A Clockwork Orange: Novel Summary: Part 2, Chapter 7

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Two weeks have passed, and Alex’s conditioning is complete. On his final day at the hospital, he is led to the theater where an audience has assembled to see the results of the experiment. Dr. Brodsky introduces Alex, boasting that he has been able to effect a complete change that the State prison could not do. In two years, the State prison was only able to teach Alex to present a false smile and lie to the authorities; in two weeks, the Ludovico Technique has completely changed Alex’s behavior.

 

A spotlight is shined on Alex, and, with the audience watching, a big man enters the stage and begins to insult and taunt him. Alex reaches for the blade in his pocket, but a wave of sickness overcomes him, and he realizes that he will need to placate the man instead. Crying, Alex tries to bribe him, but has nothing to give, and finally gets down on his knees to lick the stranger’s boots.

 

Dr. Brodsky observes that Alex’s violent impulses provoke physical distress, leading him to behave in the opposite way instead. So paradoxically, Alex’s violent intentions propel him toward the good. The prison chaplain, seated in the audience, raises an objection. Alex has no ability to make a moral choice. His actions are insincere; he is forced into the behavior. Dr. Brodsky smiles that they are “not concerned with motive, with the higher ethics,” but only with cutting down crime and relieving prison congestion. As the crowd begins to argue and debate, Alex cries out, “How about me? …  Am I just some animal or dog? … Am I just to be like a clockwork orange?” A member of the audience calls out that this is all a consequence of Alex’s choice, but the chaplain loudly disagrees.

 

Dr. Brodsky has another demonstration. This time, Alex is in the spotlight again and a beautiful girl approaches him. He describes her as being surrounded by the light of heavenly grace, and legs like God in Heaven. His first instinct is a desire to rape her, but this brings on intense sickness, so he changes his tactic and bows to her, asking to be her knight and protector. He knows this is all an act and feels foolish; as the girl leaves, he notices people in the audience looking at her lustfully, as he is now unable to do.

 

Triumphant before the audience, Dr. Brodsky proclaims that Alex will be a “true Christian…ready to turn the other cheek.” “Reclamation!” he screeches. “Joy before the Angels of God.” The Minister of the Interior adds that the point is, the technique works. The chaplain says, “It works all right, God help the lot of us.”

 

Analysis of Part 2, Chapter 7

Alex’s transformation has been deemed a success. Dr. Brodsky puts it in religious terms, saying that he has become a true Christian. His words are is hypocritical because in fact, he and the State are not concerned at all with Alex’s soul—his motives or ethics—only with his outward behavior. The chaplain knows that Alex is not a true Christian, because he lacks the crucial ability to make a moral choice. His actions, therefore, are insincere. If prison teaches a prisoner to lie obsequiously, then this conditioning has done the same but for his behavior as well as his words.

 

Alex’s behavior on stage is demeaning and ridiculous, perhaps equally as unnatural as his former perverse ultraviolence. It is not really natural for a young man to lick the boot of one who insults him; nor is it natural for a young man to look at a woman and be free of all thoughts of lust. (Nor of course, is it natural for a young man in front of a crowd of witnesses to cut with a razor someone who insults him, or to violently rape a pretty girl.) Now Alex is at the opposite extreme. He has changed, but he has not improved.

 

Alex’s use of the word “heavenly” to describe the girl is very significant. Although his feelings are ones of lust for her beauty, Alex is really recognizing in this girl something sublime and heavenly, something like what he feels about music. In art, love, and in all forms of beauty there is a link to the celestial. Deprived of the ability to respond with sincere emotion to such pieces of heaven on earth, again, denies the opportunity for spiritual growth and transcendence. If we do not react with passion to things of great beauty, then we are robotic machines.

 

Alex now feels himself to be a clockwork orange—a creature of no free will. The question is, was he always a clockwork orange? When he responded unthinkingly to his violent impulses, wasn’t it just as mechanical as he is now? This question is somewhat unresolved in the book, but a partial answer lies in the final chapter, when Alex reflects that young people, who have not yet learned to control their impulses, are really a lot like wind-up toys. The difference is that with growth and maturity, there is change, there is a possibility to rise above the lower instincts. The Ludovico Technique is forever.

 

Alex’s musings about not being able to kill even a fly, at the end of the chapter, provide some comic relief at this moment of horror. Despite its dark subject matter, Burgess’s novel is wildly comical.

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