A Clockwork Orange

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A Clockwork Orange Part 1, Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Alex wakes up early the next morning, but decides that he doesn’t feel like going to school. His mother encourages him to attend class, but Alex tells her that he needs to sleep off a headache. Alex’s mother and father leave for their jobs, and leave Alex breakfast in the oven.
Alex’s parents’ deference to their son’s obvious deception make it clear that no one dares discipline the boy. His every need is provided for, but his lack of responsibility allows him solely to pursue his reprehensible impulses.
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Alex drifts back to sleep and experiences an uncanny dream. In it, Georgie wears a military general’s clothing and commands Dim to whip Alex, because Alex has dirt on his clothing. Dim chases Alex around, striking him with the whip—each strike coincides with a buzzing sound.
This dream is a clear allegory for Alex’s social insecurities. He fears insubordination from Georgie and Dim and tries to suppress the behavior with violent, authoritarian outbursts. Still, this dream illustrates that Alex’s attempts to solidify his power may not be as effective as he hopes.
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Alex wakes up with his heart racing, and he realizes that the buzzing noise was his real-life doorbell. P.R. Deltoid, Alex’s haggard Post-Corrective Adviser, has come to check in on the boy for missing school. Deltoid warns Alex to keep his behavior in line. Alex protests that he hasn’t been caught committing any wrongdoing, but Deltoid counters that he has heard of Alex’s misdeeds, even if there is not enough evidence to justify an arrest. Deltoid tells Alex that he is ripe for a punishment if he continues his misbehavior, but Alex continues to feign righteousness.
Because he has yet to be caught red-handed, Alex is, on paper, still a well-behaved boy. Thus, there is little that society can do to govern him, be it through parental discipline or the counseling of P.R. Deltoid. Alex understands this, and thinks that he simply needs to maintain a mask of virtue in order to avoid punishment. However, despite Alex’s well-behaved façade, it is clear to those around him that he will soon have to suffer the consequences of his lawlessness. Deltoid’s name seems to directly imply the “muscle” of the state that will enact those consequences.
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After P.R. Deltoid leaves, Alex brews tea and reflects on the adviser’s warnings. Alex acknowledges that he leads an immoral life, but isn’t deterred by the possibility of imprisonment—if he gets caught, he’ll simply pick up his violent lifestyle when he finishes his sentence. “Badness,” to Alex, represents a manifestation of the “self” as God intended it. Governments and institutions impose rules of behavior to suppress the self, and history is composed of struggles to assert the self in the face of these institutions.
To Alex, laws seem to exist only to restrain him, rather than to protect others. He believes that his freedom to act as he pleases must be absolute, in order for him to be free at all. His invocation of religion is surprising, particularly because religious institutions are often responsible for precisely the sorts of restrictions on autonomy that he seems to decry—this may be yet another instance of Alex manipulating social conventions to suit him only when it is convenient.
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While he eats breakfast, Alex browses the newspaper and comes across an article on “Modern Youth.” Such articles are common, and Alex views them cynically—but he appreciates being considered newsworthy. As he listens to classical music and dresses for the day, Alex recalls one article that argued that “A Lively Appreciation of the Arts” would “civilize” troubled youth. Alex comments that his lively appreciation for the arts simply makes him feel more compelled to act abhorrently.
Alex’s response to the newspaper article illustrates that morality and social obedience cannot be reduced to simple criteria, like “A Lively Appreciation of the Arts.” After all, Alex seems in some ways to be an ideal young man—and in many more ways to be a menace. Violence and art are deeply connected, and an affinity for one does not represent a rejection of the other, no matter what social norms may try to dictate.
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Alex sets out for the day. He muses that while nighttime belongs to him and his droogs, the daytime is the realm of law-abiding adults and policemen. He enters a record store and finds two preteen girls browsing pop records inside; to Alex, they seem to pretentiously think they are very cultured. Alex purchases a copy of Beethoven’s Ninth, but before he leaves to play the record at home, he is struck with an idea. He begins to speak coyly with the girls, and offers to take them out to eat at a restaurant around the corner. They eat greedily, and Alex is repulsed, but decides he will give them an “education” after lunch.
Alex’s view of the young girls recalls the attitudes about conformism that he espouses earlier in the book. He seems disgusted by how readily the girls mimic social conventions in order to seem sophisticated. Alex values the assertion of one’s self and one’s desires over societal restrictions. Given that, and what else we’ve seen from Alex, the “education” he hopes to offer them seems likely to be a perverse illustration of the self prevailing above institutional and legal norms.
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After lunch, Alex brings the girls back to his apartment. He gives them liquor and plays records, while they dance around his room. After some time, the girls have undressed. Alex then injects drugs into himself, puts on the final movement of Beethoven’s Ninth, and proceeds to rape the girls. At first, the girls are too drunk to understand what Alex is doing to them. Later on, however, they begin to regain their senses. As they put their clothes back on, they curse at Alex, calling him a “beast and hateful animal.” The girls leave, and Alex falls asleep on his bed as the Ode to Joy plays once more.
This vignette once again complicates Alex’s character by juxtaposing horrifying violence and refined artistic beauty, in order to show that these two poles of human behavior are not mutually exclusive. The unfortunate girls call Alex an “animal,” and he indeed behaves like one—but at the same time, his appreciation for Beethoven illustrates a profoundly human reverence for art.
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