A Clockwork Orange | Study Guide

Anthony Burgess

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A Clockwork Orange | Part 1, Chapter 5 | Summary

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Summary

When Alex wakes up that evening, he sees that someone took the album off the stereo and hears his parents in the living room. In "the guise of loving only son," he pretends to have slept all day. His father looks suspicious but says nothing, "knowing he dared not," as Alex cleans up and dresses for his supposed job. Pee asks what Alex does at work, but Alex replies vaguely, with a "straight dirty" look that warns his father not to pry. Nevertheless, Pee continues on that he has had a bad dream in which Alex was beaten and "helpless in your own blood." Alex tells his father not to worry and gives him coins to go out for a drink, but he is a bit unnerved because he recalls the dream of Dim whipping him on Georgie's orders. Dim, Georgie, and Pete are waiting outside his building when Alex goes down. They are worried they might have offended him the night before. Alex explains, "careful," that he had had a headache, and Georgie, feigning concern, suggests that it came from "[g]iving orders and discipline and such."

Alex objects to Georgie's sarcasm and reaffirms that he is the gang's leader, but Georgie announces that the gang has "a new way," and Pete adds that it will be "more democratic like." They have talked to a fence, Will the English, who says that they can get "big big big money" for stolen items. Alex projects calm but feels "real razdraz [upset, angry]" as he asks why the boys want more money when they have everything they need. Georgie objects that Alex is talking like a child. Alex realizes his dream was prophetic: Georgie is "the general saying what we should do," and hulking, guffawing Dim is now Georgie's enforcer. Alex pretends to agree to Georgie's plan but suddenly pulls out his razor. Pete holds Dim back, saying "It's right like that," as they watch Alex and Georgie circle each other. Alex slashes the hand in which Georgie holds his knife, and Georgie drops his knife and stares at the blood while Alex faces Dim and his chain, disarming him as well with a slash to his hand. Pete is not willing to fight, so Alex wraps Dim's hand in a handkerchief, having defended his authority. Dim, dazed, complains that he "could have chained his glazzies [eyes]." They establish alibis again at the Duke of New York and head out to rob a wealthy old woman Will the English told Georgie about.

Analysis

It is hard to keep Alex's age in mind, given his powerfully violent actions and his extensive knowledge of classical music, but readers must remember that he is 15. Later, readers learn that Alex is the youngest in his gang; Pete, for example, is about two years older. Yet Alex is confident, even rash. He is the one with "ideas." He considers himself superior in intelligence and daring, and his motives as he perceives them are pure. He makes his living by petty theft and has enough to hand out "chocbars" to the "poor" when he sees them. He seeks out violence for the adventure, not for money-grubbing reasons. So he considers himself absolutely the best choice for leader.

Yet his hold on power is under siege. When Alex finds his gang waiting downstairs, he is immediately alert for trouble. He excuses his lateness by shifting blame to an imaginary underling: "I was not wakened when I gave orders for wakening" When Georgie responds sarcastically, Alex directly asserts his leadership to "get things nice and sparkling clear." Alex understands posturing; he remains a few steps above the others so that he can talk down to them, literally and figuratively. He folds his arms and asks calmly about the "new way" the boys want to run the gang—"more democratic like," Pete says.

Alex is not only stunned and threatened by the disloyalty of his "droogs as they called themselves" but genuinely puzzled by it. "If you need an auto," he says, there is no need to buy it—just "pluck it from the trees." If they need more "pretty polly [cash]," they just take it. To plan big thefts is, for purist Alex, to be a "big bloated capitalist." Alex and his gang are parting ways, in a sense. They are still criminals, but they are thinking like adults who need resources and who share power and decision-making. Alex, on the other hand, is behaving ironically like the State he condemned in the previous chapter, trying to force his motivations and desires on others rather than letting them be the "oddy knockies [individuals]" God made them.

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