A Clockwork Orange: Novel Summary: Part 1, Chapter 4

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The next morning Alex decides to spend the morning in bed, and tells his mother he’s got a headache. Sighing, she leaves his breakfast in the oven and goes to work. Like all adults who are neither pregnant nor ill, Alex’s parents are required by law to work jobs. Alex’s mother works in a Statemart, or government-run supermarket, and his father at a dyeworks.

 

Drifting off to sleep again, Alex has a nightmare. In the dream, he is standing in line in front of his friend Georgie, who seems old and is dressed like a general, requiring everyone to salute him. Georgie commands Dim to whip Alex, who screams for mercy and tries to escape. Alex wakes up to the sound of the electric doorbell.

 

At the door is P. R. Deltoid, Alex’s Post-Corrective Adviser, a tired and overworked man assigned to monitor Alex’s behavior. Deltoid has heard of the brawl at the Municipal Power Plant, and Alex’s name was mentioned. “Just watch it, that’s all, yes. We know more than you think, little Alex,” Deltoid warns, reminding Alex that next time he gets into trouble, he won’t go to the corrective school anymore but right into the “barry place,” or prison. Deltoid wonders aloud what is wrong with Alex and his friends. “You’ve got a good home here, good loving parents, you’ve got not too bad of a brain. Is it some devil that crawls inside you?”

 

Alex promises to keep out of trouble, but after seeing Deltoid out the door, he grins to himself. His real plan is not to stop doing wrong, but just not to get caught. Alex laughs about adults’ theories of why “Modern Youth” is so terrible. If he is bad, he thinks, it’s only because he likes to be bad, and nothing more. By trying to stop badness, the government is squelching people’s right to self-expression. He eats his breakfast and laughs some more as he reads in the paper an article on “Modern Youth” and what is wrong with them. The author mentions a lack of parental discipline and a shortage of good teachers. Alex thinks these theories are ridiculous. He recalls another article he’s read, written by a priest who blamed the adult world, with its wars and bombs and nonsense, for setting the devil on the innocent youth. This theory appeals to Alex as it absolves him of any blame.

 

As Alex gets dressed, he listens to classical music, and laughs again, thinking of another theory he’s read about, that young people could be civilized by exposure to the arts. Great poetry and great music were supposed to quiet Modern Youth down, but the opposite is true for Alex—music only sharpens him up and increases his urges.

 

Alex goes out, not to school but to the “disc-bootick,” where he’s going to buy a disc of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony (“Ode to Joy”). At the shop he spies two young girls also skipping school, sucking on popsicles as they browse the pop discs. The girls are no more than ten years old, but with padded bras and red lipstick. Alex decides to invite them back to his house for some fun, and give these two school-skipping youngsters a real “education.” After taking them out to lunch, he brings them back to his house, where he plies the girls with liquor and allows them to play their pop albums on his stereo. Then, stripped naked, he injects himself with drugs and rapes them. As their drunkenness wears off, the girls become upset at what is being done to them, and leave the house crying that he is a beast and hateful animal. Unconcerned, Alex drifts off to sleep to the echoes of “Ode to Joy.”

 

Analysis of Part 1, Chapter 4

This chapter invites discussion about the nature and cause of evil. Several ideas are presented for why the young people behave wickedly: it’s the fault of the parents, who fail to provide discipline; it’s the fault of the schools, which lack good teachers; it’s the devil, brought out by the evils of the modern world. But Alex believes it’s very uncomplicated: people do bad because they like to do it, just as people do good because they like to. To Alex, being bad is a completely natural and normal form of self-expression, which the government should not try to suppress.

 

Alex has had good parents, a good home, and the advantage of intelligence, but he still behaves horribly. There seems to be no explanation for his sadistic behavior, other than the fact that given the choice between good and evil, some people will naturally choose evil. While Alex may argue that his depraved behavior constitutes a heroic rebellion against the repressive State (“And is not our modern history, my brothers, the story of brave malenky selves fighting these big machines?”), he does what he does not to prove a point to the establishment, but simply because he likes it.

 

 

 

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