A Clockwork Orange

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A Clockwork Orange Part 2, Chapter 6 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The next day, Alex is subjected to more violent films, and they cause him so much pain that he begs the doctors to turn them off. Even footage of less horrifying transgressions, like a violent robbery, is enough to make Alex feel throbbing pain and nausea. Dr. Brodsky is delighted to observe Alex’s reactions, and tells the boy that he only has one film left to watch that day.
Alex’s constant suffering makes it clear that despite their governmental role, the doctors do not necessarily have his best interests at heart. Furthermore, his newfound aversion to minor crimes shows that he has begun to internalize more specific social conventions and develop biases that are less clearly warranted than an aversion to violence.
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The doctors show Alex a clip of Nazi war crimes, set to the last movement of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Alex is sickened and particularly outraged that Beethoven’s music would be used in such a reprehensible context. “It’s a sin,” he says, “…using Ludwig van like that. He did no harm to anyone. Beethoven just wrote music.” Alex vomits, and the doctors unstrap him from his chair. While Alex drinks water, Branom and Brodsky discuss their surprise at Alex’s reaction to the music. They conjecture that, by having associated Beethoven with nausea, they have punished Alex for his crimes by ruining something he loves. “The sweetest and most heavenly of activities partake in some measure of violence,” like music, Brodsky observes—this is why Alex may be aversively conditioned to music.
This is the most distressing side-effect yet of Alex’s treatment. His appreciation for Beethoven was one of his most deeply human characteristics, and by stripping him of the ability to enjoy music, his therapy strips him of a large part of his human character. More disturbing yet is the suggestion that Alex’s violent tendencies may go hand in hand with his refined, human appreciation for the arts. Despite the doctors’ best efforts to separate human experience into “good” and “bad” impulses, Alex’s sudden aversion to beautiful music shows that black-and-white brand of thinking has disastrous effects in practice.
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Free Will vs. the “Clockwork Orange” Theme Icon
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Brodsky then explains to Alex that his injections administered a substance that conditions him to associate violence with nausea. Alex protests furiously, then feigns repentance. Brodsky is not convinced, and Alex must finish out his fortnight in treatment. For days and days, he submits to the same battery of horrifying films. One day, when the nurse comes to administer the injection, Alex punches her, but a group of orderlies comes to restrain him.
Alex’s usual tactics of deception are ineffective against the doctors. His attack on the nurse shows that when driven to desperation, he still acts violently. Therefore, his treatment is incomplete. When the orderlies arrive to administer Alex’s injection, it is made even more apparent that Alex is incapable of rebelling against this institution on his own. The doctors’ orders will be carried out no matter what Alex does in protest.
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Free Will vs. the “Clockwork Orange” Theme Icon
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Alex endures more of the sickening movies. One morning, he is not given an injection, and he is told that he can walk to the screening room on his own. He is forced to watch more films, and is baffled that he still reacts with tears and nausea. The Ludovico’s injection is now in his blood, and will continue to affect him indefinitely. That night, Alex decides that he must escape. He cries out as if in pain; after some time, a skeptical orderly comes into the room. Alex hides from him and plans to assault him, but the thought of hurting the man makes Alex cripplingly nauseous. The orderly taunts Alex and punches the boy in the face for his deception. Alex then goes to sleep in order to escape a fearful feeling that it may be better to receive a blow than to deal one. “If that veck had stayed I might even have like presented the other cheek,” he observes.
Alex has now internalized his therapy to the point that he can no longer choose how he acts. He must behave peacefully or else face crippling pain. Alex’s thoughts after his failed attack on the orderly present an ironic twist on Christianity. While Jesus teaches his followers to voluntarily “turn the other cheek” when presented with violence, Alex is simply forced to do so by psychological conditioning that is outside his control. Alex’s unintentional, robotic adherence to Christ’s principles is likely a far cry from the thoughtful righteousness that the Bible aims to teach.
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