A Clockwork Orange | Study Guide

Anthony Burgess

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A Clockwork Orange | Part 1, Chapter 7 | Summary

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Summary

Alex still cannot see well as he is led into the prison, but he smells a mix of vomit and disinfectant and hears prisoners swearing and drunkenly singing. The officers let Alex look in a mirror to see that he is beaten and bruised, no longer the "Handsome Young Narrator." When Alex refuses to speak without a lawyer present, the highest-ranking officer notes that "the law's not everything" and smacks Alex in the stomach. Alex retaliates, kicking him in the shin and bringing a hail of blows from the officers until he is sick and apologizes. Deltoid arrives, unsurprised to see Alex in custody. He refuses the officers' offer to let him hit Alex but does spit in his face before leaving.

Angrily determined that if the officers are "on the side of the Good" he refuses to be good, Alex dictates page after page of confessions, giving Georgie, Dim, and Pete ample credit. The list intimidates the timid shorthand clerk. The officers drag Alex to a filthy cell packed with drunks who paw at him till he climbs to a top bunk, rolls a drunk off it, and sleeps, dreaming of a "better world" in which Beethoven is the sun in the sky and the Ninth Symphony is playing. He hears corrupted words to "Ode to Joy" until an officer wakes him up and drags him back to the top officer's desk, where he learns that the old woman died in the hospital. Alex wonders what will happen to her cats and realizes that he has now "done the lot," even murder, and "me only fifteen."

Analysis

Readers have endured several chapters of "just sheer crime," as Burgess describes Part 1 of the novel, all committed by teens. Part 2, in contrast, is about punishment, an intentionally problematic subject for Burgess, whose narrator, Alex, generates sympathy despite his atrocious acts because of how his punishment is decided and carried out. This chapter prepares readers for the punishment section of the novel by detailing Alex's arrest and interrogation, which cast him somewhat as a victim of his tormentors—State-sanctioned enforcers and abusers of the law. They are adults, entrusted with the care of the young, yet they are as violent as the teens they police. And their violence is not random but targeted, not opportunistic but vengeful. Incredibly, Burgess worried while working on the novel that Alex was "too sympathetic a character." Despite his actions, he is still a child, and his treatment at the hands of the vindictive officers who gang up on him as he and the boys did on the old man, is sickening precisely because of its setting. Justice should, but does not, prevail. Alex is beaten to the point of physical illness, a foreshadowing of the psychological torture he will endure at the hands of the State.

When he was creeping down the old woman's hallway, Alex saw a painting of "the holy bearded veck [man, guy] all nagoy [naked] hanging on a cross." He knows very little about this man, but Burgess's comments about Alex hint at parallels between Alex's story and the passion story of Christ, and some critics argue that Alex is a Christ-figure. If so, the interrogation in Chapter 7 could parallel Christ's arrest, interrogations, and beatings before the crucifixion. That parallel would cast the officers in a particularly unfavorable light.

However, Alex does not behave in a Christ-like fashion under interrogation. Under pressure, Alex tries to shift blame to his gang and rats them out on multiple crimes. And he makes a decision to recommit to his belief that God created him to prefer evil. "Hell and blast you all," he condemns the officers, announcing that he is happy to belong to the "other shop" from their "Good." When Alex dreams he hears the wrong lyrics to the "Ode to Joy," which is a celebration of universal human love in its original form, he hears promises of murder and beatings. The perversion of the "Ode" reinforces the perversion of justice in the hands of the State.

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