A Clockwork Orange: Novel Summary: Part 3, Chapter 1
Part 3, Chapter 1
The third and final part of the book opens with the same question as do the other two: “What’s it going to be then, eh?” Alex is now free to go, and he wonders what to do. He stops in a workers’ café for food and coffee and picks up a copy of the day’s paper. It is filled with pro-government propaganda, urging readers to vote the government back in for the next election. The paper boasted especially of the government’s accomplishments in decreasing crime in recent months. Then Alex sees a picture of himself, along with an article boasting of the effectiveness of the Ludovico Technique and promises of how the government would use it to create a new crime-free era. Disgusted, Alex throws the paper onto the floor.
Alex heads home to surprise his parents. He plans to go and listen to some lovely music in his room, and think about what to do with his life. On his way home, he notices the way that the neighborhood has been cleaned up. Nobody is loitering about, the wall art is no longer defaced, and the elevator is in perfect working order. But when he enters the apartment, he finds a strange man sitting with his parents at breakfast. His family is shocked and upset, thinking he has escaped from prison. The stranger, who turns out to be a lodger named Joe, speaks to Alex threateningly, having heard what a criminal he was.
Indignant and bent on reclaiming his place in the home, Alex goes to his former room to find that all has been changed there. All his possessions, including his beloved stereo system, have been taken away by police as part of the compensation for the victims. The room now belongs to Joe. Alex’s parents protest that they cannot kick Joe out, as he’s already paid his rent, and Joe for his part says that he loves Alex’s parents too much to allow them to take a wicked boy like him back into their home. Alex realizes he is not wanted, and leaves the house, crying that they won’t see him again.
Analysis of Part 3, Chapter 1
Alex now reenters the world after two years away and he sees that big changes have been made. The streets are now cleaner and eerily empty. The government boasts of the progress it has made in fighting crime, but Alex sees the empty propaganda for what it is. As in all dystopian science fiction, a promise of a paradise such as a “crime free future” is shown to have a horrific dark side. There is a price to be paid for cleaner streets, and that is the lack of freedom that people will have from this point forward. If the government is reelected, how many more citizens will undergo the Ludovico Technique and have their free will taken away?
Clearly, Alex has been used as a pawn by the government. His supposed “reclamation” was a part of their political agenda. Playing on people’s fears of violent crime is a popular gambit for any government. The government has used Alex in order to appear heroic in the eyes of a populace long terrorized by rampant outlaws, whom in fact the government probably allowed to roam free precisely in order to establish that terror in the first place.
The situation in Alex’s home may be read as parallel to what is happening in the society at large. The messy criminal element has been removed (i.e., Alex and his things) but replacing it is a threatening stranger, something like a false Big Brother to Alex, who claims he is there to protect Alex’s parents, but actually controls them. Behaving like the agent of a totalitarian state, the stranger preys upon Alex’s parents’ fears in order to suppress their natural instinct to accept and love their child. Alex belongs with his parents, as all young people do, but something is disturbingly wrong with the social order within that house, just as it is without.
Of course, Alex did wrong his parents, and another interpretation of this scene might be simply that he is finally getting what’s coming to him. All through Part 3, Alex experiences a reversal of fortunes as the characters he hurt in Part 1 now have their revenge.