A Clockwork Orange | Study Guide

Anthony Burgess

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A Clockwork Orange | Quotes


What's it going to be then, eh?

Alex, Part 1, Chapter 1

Alex asks this question of his gang before their night of mayhem and again at points throughout the novel, including in the final chapter, when he feels dissatisfied with his new gang. The question is not just about an evening's violent plans; it is a refrain that draws readers' attention to the choices Alex makes as he exercises his freedom to do good or evil.


Never fear. If fear thou hast in thy heart, O brother, pray banish it forthwith.

Alex, Part 1, Chapter 2

Alex addresses the man he and his gang are about to beat badly. They will also rape his wife, destroy his writing, and smash his belongings. That Alex tells the man not to be afraid speaks to Alex's arrogance, his belief that he controls not only his own actions but the man's responses.


Discipline there has to be. Right? Somebody has to be in charge.

Alex, Part 1, Chapter 3

Alex puts down Georgie's attempt to direct the gang's actions. Alex has just hit Dim to teach him "his place," and although Pete attempts to calm the turmoil, Alex—who is only 15—asserts his leadership. They "are all droogs," but Alex, who thinks highly of himself, wants to be top droog. His quote unwittingly foreshadows the type of "discipline" the State will later inflict on him.


Is not our modern history the story of brave malenky selves fighting those big machines?

Alex, Part 1, Chapter 4

Alex considers what defines good and evil and whether "old Bog or God" made people as they are, evil or not. He argues that history is made of individuals pushing back against the "machines" of government, law, and education, insisting on their right to be what they are, even if they are bad.


Goodness is something chosen. When a man cannot choose he ceases to be a man.

Prison Charlie, Part 2, Chapter 1

The Prison Charlie, or chaplain, responds to Alex's questions about the rumored treatment that "makes sure that you can never" go back to prison by trying to dissuade Alex, but Alex does not want to hear "more of this cal." He just wants out.


With respect, sir. I am not a common criminal, and I am not unsavory.

Alex, Part 2, Chapter 2

Alex addresses the Minister of the Interior, who has rejected "outmoded penalogical theories" and wants a "trailblazer" to test Ludovico's Technique. Alex, ever eager to see himself as superior, is a "vicious young hoodlum" in the Minister's opinion, and thus right for the trial. Alex is right in the sense that every person is an individual with human dignity, even if that person has chosen to be bad.


When we're healthy we respond to the presence of the hateful with fear and nausea. You're becoming healthy, that's all.

Dr. Branom, Part 2, Chapter 5

Dr. Branom cheerfully explains Alex's reaction to the films. Alex must get sick to get well, he says. In terms of behavioral psychology, Alex's body must learn the desired reactions to the environment, rather than Alex's mind choosing how to react. He must give up the concept of autonomy.


Each man kills the thing he loves, as the poet-prisoner said. Here's the punishment element.

Dr. Branom, Part 2, Chapter 6

Drs. Brodsky and Branom consider Alex's fury about the classical music they play during the films. For Dr. Brodsky, the music's effect is a treatment detail, but Dr. Branom's comments suggest that the State still wants to punish Alex, not merely to reform him. The staja's Governor, he says, "ought to be pleased."


Me, me, me. Am I like just some animal or dog ... like a clockwork orange?

Alex, Part 2, Chapter 7

Alex cries out to the audience watching the demonstration of the effectiveness of his treatment. He interrupts the discussion of philosophy and budgets to assert that what has happened to him matters to him. His listeners are not moved by his plea.


You are committed to socially acceptable acts, a little machine capable only of good.

F. Alexander, Part 3, Chapter 4

F. Alexander, unaware of whom he is helping, pities Alex, a "decent young man" that a "repressive" government has turned into "a piece of clockwork." Alex, who earlier describes history as the war of individual against social machine, has been incorporated into the machine.


Public meetings, mainly. A ruined life is the approach. We must inflame all hearts.

D.B. da Silva, Part 3, Chapter 5

F. Alexander's comrades explain how they intend to use Alex to further their political aims. Not one of them can be bothered to think about how Alex will benefit, even when he asks. They brush him off. As he was to the State, he is a tool to them.


A writer of subversive literature ... has been howling for your blood. ... We put him away.

Minister of the Interior, Part 3, Chapter 6

The Minister of the Interior achieves two goals through Alex. He has cause to arrest F. Alexander and his comrades, which secures his government, and he makes an ally of Alex to control the fallout from the failed experiment. An intelligent man, he knows exactly how to manipulate Alex, both before and after his "cure."


You could viddy a like gleam in his glazzies. Power, power, everybody like wants power.

Alex, Part 3, Chapter 7

Alex sends Len, Rick, and Bully out to "carry on" with their violence and notes that Bully is eager to be in charge, though he tries to hide it, just as Georgie was two years ago. Not much seems to have changed, except for Alex, who no longer cares so much for power.


Wife wife wife? ... that cannot be. Too young art thou to be married. Impossible impossible.

Alex, Part 3, Chapter 7

When Alex meets Pete, hears that he has abandoned nadsat, married, and gotten a job, Alex cannot fathom this change. Yet at the same time, he realizes that he, too, is ready to leave the violent teen scene behind.

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