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A Clockwork Orange | Study Guide

Anthony Burgess

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Part 1, Chapter 6

Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Part 1, Chapter 6 of Anthony Burgess's novella A Clockwork Orange.

A Clockwork Orange | Part 1, Chapter 6 | Summary



The boys head to Oldtown, home to many older people, who own "pictures and jewels" and other "pre-plastic" items that tourists prefer. A large home called the Manse is their target. Through its barred windows, the gang can see the old woman pouring milk into saucers for her many cats. Valuable paintings and clocks adorn the walls. Alex rings the bell and then calls through the mail slot in the door, asking to use the phone to call a doctor for his sick friend. But the woman thinks Alex is trying to sell her something and refuses to open the door. Spotting a sash-window above the door, Alex pretends to leave. He stands on Dim's shoulders and climbs to the stone sill, where he breaks the window and lets himself in. He hears the old woman talking to her cats downstairs and decides to prove himself to his "fickle and worthless droogs" by killing the woman and then opening the front door, treasure in both fists.

Alex grabs a silver statuette and accosts the woman as she sits with her many cats. Undaunted, the woman calls Alex a "villainous toad" and threatens him with her cane. As he moves toward her, he is distracted by a small bust of Beethoven and carelessly trips over a saucer of milk. The woman whacks him repeatedly in the head with her cane until he grabs it, throwing her off balance. He kicks her, cursing and trying to reach the "lovely Ludwig in frowning like stone." He steps on a cat's tail and finds himself under attack by cats and by the woman, who knocks him down. Alex strikes the woman's head with the silver statue but hears sirens in the distance. He realizes that the woman had been talking to someone on the phone, someone who heard their fight and called the police. Frantic, he fumbles with the door's many locks and yells at Dim to run. Pete and Georgie are gone, but Dim is waiting. He vindictively lashes Alex's eyes with his chain, leaving him blinded and alone to face the police. One officer says with satisfaction, "Little Alex all to our own selves." Alex claims that his gang forced him to break into the house, but he knows that Georgie, Pete, and Dim are by now safely back at the Duke of New York. The officers knock Alex around a bit as they drive him to the station, joking about how the innocent was led astray by his friends.


Others' betrayals and Alex's own flaws pivot the action in this chapter. Readers remember that the only reason Alex has agreed to the heist at the Manse is to hold onto his position as the gang's leader. As usual, the ideas are his. He tries the con that worked at the cottage and then comes up with the fallback plan, and things seem to be working out. But two flaws cost Alex the heist: his authority, and his freedom; both arise from emotion rather than from careful thinking.

Readers remember that before Alex took on Billyboy's gang, Alex analyzed the odds. Billyboy's gang has six fighters to Alex's four, but Alex reasons that Billyboy is fat and slow, while Dim is "worth three" fighters for "sheer madness and dirty fighting." In other words, he lets his intellect guide him, and the gang is on its way to defeating Billyboy and his gang before sirens break the fight up. But at the Manse instance, two emotions override Alex's reason. The first is pride or, more specifically, overconfidence, in his abilities. The plan is for Alex to let the other boys into the house, but he decides to prove himself by pulling the job off himself. He will do "ultra-violence" on the old woman (and her cats, if necessary) and then appear at the door with treasure in both hands so that the others "learn about leadership." Second, Alex lets his intellect be swayed by an aspect of his obsession with classical music—his hero-worship of Beethoven. The stone bust of Beethoven distracts Alex, causing him to trip and giving the old woman a slight and temporary advantage. Had Alex let his gang in, as planned, the heist would surely have been successful. Had Alex not betrayed himself by letting himself be pushed into a crime of which he disapproves and abandoning his usual analysis of the challenge, the others would not have had the opportunity to betray him by leaving him defenseless against the police. And there is the possibility that the robbery was a set-up from the beginning, a plan that would allow Georgie to wrest leadership from Alex.

The chapter ends ironically. Not only does Dim get the chance to snap his chain forcefully yet gracefully across Alex's eyes, rendering him temporarily as blind as is the bust of Beethoven, but Alex, who likes to be the center of attention and enjoys his reputation for violence, now finds himself too well known by the officers who arrest him.

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