A Clockwork Orange

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A Clockwork Orange Part 3, Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Alex walks through freezing rain and comes across a familiar-looking hamlet. Bruised and disheveled, he walks up to a cottage with a sign that reads “HOME.” He knocks on the door, explains that he has been left for dead by the police, and asks for help. A man opens the door and invites Alex in to help him. When he sees this man, Alex realizes why the cottage looked familiar: it is the same place he and his droogs stormed several years earlier. The man does not recognize Alex because he and his droogs wore masks to disguise themselves.
Alex’s cry for help is an inversion of his robbery at HOME from Part 1. This time, his pleading is sincere. Importantly, the same sort of altruism that allowed Alex to break into the house years before, when the woman left the door unattended to get a glass of water, is what prompts the man to take Alex in and save him from dying outside the cottage.
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The man tends to Alex’s wounds. Meanwhile, Alex recalls that the man was writing a book called A Clockwork Orange. Alex reminds himself not to betray this knowledge, because he needs the man’s kindness. Alex resents the prison doctors for making him dependent on others’ kindness—and willing to treat others kindly in return.
To Alex, kindness and altruism remain cumbersome commodities rather than virtues. He was never able to live completely self-sufficiently, and his current condition only makes this more evident. Alex needs the help of others to survive, and he needs to stop thinking of this need as a weakness if he hopes to advance towards true self-sufficiency.
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After Alex is given a bath, clean clothes, and a generous meal, his host recognizes him from the newspapers as the poster child of Reclamation Treatment. The man commiserates with Alex and tells the boy he has been sent by “Providence.” He listens intently while Alex recounts the story of his crimes. The man then launches into a speech condemning the way the government has stripped Alex of agency and forced him to behave well, making even things like music and art sources of pain to him. “A man who cannot choose ceases to be a man,” he observes.
This scene is rife with dramatic irony. Readers know that Alex’s ability to choose was what led him to break into this house years before, and this makes the homeowner’s rant against Reclamation Treatment somewhat painful to read. Perhaps, if the homeowner knew the true identity of the boy he had taken in, he would not exalt free will as highly as he does now.
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While the homeowner was occupied with his tirade against Reclamation Treatment, he distractedly dried the same plate for a long time. Alex points out the man’s inattentiveness, and the man explains that his wife used to do his chores. Trembling, the man reveals that his wife died after being savagely beaten and raped in this very house. Alex remembers his actions that night and begins to feel sick. Seeing the boy lose composure, the homeowner tells Alex to head upstairs to bed.
Alex’s generous host is in a devastating predicament. On one hand, his philosophical opposition to Reclamation Treatment compels him to pity Alex and wish to restore the boy’s agency. On the other hand, Reclamation Treatment is the only thing stopping Alex from committing more crimes like the rape and murder of the man’s wife.
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