Part 2, Chapter 4
Alex is wheeled to the “sinny” (cinema), which is unlike any cinema he’s seen before. He must sit in a chair with wires running from it. Against one wall is a bank of meters that are evidently designed to measure his responses to the film. Behind a pane of frosted glass, shapes are moving, suggesting that he will be observed by a team of psychologists. Alex feels very ill and weak, but thinks it must be the effect of the rich food. The orderlies strap him into the chair so that he cannot move, and clip his forehead skin back so he cannot close his eyes. The wires are fastened to his body. Then Dr. Brodsky enters. He is a small, fat man with curly hair and thick glasses, but wearing a fine, fashionable suit. Everything is ready for the showing to begin.
The first film shows an old man walking in the street at night. Two young men dressed “in the heighth of fashion” attack him and beat him bloody. Alex is impressed with how real the film seems, with the blood (“krovvy”) flowing “beautiful red.” But at the same time, he starts to feel rather ill.
The second film shows a young girl (“devotchka”) being raped by a gang of boys. Again, Alex thinks of how real it looks and wonders how the film was made. He figures it must be clever editing since he can’t imagine people consenting to be harmed on film in this way. Suddenly he begins to feel really sick, with pains all over.
The third film is of a human face being held still and having things done to it. An eye is cut out with a razor, then the cheek is sliced and the teeth are pulled out with a pliers. All the while, there is blood and screaming. Alex begins to heave, and he hears Dr. Brodsky say, “Excellent, excellent.”
The fourth film shows boys attacking a shopkeeper and setting her shop on fire. The woman is burned in the flames, screaming in agony. Alex screams that he is going to be sick, but Dr. Brodsky tells him it’s only his imagination and nothing to worry about, then goes on to show a fifth film showing torture by the Japanese in World War II. Alex cannot bear how sick he feels, and calls out for the film to be stopped. Dr. Brodsky says, “Stop it? … Why, we’ve hardly started,” and he and the other doctors laugh loudly.
Analysis of Part 2, Chapter 4
Alex’s aversion therapy has begun, through the medium of what might aptly be called horrorshows. Previously, Alex has used the term horrorshow (borrowed and modified from the Russian word khorosho, meaning good) to refer to things that are good or cool. Now, under the influence of nausea-inducing drugs, the violence that Alex previously thought of as cool appears to be what it actually is, “a real show of horrors,” as one of the white-coated assistants remarks. The conditioning is teaching him to associate images of violence with a feeling of physical illness.
While it is difficult to pity Alex, a profoundly unsympathetic character, one cannot help but object to the inhumane way he is treated in this scene. Bound to the chair, with his eyes held open, and made to feel physically ill, he experiences real torture. The mocking laughs of the doctors and orderlies show that they are taking a sadistic pleasure in putting him through this unpleasant experience.
Alex, however, still naively believes that the scientists, and the State, are the force of Good. Noting how real the films seem, he decides that the films must rely on clever editing, because the State would never allow such acts to be performed in real life. Burgess leaves us wondering, however. Are the films real? If so, then the State is far from the moral authority it presents itself to be.