A Clockwork Orange | Study Guide

Anthony Burgess

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A Clockwork Orange | Part 3, Chapter 3 | Summary

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Summary

The police officers seem familiar to Alex as they wallop the old men with quirts (a type of whip), dispersing them. Then they turn and recognize "little Alex," and he sees with dread that they are Billyboy and Dim, now licensed to beat him in the name of the State if they please. Billyboy tells the third officer, Rex, that Alex is "up to his old tricks," attacking weak old men, and must be punished. Alex protests to Dim that the fight was clearly revenge and that the police should be for him, not against him. But Dim says, "Officer call me," as they force Alex into their patrol car and drive him into the country. They have heard about his "cure." When Alex insults Dim because he could not read the news reports himself, Dim shuts him up, "very like gentle" by hitting his nose. Alex wipes the blood away and remarks that there was "never any trust" between them. In a remote place, Dim and Billyboy beat Alex badly while Rex sits in the car reading a book. Dim and Billyboy leave Alex on the ground and drive off as cold rain falls. Alex, homeless and nearly penniless, cries for himself and starts walking.

Analysis

The pace of this chapter is fast, as Alex's situation rapidly deteriorates when the police called to protect him brutalize him instead. Readers may recall that the incumbent government, trying to secure its reelection, bragged about more and better paid police, making the streets safer. But to recruit these new cops, the government tapped young men already familiar with violence—vicious young men like Dim and Billyboy. Some police, readers learn in a later chapter, pursue their duties overzealously and with too much pleasure, as happens when Joe is arrested for insisting that he "had rights like anyone else" and is beaten "cruel" by officers who object to his waiting on a corner. Brutal officers existed before Alex went to jail, but the recruitment of former gang members has led to State-sanctioned violence. This is no surprise: Ludovico's Technique is violent and painful, the prison guards lay about freely with clubs to keep prisoners in line, and the Governor advocates hitting back. Throughout the novel, the State acts violently to achieve its ends.

Alex, however, falls victim here to more than the State's henchmen. Billyboy, and especially Dim, are glad for the chance to punish Alex for his arrogance toward them, an arrogance that, despite Dr. Brodsky's efforts, still characterizes Alex, as readers see when he sneers at Dim's inability to read. Even so, they claim to punish Alex "in the State's name." Billyboy points out, "Streets must be kept clean in more than one way."

Alex's narration largely passes over the actual beating, focusing instead on small details of the ironically pastoral setting such as the sounds of "whirring farm engines and the twittwittwittering" of birds in the leafless trees. After Dim and Billyboy leave, threatening a future visit, Alex cries for himself, "who had no home." This is true in every sense. His parents' flat, his old haunting grounds in the city, the prison with its compassionate if ineffective chaplain, the treatment center—all have spat Alex out, "bare and nagoy [naked]" as the tree branches he observes while Dim and Billyboy beat him.

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