A Clockwork Orange: Novel Summary: Part 3, Chapter 7

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“What’s it going to be then, eh?” Alex asks his new droogs, Len, Rick, and Bully. Alex has gone back to his former life, this time a bit older and with a job at the National Gramodisc Archives. The gang is at the Korova Milkbar, drinking drugged milk and getting sharpened up for the night’s activities. As before, Alex and his gang are dressed in the heighth of fashion, which has changed somewhat in two years, but still includes big boots for kicking. There is pop music playing in the bar, young and sexy devotchkas, and as before, a young man spaced out on hallucinogenic drugs, whom Alex punches on his way out the door.

 

Alex is feeling bored and hopeless. Often now, he only gives orders to his gang to commit crimes, but doesn’t commit any himself. Spying an old man coming from a newsstand, Alex lets the others do all the work of beating him up.

 

The group goes to the Duke of New York, where the same old baboochkas sit waiting to be bought drinks. Only today, Alex doesn’t feel like paying. His friends ask him what’s wrong with him today. Finally, knowing it’s expected, he gives in, and puts his money up on the bar, but says that instead of his usual Scotch, he’ll have a small beer. Bully sees, among the money Alex has put up on the bar, a picture of a baby cut out from the newspaper. His friends laugh while Alex snarls and tears up the picture.

 

Now Alex criticizes his friends, saying they are the babies, for going around laughing and hitting people that can’t defend themselves. Then, looking at his beer, he suddenly feels sick and dumps it out onto the floor. He says he’s not feeling well and will go home to be on his own and think things out. Bully says he’s sorry, but really he’s excited to be the leader for the night.

 

Alex heads home, noting the presence of the police in the streets. He thinks that the stealing and ultraviolence is dying out now, the police being so brutal with the ones they caught. But he doesn’t much care. Something is happening to him. Even the music he listens to now is different, more romantic. He worries he’s going crazy.

 

Thinking this, Alex envisions himself as a very old man sitting before a fire with a cup of tea. He doesn’t know what to think of this vision. He passes by a tea shop and goes inside. There he sees his old droog Pete seated with a beautiful girl, whom he introduces as his wife. Alex is stunned that Pete is already married. Pete is changed. He no longer speaks in the childish slang, and both he and his wife Georgina have jobs. They excuse themselves to go to a party, “mostly wine-cup and word-games…harmless, if you see what I mean,” Pete explains.

 

With Pete and his wife gone, Alex starts to think. He’s already eighteen, and maybe he’s just too old for the kind of life he’s been leading. Mozart had already written concerts and symphonies by that age; Arthur Rimbaud had written all his best poetry. Alex has another vision, this time of coming home to find his wife there, with dinner on the table, and there in the next room, what he really wanted, a baby, a child of his own, his son. Youth must go, Alex realizes. And youth, really, is a state of being like a wind-up toy, banging into things helplessly. Alex will teach his son all about that when he’s old enough to understand—but then, he probably won’t understand, or won’t want to understand, and will probably do all the bad things Alex did, maybe even kill some old lady with cats, and Alex would not be able to stop him, because that is the way that the world goes.

 

Alex decides that it’s time to start a new chapter in his life, of finding the mother for his children. “That’s what it’s going to be, then,” he says, and here is where his story ends: “Alex like groweth up, oh yes.”

                   

Analysis of Part 3, Chapter 7

The book comes full circle with Alex back in the same life of two years ago. There are his three droogs, Len, Rick, and Bully, just younger versions of Georgie, Pete, and Dim; they’re still dressed in the “heighth of fashion,” and all their activities are the same. However, Alex is bored. At the age of eighteen, he is ready to grow up. Alex’s story ends with Alex’s coming of age, and Burgess intentionally had this happen in the twenty-first chapter, twenty-one being the age of majority. Burgess indicates that all of Alex’s bad behavior in the past was simply a result of immaturity, a state that is really not free, as the person is knocked about by impulses he cannot control. Left on his own, Alex—seemingly a machine of destruction, but actually a creature capable of growth and sweetness—grew out of this immature state and has the capacity for self-reflection. He can now make free, rational choices of how he wants to live. Perhaps given a new perspective after his own experience of suffering, Alex now sees that he and his droogs’ abuse of helpless victims is really cowardly. He also sees that, unlike composers such as Mozart and poets such as Rimbaud, they have done nothing meaningful with their lives. Now he would like to change his life and start to build a future.

 

Explaining Alex’s desire for destruction, Burgess wrote, “Evil has to exist along with good, in order that moral choice may operate….Unfortunately there is so much original sin in us all that we find evil rather attractive. To devastate is easier and more spectacular than to create.” Perhaps now that Alex is mature, he has gained the patience to create rather than destroy, and thus the desire for a son, a child, the ultimate creation possible.

 

In his 1986 introduction to his novel, Burgess wrote that a creature who can only perform good or evil is “a clockwork orange—meaning that he has the appearance of an organism lovely with colour and juice, but is in fact only a clockwork toy to be wound up by God or the Devil or (since this is increasingly replacing both) the Almighty State.” Before the Ludovico Technique, Alex could only perform evil. After it, he could only perform good. As a mature adult, he will come into his own.

 

It may surprise readers that Alex, previously an unrepentant sociopath who delighted in raping and ripping, is ultimately capable of change. However, Burgess saw this as the point of the book. He wrote: “There is…not much point in writing a novel unless you can show the possibility of moral transformation, or an increase in wisdom, operating in your chief character or characters.” By showing this transformation in one who seems beyond redemption, the final chapter of A Clockwork Orange emphasizes the importance of moral choice. No matter how wicked a person is, there is always the possibility of change through free will.

 

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