A Clockwork Orange: Novel Summary: Part 2, Chapter 1

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Part 2, Chapter 1

As part two opens, Alex, now known as prisoner 6655321, has been sentenced to fourteen years in the State Jail, and has already served two years of his sentence. His time in what he thinks of as a “hellhole and like human zoo” has been far from edifying. He’s been beaten and bullied by the wardens and preyed upon by fellow inmates. The only thing Alex has heard of his former droogs is that Georgie was killed during a bungled robbery, a fact which pleases him greatly.

 

One of Alex’s jobs in prison is to operate the stereo system during the weekly chapel service. As he stands at the back of the chapel, he hears the chaplain repeat the familiar phrase, “What’s it going to be then, eh?”—a key question that is repeated at the beginning of each of the three parts of the book. The chaplain is asking what the men will choose to do with their lives. Will they continue sinning, and going in and out of the prisons all their lives, or will they listen to the Word of God and repent? As he preaches, one of the crowd lets out a mocking noise, and the prisoners are set upon by guards.

 

Alex himself has become a favorite of the chaplain because he is young and shows an interest in the Bible. He spends hours reading the Bible and listening to classical music on the stereo. Alex enjoys the Old Testament, with its stories of wars, wine-drinking, and men sleeping with their wives’ handmaidens. He doesn’t much enjoy the New Testament, “which is more like all preachy govereeting than fighting and the old in-out.” However, he does enjoy reading about the crucifixion of Christ, imagining himself as one of the Roman soldiers who whipped Jesus and nailed him on the cross, being dressed “in a like toga that was the heighth of Roman fashion.”

 

As the Sunday service ends, the chaplain thanks Alex and asks if he’s heard any news. Alex regularly snitches on his fellow inmates, and when he hasn’t got any stories to tell, he invents them, as he does today, telling a fake story about a cocaine shipment. The chaplain is very pleased and says he will pass along this information to the Governor.

 

Alex asks the chaplain about a new method of treatment he’s heard of that gets prisoners out of jail and ensures they won’t go back. The priest becomes wary. He says that this new treatment, Ludovico’s Technique, is very experimental and very drastic, and that he has his doubts about it. “The question is whether such a technique can really make a man good,” the chaplain explains. “Goodness comes from within, 6655321. Goodness is something chosen. When a man cannot choose he ceases to be a man.”

 

After the four morning services, Alex is sent back to his cell. There are six prisoners jammed into a cell meant to house only three. His cellmates are all very criminal, but Alex is thankful not to be sexually harassed by any of them. Suddenly, into this crowded cell, a seventh inmate is thrown in.

 

Analysis of Part 2, Chapter 1

The opening line of Part 2, as mentioned above, is the opening line of all three sections of this novel. The question expresses the theme of free will and self-determination. “What’s it going to be then, eh?” is the challenge that all human beings must face with regard to their moral choice. “It’s up to you—you decide.”

 

Alex, now in the prison system, has been swallowed up by the State. Instead of a name, he has been given a number. Numbers denote depersonalization, an entry into a system that doesn’t care about you as an individual. To the State, Alex is just another one of many prisoners. Other references to numbers on State-owned properties include Municipal Flatblock 18A and Staja 84F. Numbers, and the use of words like “Municipal” and “State” to describe things, give a sense of gray, communist uniformity to the people and places in Alex’s world. Individuality and self-expression, it seems, are discouraged, while conformity and obedience are required.

 

The only bright spot in the prison system is the chaplain, or prison priest (whom Alex punningly calls “charlie” for Charlie Chaplin/chaplain). Although the chaplain is a bit of a satirical figure, he is really the voice of reason and morality in the novel, and his words to Alex about the Ludovico Technique state the theme of this book: “Goodness comes from within…goodness is something chosen. When a man cannot choose he ceases to be a man.”

 

The chaplain’s moral lessons, however, are lost on Alex, at least for now. There is some humor here as Alex explains that what he likes best about the Bible is all the sex and violence. When the chaplain asks him to meditate on the divine suffering of Jesus, who died in order to save humanity from sin, Alex fantasizes that he is one of the Roman soldiers who scourged Jesus and nailed him on the cross. He still identifies more with the victimizers than with the ones who suffer. Clearly, Alex doesn’t understand the message of the Bible and Christianity at all.

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