A Clockwork Orange | Study Guide

Anthony Burgess

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Course Hero. "A Clockwork Orange Study Guide." September 23, 2016. Accessed September 25, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/A-Clockwork-Orange/.

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Course Hero, "A Clockwork Orange Study Guide," September 23, 2016, accessed September 25, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/A-Clockwork-Orange/.

A Clockwork Orange | Plot Summary

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Summary

Part 1

On a winter night in a dystopian city in the not-too-distant future, 15-year-old Alex and his gang—Pete, Dim, and Georgie—drink stimulant-laced milk at the Korova Milkbar and plan "dirty" fun. Schoolboys by day, the teens roam the streets by night, terrorizing citizens. This night's crimes include a vicious attack on an old man, a robbery, a rumble, and grand theft auto. The boys speed to the country, where they invade a cottage, beating the man, raping his wife, and destroying the man's manuscript. Its title, A Clockwork Orange, and sentences about the wrongness of imposing on humans "conditions appropriate" to machines stick in Alex's mind.

Displeased by Georgie's attempts to push the gang toward lucrative thefts, Alex goes home and listens to classical music in a near-ecstatic state. He wakes, anxious about a dream in which Georgie orders Dim to flog him. Headachy, Alex skips school and goes instead to a record shop for a recording of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. He entices two 10-year-old girls back to his room and rapes them, then falls asleep, listening to the record. When he wakes that evening, he leaves the flat to find Georgie, Pete, and Dim waiting. To placate Georgie, Alex agrees to steal valuable "pre-plastic" items from an elderly woman.

When the woman refuses to open the door for Alex, he breaks a window and creeps in. Saucers of milk for the woman's cats clutter the floor, tripping Alex. He and the feisty woman scuffle until he knocks her out. Alex hears sirens and opens the door to warn the others, but Dim smashes his chain against Alex's eyes and leaves him for the police, who rough him up as they arrest and question him. Alex implicates his disloyal gang in many crimes. His victim does not survive.

Part 2

Alex, now Prisoner 6655321, is two years into his 14-year sentence. Georgie is dead, killed during a burglary. Alex does not know what has become of Dim and Pete. Alex's prison jobs include playing music during the chaplain's services. He also reports rumors to the chaplain, who talks to Alex about freedom of choice.

Alex shares his cell with five others. When an arrogant new prisoner arrives, he is beaten to death as punishment for his perversion. The next morning, Alex is chosen as a test subject for Ludovico's Technique, a treatment aimed to change his behavior. Against the chaplain's advice, he signs on and is moved to a new building where he has his own room, clean clothes, and good food. Alex thinks he has "copped it lucky."

Each session of the treatment begins with the injection of a drug. Then Alex is secured to a chair with electrodes attached to his head and torso. His eyes are held open, and he is forced to watch violent films. The drug makes Alex ill as he watches, creating associations between violence and sickness. For 14 days Alex endures this torture. Worse, the doctors play classical music during the sessions.

Alex demonstrates the treatment's effectiveness to an audience that includes the prison governor, the chaplain, doctors, and bureaucrats. Unable to defend himself against a physical attack and made ill by the sight of an attractive woman, Alex unintelligibly cries out that he has become a "clockwork orange." The next day, he is released.

Part 3

Returning home, Alex finds a lodger named Joe in his room. His possessions have been sold to support his victim's cats. Alex sobs over his parents' unwillingness to turn Joe out. He seeks refuge at the record store, but when listening to Mozart makes him violently ill, Alex decides to commit suicide. Yet he cannot act violently even against himself. Alex visits the library to research suicide methods and encounters the old man he and his gang beat up two years ago. The man and his friends swarm Alex, beating him furiously until police arrive. Unfortunately, the responding officers are Billyboy (Alex's enemy from a rival gang) and Dim. They drive Alex into the country and thrash him.

Alex staggers to a vaguely familiar cottage whose owner recognizes him from news reports and takes him in. The man, F. Alexander, and his comrades oppose the current government and hope to use Alex as a political weapon in the upcoming election. Alex becomes aware that F. Alexander is the man he and his gang attacked. His wife, Alex learns, died of shock after the gang rape. Despite his caution, Alex slips into nadsat and reveals details that F. Alexander pieces together. F. Alexander's comrades take Alex to a city apartment and lock him in a second-story room. They bombard him with classical music until sickness overwhelms him. He leaps from the window, hoping to die.

Alex wakes in a hospital, where doctors treat his injuries and use "deep hypnopaedia" to reverse his conditioning. The Minister of the Interior, who earlier sent Alex to treatment, assures him that the "subversive" men who wanted to use him are "put away." The Minister offers Alex a job and a new stereo, now that Alex is the State's friend. This is where the American edition of the novel ends. The British edition includes an alternate ending. Alex forms a new gang but no longer finds violence satisfying. He works for the National Gramodisc Archives and has all the money and records he wants. One winter night, Alex stops in a tea shop and sees Pete, married and no longer speaking nadsat. "Over this get can I not, "Alex says, yet he imagines having a wife and a son. He bids readers farewell as he starts "something like new, "asking them to remember "thy little Alex that was."

A Clockwork Orange Plot Diagram

123456789101112131415ClimaxResolutionIntroductionRising ActionFalling Action

Introduction

1 Alex and his gang drink drugged milk and assault citizens.

Rising Action

2 Alex skips school, listens to music, and rapes two girls.

3 Alex repels Georgie's challenge by agreeing to a robbery.

4 The robbery fails; the gang abandons Alex, who is arrested.

5 Two years into his sentence, Alex thrashes another prisoner.

6 Alex begins experimental behavioral modification treatment.

7 Alex survives treatment but can no longer defend himself.

8 Alex is driven out of his parents' home by their boarder.

9 Alex is beaten by those he once assaulted or insulted.

10 F. Alexander takes Alex in and uses him for political aims.

Climax

11 Alex tries to kill himself by jumping out a window.

Falling Action

12 Hospitalized, Alex recovers physically and psychologically.

13 Alex starts full-time work and forms a new gang.

14 Alex no longer finds violence compelling or fulfilling.

Resolution

15 Alex decides to find a wife, marry, and have a child.

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