy [stupid]" articles about "Modern Youth" but likes "knowing that one was making the news all the time." His thoughts on whether God is proud of making a self that chooses evil and his understanding that history is a record of "brave malenky [little] selves" fighting the machines of the State sound mature and almost wise. But then he eats his toast "dipped in jammiwam and eggiweg," and readers remember that he is, in fact, a self-centered child who either will not or cannot take the perspective of others—the writers' of the articles on teens, his parents', or his victims'.

Alex addresses all those who study, guide, and when necessary judge and punish wayward youth as "my lords" but refuses to be ruled by them because he "just cannot bear to be shut in." He leaves goodness to those who enjoy it. He enjoys badness and asks to be left to it. Alex omits from his equation the victims of his violence, who also would likely prefer to be left out of it. In fact, he is practiced at ignoring his victims' pain. Alex grooms Marty and Sonietta in typical pedophile practice (though he himself is still a child). He responds flatteringly to their babyish attempts at flirtation, feigns interest in the music they like (though he hates it), buys them pizza, and plays with them, jumping on the bed, all while planning their "education." When he rapes them, ignoring their prepubescent physiology, he rationalizes that they are "very very drunken" and can "hardly feel very much." His triple use of very is suspicious; he may not believe his own lie. But he either fails to grasp that his choice to be evil causes pain, or he willfully ignores that reality.

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