A Clockwork Orange | Study Guide

Anthony Burgess

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A Clockwork Orange | Part 3, Chapter 5 | Summary

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Summary

Alex wakes, feeling "warmed and protected" after a sound sleep to the smell of breakfast. Searching for a copy of his host's book to learn his name, Alex slips into the man's room and sees a picture of his wife. Alex feels sick over memories of the assault but locates a copy of A Clockwork Orange and reads the man's name: F. Alexander. "Good Bog," he thinks—"another Alex." He skims a few pages about the modern age turning people into machines rather than letting them grow naturally on "the world-tree in the world-orchard" for the sake of God's "thirsty love."Alex wonders whether F. Alexander has become "bezoomny [mad]" because of his wife's death.

He lays the book aside when F. Alexander calls him for breakfast. The writer has been up for hours, penning an article and making phone calls. Alex says carelessly, "I thought you didn't have a phone." F. Alexander, "very alert," asks why Alex would think that, then quickly resumes his kind look and talks about how the government has "recruit[ed] brutal young toughs" as police and is behind the conditioning treatment Alex endured. These actions are the "thin end of the wedge" of the "full apparatus of totalitarianism." When people see Alex's condition, they will realize the danger of the policies. Alex worries that F. Alexander is extreme in his devotion to liberty and asks, "What, sir, happens to me?" F. Alexander is not interested in the question.

Alex praises the article, slipping into nadsat, which draws a "narrow" look from the writer until Alex assures him it is just teen slang. Three confederates arrive to meet Alex: Z. Dolin, Rubinstein, and D.B. da Silva. They discuss how best to use Alex. Could he look "even iller and more zombyish," Z. Dolin asks, to generate more sympathy? The greedy way they regard Alex disturbs him. He is not "dim." He understands that they will use him with no regard to his needs.

During this conversation, F. Alexander listens closely to Alex's nadsat, saying, "that manner of voice pricks me" and picking up on the word "dim." His eyes look a bit mad as he says that "such things are impossible" but that "if he were I'd tear him." Only Alex knows what this means, and he decides to get his clothes and leave. But Z. Dolin says, "Ah, no. We have you ... and we keep you." Because Alex cannot fight his way out, he plays along. Leaving F. Alexander in the cottage, the others drive to town and leave Alex in a flat to rest and eat while they work. Z. Dolin asks, clearly suspicious, whether Alex had anything to do with "what stirred in the tortured memory" of F. Alexander. Alex hedges, saying only that he has suffered for his own actions and those of his so-called friends.

Alex falls asleep thinking of how he has no one to trust "in the whole bolshy [big] world." He wakes to the sound of a symphony by a Danish composer, a dark and "violent" piece, and sickness overwhelms him. He screams for the music to stop, slams his hands against the wall, and suspects that the music is "deliberate torture." Staggering around the room, he sees the word DEATH on a pamphlet (part of DEATH TO THE GOVERNMENT). A nearby booklet has an image of an open window. Fate, Alex decides, is telling him what to do. He opens the window, cries out, "Goodbye ... Bog [God] forgive you for a ruined life," and jumps.

Analysis

This chapter contains some of the novel's tensest and most suspenseful moments and ends with a desperate suicide attempt. Alex has already paid specific penance for many of his crimes (for example, he hits Dim to establish his position as leader of the gang, and after the treatment, Dim pays him back with a vicious beating), but he has so far escaped a tit-for-tat retaliation for the brutal attack and rape that resulted in F. Alexander's wife's death. F. Alexander's grief over her death is profound. Alex wonders if it has made him crazy, and F. Alexander says he would "tear" Alex if he were to discover Alex to be the youth who raped her. His language, readers may recall, echoes the fantasy Alex has after the assault on the cottage before becoming a murderer. As he listens to the "brown gorgeousness" of Bach's music, Alex wishes that he had "ripped" F. Alexander and his wife "to ribbons on their own floor." Alex, aware of the danger of being discovered, nevertheless slips up repeatedly with F. Alexander. He mentions details (such as the phone) he would not otherwise know, and he lapses into nadsat, perhaps out of habit but perhaps out of anxiety. Alex's worries and F. Alexander's increasing suspicions infect the chapter's troubled mood.

The tension is exacerbated by the entrance of F. Alexander's confederates, who examine Alex, a "superb device" for their plans, as they would any tool. They will display him as a "ruined life" to "inflame all hearts" and make him a "martyr to the cause of Liberty." When Alex objects and asks what he gains from these performances, the confederates pet him. Z. Dolin pets Alex's hand "as if I was like an idiot," much as Drs. Brodsky and Branom pat Alex's head after treatments. "I'm not an idiot you can impose on,"Alex warns.
"I'm not ordinary." But the confederates pave over his questions and objections, telling him, as if he were a child, that if he behaves, he will get a surprise. Readers may conclude that ever since Alex entered prison, he has escaped the frying pan only to find himself in the fire—repeatedly.

Treachery and betrayal, in fact, have been constant threats since the novel's early chapters. "We have you ... and we keep you," the confederates tell Alex. In a single conversation, his status changes from the poor boy and victim who needs help to a sacrifice to "the Future and our Cause." The flat in the city where the confederates take Alex is offered as a refuge but functions as yet another prison. Critics who find parallels between Alex's travails and the passion narrative in the gospels point out that, by this point in the novel, even those people who should be Alex's allies—F. Alexander and his confederates, who share his distrust of the State—have turned on him or abandoned him. As Alex lies on the bed in the flat, he thinks of everyone he has met over the past few years and concludes that not one person can be trusted. And not only has he paid for his own crimes in his opinion, but he's also paid for the crimes of Pete, Dim, and Georgie, who "called themselves my droogs."

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