A Clockwork Orange: Novel Summary: Part 3, Chapter 6
Part 3, Chapter 6
Alex’s leap from the window does not kill him, although, as he lies on the sidewalk about to pass out from the pain, he realizes that had been his new friends’ intention all along. They wanted Alex to commit suicide so they could blame the State.
Alex comes to in a hospital bed, bandaged up, broken bones splinted, and with some of his teeth missing. His first thoughts are thoughts of lust for the nurse seated at his bedside. In the hospital, Alex is visited by the chaplain, who says he has left the Staja in protest and is out preaching sermons against what was done to Alex, his little beloved son in Jesus. Next, Alex is visited by the three friends of F. Alexander, D. B. da Silva, Rubenstein, and Z. Dolin, who show him clips from their propaganda newspapers and reassure him that he has killed the government’s chances at reelection.
Alex drifts back into unconsciousness, but is vaguely aware of what seem like dreams. He has the idea of his body being emptied out and filled again, and then he dreams of being in a stolen car running people down, with no pain or sickness, and raping girls and everyone cheering.
He wakes up to find his parents come to see him, crying. They blame themselves for Alex’s situation and tell him that he can come home. Joe, the lodger, has been a victim of police brutality and has gone back to his hometown to get better. Alex speaks very disrespectfully to his parents, telling his mother to stop crying or he’ll kick her teeth in, and then warning them that if he comes home, they’ll have to accept him as the boss.
When his parents leave, Alex realizes that something has changed, and that he is now able to have violent thoughts without any negative consequence. He asks the nurse how long he’s been there and whether any doctors have been playing with his head. She says he’s been there a week or so and that whatever the doctors have done, it’s all for the best.
A few days later, doctors arrive to show Alex pictures and ask what he thinks of each. Shown a bird’s nest full of eggs, Alex says he’d like to smash them. Shown a peacock, Alex says he’d like to pull out all its feathers. Shown pictures of attractive girls, Alex responds that he would like to rape them; shown pictures of a beating, Alex says that he’d like to participate. Finally, the doctors show Alex a picture of Jesus carrying a cross up a hill, and he responds that he’d like to have the hammer and nails. To all of Alex’s responses, the doctors say “Good.” They tell him that he seems to be cured as a result of “deep hypnopaedia.”
Several days later, Alex receives a special visit from the Minister of the Interior, along with an entourage of photographers and reporters. Although the newly “recovered” Alex speaks to him disrespectfully, the Minister tells him that they are good friends now. He explains that the State never meant him any harm, and that F. Alexander, who did mean Alex harm, has been put away for Alex’s protection. The Minister and Alex have their photos taken together, looking very friendly. Finally, Alex is presented with the gift of a shiny new stereo and allowed to listen to the “glorious Ninth.” Given a paper to sign, Alex does so without caring what the paper says. Alex listens in rapture to his music, imagining himself cutting up the face of the whole world with his cut-throat razor, and thrilling to the knowledge that he is cured, all right.
Analysis of Part 3, Chapter 6
Alex’s freedom of choice has been restored, or so it would seem. Actually, Alex’s nasty behavior still does not seem like something he is choosing; it seems that he is behaving this way reflexively, like a consciousless child. Alex is more unlikable than ever in this chapter, leading the reader to wonder if he really was better off as he was after the Ludovico Technique.
In the aftermath of the suicide attempt, the subversives at first believe they have won, and it looks like the Minister of the Interior will be forced out. However, their victory is short-lived as the State reasserts control and locks up their mouthpiece, F. Alexander. Alex’s photos with the Minister will be published showing that the State and Alex are friends, and with the help of their well-oiled propaganda machine, the current government seems set to win the reelection.
In American editions of the book published prior to 1986, the book ends at this point, with its final chapter omitted. It was thought by Burgess’s American publisher that this dark ending was more effective than the more hopeful, happier ending Burgess wrote. Editions published in Britain and elsewhere did include the final, twenty-first chapter, as do more recent American editions.
Ending the book at the twentieth chapter seems to change the message of the story, so that it either can be seen to endorse violence, as it ends with the triumph of evil, or conversely, to favor mind control, as one could easily think society is better off with Alex as a conditioned zombie. The true message of the novel, though, is the same whether the last chapter is omitted or not. Of mindless violence and behavioral reconditioning, neither one is good. However, it is always preferable to allow a person free will, even if that person wills to bad, than to deprive one of free will and force him or her to do good. Alex has made a choice to be disrespectful and violent, but it is his choice, his free expression. As the chaplain said earlier in the novel, a man who chooses the bad may perhaps be better than a man who has the good imposed upon him.