A Clockwork Orange

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A Clockwork Orange Part 3, Chapter 2 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Back out in the winter cold, Alex walks around, directionless. He returns to his usual record store, but instead of finding the familiar clerk, he is attended to by a teenager. Alex asks for Mozart’s Fortieth Symphony and goes to a listening booth. The clerk, ignorant of classical music, plays a different Mozart composition. As Alex listens, he recalls that the Reclamation Treatment has made him associate music with violence. He begins to feel ill, and stumbles out of the record store.
Not only has Alex been deposited into an unfamiliar and unwelcoming world, he can no longer derive any enjoyment from the art that used to move him. This is the ultimate tragedy of Alex’s treatment: it has taken away not just his human capacity to delight in barbarism, but his human capacity to delight in anything at all.
Themes
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Alex next goes to the Korova Milkbar, where he orders a large helping of intoxicants. He drinks in a private booth and has an intense hallucination. His consciousness leaves his body, and he begins to see the entire world—including himself in the booth, babbling incoherently. He then sees a group of statues drawing nearer, which he recognizes as God and God’s Angels. Alex feels ecstatic, as though he has completely lost his identity. Suddenly, the vision begins to collapse. The statues shake their heads disapprovingly at Alex, and he is returned to his original state of consciousness in the drinking cubicle.
Alex has sunk into behavior that he deplored at the beginning of the novel. He is no better than the drunk he and his droogs beat up at the very same bar. This moment in Alex’s saga may be his rock-bottom: he is so fundamentally disturbed that he cannot bear any reminder of his own identity. But at the same time, he is unable to break from this identity. He has a kind of Christian vision that seems like it might free him from his "imprisonment" within himself, but the vision collapses. After all, he is only "programmed" to act like a Christian.
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Free Will vs. the “Clockwork Orange” Theme Icon
Art and Humanity Theme Icon
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After this vision, Alex understands that he wants to kill himself. He considers cutting his wrists with his knife, but the thought of such violence makes him ill. He decides to go to the public library to find a book on committing suicide painlessly.
The dehumanizing power of the Reclamation Treatment is so great that it deprives Alex of the basic choice of whether or not he can continue his life.
Themes
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Free Will vs. the “Clockwork Orange” Theme Icon
Art and Humanity Theme Icon
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The library is full of decrepit old men. Alex tries to consult some reference books, but finds them impenetrable. He grabs a Bible off a shelf and begins to read it instead, but the accounts of violence threaten to sicken him. Alex is near tears when a nearby man asks him what is the matter. The boy explains that he wants to kill himself; a man reading geometry books nearby shushes him. Alex speaks again, and the man shushes a second time—this time, he and Alex make eye contact and recognize one another. The reading man is the scholar whom Alex and his droogs assaulted years before.
The revulsion Alex experiences while reading the Bible illustrates that even something that many consider to be purely “good”—religion—contains elements of “badness” and violence. It seems, then, that Reclamation Treatment has not made Alex into the “perfect Christian” after all, if he is unable to stomach reading the Bible itself. Or, perhaps, that the Bible itself is here revealed as not being "perfectly Christian." Even religion, after all, indulges in violence.
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Alex tries to flee the library, but the scholar and his geriatric peers descend upon him. They beat Alex mercilessly, and ignore Alex’s claims of penitence. After some time, a library attendant comes along to investigate the disturbance. Alex surprises himself by begging the attendant to call the police. The beating continues, and Alex puts up no resistance for fear of feeling ill. Finally, the police arrive on the scene.
The elderly scholar’s eagerness to assault Alex shows that every member of society is susceptible to the same sadistic impulses that Alex has been punished for displaying. This does not excuse Alex’s crimes, of course, but it does make it more problematic to separate him so absolutely from the rest of allegedly law-abiding society.
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Sadism and Society Theme Icon
Free Will vs. the “Clockwork Orange” Theme Icon
Art and Humanity Theme Icon
Conformism Theme Icon