A Clockwork Orange

A Clockwork Orange Part 1, Chapter 1 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
In a strange slang dialect that mixes non-English words and elevated diction, Alex recounts sitting in the Korova Milkbar and making plans with his three “droogs,” Dim, Pete, and Georgie. The gang has plenty of cash, and thus doesn’t need to assault anyone and steal their money, but Alex reflects that “money isn’t everything.” He sees three “devotchkas” seated nearby and reflects that he would pursue them if there weren’t four boys in his gang. He considers drugging Dim’s milk and leaving him behind, as Dim is very ugly and stupid, but figures that Dim’s fighting skills make him a bad person to cross.
The book’s violent opening is arresting, and quickly characterizes an unfamiliar and alienating world. Readers are addressed in Alex’s disorienting dialect with no warning and no ability to decipher much of what he says. Moreover, the four characters appear not to be bound by some of the most basic social conventions—namely, the ones that prohibit random theft and violence.
Themes
Language Theme Icon
Conformism Theme Icon
Next to Alex sits a man who is high on drugs and babbling incoherently. Alex recalls the sensation of using drugs, which he considers to be a cowardly act. It may bring a man closer to God, but that experience can make a man weak.
Alex has no time for spiritual or moral considerations, as he is entirely fixated upon real-world immediate gratification. To compromise his worldly situation for ethical or religious reasons would, in his mind, constitute weakness.
Themes
Language Theme Icon
Conformism Theme Icon
Alex decides to leave, and strikes the babbling man on his way out. The street is abandoned—because, Alex explains, of a police shortage and the presence of youngsters like him and his droogs. The group then comes across a doddering old man with his arms full of library books, a rarity in this day. The four smiling boys surround the man, and Alex politely asks to see his books. The man fearfully hands them over, and Alex accuses them of being pornography, even though their titles are scientific. The droogs start ripping the books apart, and then brutally beat the man. They rifle through his pockets and leave him to stagger off, bloody.
These first instances of the droogs’ random violence are particularly shocking. Alex and his friends have absolutely no motivation for the extreme violence they wreak, and they seem completely remorseless. At the same time, this startling violence forces the reader to recognize their own reaction to that violence—whether horror, or illicit thrill, or both. Also noteworthy is the way Alex bends social conventions to his advantage: he affects a formal voice in an attempt to disarm the old man, and he uses social condemnation of pornography as a false pretense for assaulting the innocent scholar.
Themes
Language Theme Icon
Sadism and Society Theme Icon
Conformism Theme Icon
To create an alibi and spend some of their cash, the droogs go over to another bar, the Duke of New York. They order drinks for themselves and for three old women, who are leery of the boys. They also purchase food for the women. The boys then leave the bar and head to a shop, where they assault the owner and his wife. Once the proprietors have been subdued, the boys empty the cash register and take some cigarettes for themselves. Alex considers raping the owner’s wife, but decides he will have sex later that evening.
The boys’ apparent altruism towards the old women is merely a calculated move to craft an alibi. Alex’s calculating, emotionless nature is also apparent in the utterly matter-of-fact way he contemplates raping the shopkeeper’s wife.
Themes
Language Theme Icon
Sadism and Society Theme Icon
Get the entire A Clockwork Orange LitChart as a printable PDF.
A clockwork orange.pdf.medium
The boys return to the bar and tell the old women that they’ve been in the bar the whole time. The women knowingly play along. After some time, the police arrive and ask what the boys were doing this evening. The old women corroborate the alibi, and the police leave.
Society’s safety mechanisms appear to have deteriorated to the point that the droogs can run riot with impunity. The police are content with the boys’ flimsy alibi, and there is no institutional framework that compels the boys to acknowledge and pay for their wrongdoings.
Themes
Language Theme Icon
Conformism Theme Icon