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A Clockwork Orange | Study Guide

Anthony Burgess

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Part 2, Chapter 6

Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Part 2, Chapter 6 of Anthony Burgess's novella A Clockwork Orange.

A Clockwork Orange | Part 2, Chapter 6 | Summary



By the end of the next day's second session, Alex is screaming, "Stop it, stop it." His feelings of illness are increasingly debilitating, which pleases Dr. Brodsky. As Alex watches the day's last film—World War II footage produced by Nazi Germany—he realizes that the blaring music is Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. He screams that the doctors are committing "a filthy unforgivable sin" because Beethoven "did no harm to anyone." His music should not be part of the treatment. Alex vomits as Dr. Brodsky observes coldly that music is a "useful emotional heightener" and asks whether Alex has figured out how the treatment works. Alex guesses that the wires make him feel ill while he watches, and Dr. Brodsky confirms that the treatment works through "association, the oldest educational method in the world." But the wires, he says, only measure Alex's reactions. Alex makes the mental leap to the injections he thought contained vitamins—an "act of treachery," he yells.

Alex cries that, while he can endure the films and the drug, the unforgivable use of music by Beethoven, Handel, and other composers during the treatment shows that "you're an evil lot of bastards." The doctors remind Alex that he chose to undergo the treatment. Alex, in his "cunning way," feigns to be cured, but Dr. Brodsky says the cure is not complete until Alex's body responds with illness to the thought or sight of violence without the drug in his body. Still, in "less than a fortnight," Alex will be cured and free.

The two weeks seem to Alex like eternity. On the sixth day, Alex tries to refuse the injection, but attendants hold him down and hit him while the nurse administers the shot "real brutal and nasty" and calls him a "wicked naughty little devil." He loses count of the days and sessions, but one morning he does not receive an injection, and the attendant allows him to walk "to the chamber of horrors." This session leaves Alex very sick and also puzzled. He decides that the "Ludovico stuff" is a kind of vaccination. As he cries over the realization that he will never be able to enjoy violence again, Alex notices that the tears blur his view of the screen—a brief respite, since attendants quickly wipe the tears away.

That night, Alex plots to escape, but he has no weapon. Even his fingernails have been trimmed short. He pounds on his door, yelling that he has appendicitis. When the attendant unlocks his door, warning Alex to behave or be beaten, Alex tries to attack him. For an instant, Alex feels the joy he once experienced when fighting, but suddenly he is so ill that he fears he will die. The attendant says, "Well, everything's a lesson, isn't it?" as he hits Alex in the face in retaliation for waking him during the night. He leaves, locking Alex in again. Horrified, Alex realizes that receiving the blow felt better than striking it.


Alex begins his narration in this chapter by assuring readers that he had "truly done [his] best" to comply with treatment. He has been a "horrowshow [good] smiling cooperative malchick [boy]" during his second day of sessions. His tone is wretched and desperate, though. Even footage showing the relatively minor violence associated with a robbery brings on a "crash crash crash crash" in his head and horrible sickness. He cries, "It's not fair," to which Dr. Brodsky responds with satisfaction, "First-class." In this and other ways, readers are coaxed into further sympathy for Alex, a prideful and violent murderer, rapist, and thief.

Readers see how much Dr. Brodsky looks down on Alex; for example, in his clinical reaction to Alex's fury over the use of his beloved music and in his elitist dismissal of Alex's nadsat, the "dialect of the tribe" Brodsky despises. And when Alex, grasping the purpose of the injections, cries out, "An act of treachery ... you won't do it again," Brodsky, unlike Dr. Branom, does not explain or reassure or remind Alex that he will soon be free. Instead, he coldly tells Alex that he "can't get the better" of the medical team, who can administer the drug in many ways. Seeing Alex, by now a very familiar first-person narrator, under such pressure naturally rouses sympathy in readers. Alex cannot even benefit from the relief of crying as he watches the films; mocking attendants wipe each tear away quickly.

A later incident in the chapter reinforces the idea that Alex, despite his crimes, is suffering unjustly and too much. After he fails to escape his room, Alex admits that, had the attendant who hit him stayed, "I might even have like presented the other cheek." Alex refers here to Christ's instructions for reacting to violence, found in two gospels. In Luke 6:29, the injunction to "turn the other cheek" and allow an aggressor to strike a second blow is presented in the context of the injunction to love one's enemies and treat everyone as one wants to be treated. But in Matthew 5:39, the injunction explicitly contradicts the Governor's conception of justice, "an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth" (see Exodus 21:24; Lev. 24:20; Deut. 19:21). Alex's admission that he might have let the attendant hit him draws another parallel between him and Christ in the passion stories, as does the mocking he endures when the attendants make fun of tears.

Yet Alex's inherent nature has not been extinguished or even changed by the aversion therapy. He still wants to escape and plans cleverly to do so. He still wants to enjoy violence and despairs when he realizes he may never do so again. Only his physical reactions have changed, not his desires. His free will exists, but he can exercise it only at great cost.

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