A Clockwork Orange | Study Guide

Anthony Burgess

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A Clockwork Orange | Part 2, Chapter 7 | Summary

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Summary

Alex feels that he has been in treatment "for near ever." Then one morning, the attendant tells him that after one more "really big day" he will be done. The attendant smiles ominously as Alex dresses in regular clothing, including his "horrowshow kick-boots," and is given his razor. In the viewing room, an audience waits: the Governor, chaplain, Chief Chasso, and Minister of the Interior as well as Brodsky's team. Dr. Brodsky introduces "the subject himself"—Alex, now "unvicious, unviolent" and ready to join productive society. Spotlights fall on Alex and a man who insults and torments him, twisting his ears and stamping on his feet. Alex reaches for his razor, but rather than "the joy of battle" he feels that he will die. When he visualizes his attacker bloody and begging for mercy, he is overwhelmed by sensations of sickness.

Alex hears the audience laughing as he tries to placate the attacker by giving him his precious razor. When the attacker slaps the razor away, Alex desperately tries to stop the sickness by literally licking the man's boots until the man kicks him away. Alex grabs the man's ankles and pulls him to the ground and then, to lessen the terrible sickness, immediately offers his hand to help the man up. Dr. Brodsky ends the demonstration, claiming success, but the chaplain objects: "He has no real choice, does he?" Fear and the instinct to survive, not a choice to act morally, force Alex's "self-abasement."

Dr. Brodsky brushes aside these "subtleties." His goal is to reduce crime, not debate ethics. Pleased, the Minister says that this technique will decrease "the ghastly congestion in our prisons." Others join the argument until Alex cries out, "Am I just to be like a clockwork orange?" The audience does not understand his phrase, but a "professor type" reminds Alex that he chose treatment and now must accept the consequences. As the argument escalates, Alex hears the chaplain quote a scripture about perfect love casting out fear. Dr. Brodsky, smiling, seizes the topic of love, and the lights dim again. This time, the spotlights fall on Alex and an attractive, scantily clad, perfumed young woman, who approaches Alex with "like light of heavenly grace." The instant he thinks of sex, terrible illness and thirst strike him. When he offers to serve the young woman as her "true knight," the sick feelings recede somewhat. As he kneels before her, the lights come up, and the woman bows to clearly aroused men in the audience. Dr. Brodsky pronounces Alex a "true Christian," ready to sacrifice himself for others, and cries out, "Joy before the Angels of God." The Minister cares only that the technique works. The chaplain sighs, "God help the lot of us."

Analysis

Alex is on display in this chapter, the result of an audacious social experiment, and the pride of Dr. Brodsky, who takes center stage through his near-ecstatic speeches during the demonstration. Throughout Part 2, Brodsky has treated Alex as a lab rat and a child without autonomy, measuring his reactions to the treatment without sympathizing with his pain, administering occasional pats on the head as one would to an obedient dog. During the demonstration, four perspectives on free will and conformity wrangle for dominance.

Dr. Brodsky proudly presents Alex "as decent a lad as you would meet on a May morning," as proof that Ludovico's Technique works. As a scientist and researcher, he is pleased to have his research vindicated, but his overjoyed reactions to Alex's behavior during the demonstration reveal troubling motivations. Prison, Brodsky says, teaches inmates "obsequious" behaviors, adding these to the prisoners' vices; but the treatment renovates the prisoner so that he is "inclined to the kindly word and the helpful act."

Brodsky's opening speech is calm enough, but his tone changes as the demonstration proceeds. After Alex kneels before both the abusive man and the pretty woman, Brodsky proclaims Alex a model Christian, a man who would "be crucified rather than crucify," and then cries out, "Reclamation .... Joy before the Angels of God." His exclamation paraphrases the last sentence of the parable of the lost coin in Luke's gospel (15:8–10), which says that God's angels rejoice in heaven over the repentance of a single sinner. Brodsky's joy over Alex's pitiable condition reveals his view of humanity: fallen, irredeemable when free will is permitted, and Christian only when carefully controlled by condition like what Alex has endured. It reveals, also, that Brodsky is hardly an objective scientist and researcher. He plays God, redeeming and condemning by way of a drug.

The prison chaplain, who has already expressed his qualms about conditioning someone to adopt socially approved behaviors, is appalled by the demonstration. The treatment used fear of suffering to condition Alex's responses, but the chaplain refers to 1 John 4:18, which says that fear is linked to punishment (as opposed to redemption) while "Perfect Love Casteth Out Fear," as Alex hears the words. In other words, Alex has not been reclaimed or redeemed by the treatment. He has been punished when he should have been reformed by "perfect love"—patiently, graciously.

To the claims that Alex chose the treatment and chose how to respond during the demonstration, the chaplain scoffs, "He has no real choice," only the drive of any organism to escape pain. Alex is no longer a wrongdoer because he is no longer a doer of any kind, no longer a "creature capable of moral choice." Brodsky's triumph is false, the chaplain implies.

The Minister of the Interior does not care about free will or love casting out fear or the reclamation of sinners. He just wants to empty the jails, and the treatment will help him do that. Alex is not human to the Minister. Alex is an irritation, a fly in the ointment that must be removed. Free will and humanity are of no concern to the Minister.

Finally, readers must consider Alex. Burgess wrote, years after the novel was published, that Alex agrees to the treatment because he believes in the "indestructability of his own libido," his lust for life, and thinks he will be "more than a match for the behaviourist experts of the State." Alex experiences anguish during the demonstration as he realizes his fate and cries out against it, only to be told by an old "professor type" that he has "no cause to grumble" because he chose the treatment. But this perspective on free will is somewhat ironic. Alex could choose only from a very limited set of options, none of them good. Now that the drug has conditioned his responses, his ability to choose is driven by only one goal—to avoid the worst option of all, the sickness that makes him fear he will die. He is now at the mercy of people who can still choose how to act.

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