A Clockwork Orange

A Clockwork Orange Summary and Analysis of Part Two, Chapters 1-4

Part Two, Chapter 1 Summary:

Alex is now in State Jail Number 84F, where he is identified as "6655321." He skims over the events two years ago that led to this - his parents' grief, his lower court meeting, his time in custody, and his trial, where he was sentenced for 14 years. In prison, he has had to deal with brutal wardens, homosexual prisoners, and mindless labor. He has learned from his parents that Georgie was killed during a robbery.

Alex plays solemn music on the stereo for the chaplain in the Wing Chapel on Sunday morning. The chaplain asks the prisoners if they will continue to remain criminals and end up in Hell, or if they will repent and become religious. A minor disturbance provokes the guards to beat up some prisoners. Alex relates that the chaplain took him under his wing when Alex got interested in the Bible. As part of his education, he is allowed to listen to classical music on the chapel stereo while he reads the Bible. The sex and violence in the Bible appeals to him most.

The prisoners end the sermon by singing a hymn. After they leave, the chaplain asks Alex for news from the prisoners; he uses this information to gain the good graces of the Governor for career advancement. Alex lies about a cocaine shipment and asks to be given the new treatment he has heard about that quickly frees the prisoner and ensures he remains free. The chaplain says that the treatment - Ludovico's Technique - is still in the experimental stage, and he doubts whether a technique can make a man good, since goodness is chosen. Alex is sent back to his cramped cell with an assortment of despicable prisoners.


"'What's it going to be, eh?'" is asked at the start of Part Two, as it was in Part One. In Part One, Alex asked his gang what crimes they would commit that night; here the chaplain asks the prisoners what they will make of their lives. The question invites the listener to exercise his free will, since it gives him the power to decide what his future will be. However, in this case the chaplain asks and does not expect a response, nor does he even want one, as evidenced by the guards' action at the first sound of noise. Despite this question, the prisoners' free will remains severely limited.

Nevertheless, the chaplain does have some profound philosophical thoughts, and he spells out the major theme of the novel: "'Goodness is something chosen. When a man cannot choose he ceases to be a man.'" Burgess shares his doubts that forced goodness is equal to chosen goodness. Without free will, whatever goodness humans have is inauthentic and inhuman.

We also see further evidence of depersonalization in the novel. Alex is given number 6655321 for his identity and his address is no longer flatblock number 18A but State Jail Number 84F. The last three digits of his identity number add up to 6, while the number of digits, seven, is equal to the number of chapters per part; this lends some symmetry to the number as a whole, and reinforces the structural symmetry of the novel that will reveal itself in Part Three.

Part Two, Chapter 2 Summary:

A new prisoner's homosexual advances on Alex provoke a fight, and his cellmates back him up. They beat up the prisoner, then hold him while Alex beats him into unconsciousness. Alex has a nightmare of playing in an orchestra. In the morning, he finds that the prisoner is dead. The prisoners blame each other, but they put most of the accountability on Alex's shoulders. They tell this to the guards, and later the Governor and the Minister of the Interior visit Alex. The Governor says "'Common criminals'" such as Alex need to be cured of their criminal reflexes, and the Minister of the Interior says the Governor can use Alex as a "'trailblazer.'" Tomorrow, he says, a man Brodsky will deal with him.


The Minister of the Interior refers to the criminal impulse as a "'reflex'" that needs curing. The word "reflex" implies his belief that prisoners do not exercise free will in choosing immorality; they do it unconsciously, reflexively, in a way that seems predetermined. Hence, it makes sense that "'Punishment means nothing to them'"; if the prisoner has exercised evil unconsciously, then the threat of punishment is not a valuable deterrent. Only if the prisoner has consciously balanced the gains and costs of exercising immorality and receiving punishment can punishment act as a deterrent, since he may decide that the punishment is not worth the satisfaction of the criminal act.

He has a point, much as it conflicts with Burgess's views. Alex shows little remorse for the prisoner's murder, much as he shrugged off his murder of the old woman (caring more, instead, about his prison sentence). While Alex has expressed his free choice to do evil, there does seem to be something mechanical about his actions. Nevertheless, he exercises some free will in his immorality regardless of his lack of reflection after the fact, and this is what is important. Perhaps the retrospective contemplation of why one has done good or bad is more a sign of maturity rather than an absolute indicator of free will.

Part Two, Chapter 3 Summary:

Alex is taken to the Governor's office at night. The Governor admits he does not like the new orders for Alex; he believes in eye-for-an-eye justice, and thinks the State should "'hit back'" at criminals rather than try and convert them from "'the bad into the good.'" He informs Alex that he is to be "'reformed'" by a man named Brodsky tomorrow, and should be out of jail in two weeks. Alex signs a paper for his "Reclamation Treatment."

Alex is sent to the chaplain, who confidentially tells him he is against the treatment, which will eliminate Alex's desire to "'commit acts of violence or to offend in any way whatsoever against the State's Peace.'" Alex claims it will be nice to be good, though he does not really believe this. The chaplain warns him that it may not be, since perhaps choice is more important than goodness. Still, he hopes that by choosing to be deprived of the ability to make ethical choices, Alex has somewhat chosen goodness. The chaplain, worried about Alex, cries and pours himself a drink.

The next morning, Alex is sent to a new building nearby that resembles a hospital. Dr. Branom, assistant to Dr. Brodsky, signs Alex in, and sends him off to a clean bedroom, where he changes into new pajamas. As Dr. Branom examines Alex, he explains that they will show Alex "'special films,'" and that after every meal he will receive a shot in the arm. After he leaves, Alex thinks about getting a gang together after he is freed to hunt down Pete and Dim; he will be careful not to get caught again, since the State has gone to so much trouble to reform him. He is fed a good meal, and later a pretty nurse gives him a shot. He finds himself weak afterward, and a male nurse pushes him off in a wheelchair.


The chaplain continues to spell out the major theme of the novel: that the ability to choose, even if the choice is evil, is more important than forced goodness. He does bring up the infinitely cycling possibility that choosing to not choose somehow overrides the eventual lack of free will. However, the human still chooses to lose his humanity and become a clockwork orange in this case, so the initial choice is lost, as is the humanity associated with it.

Alex makes an unintentional pun when he says that the vitamins "would put me right." While he thinks the vitamins will help his health, he does not realize that they will be instrumental in literally putting him in the right - making him good. Burgess ominously foreshadows the treatment for the reader and Alex - a combination of the "'special films'" and the shots - but Alex, who is now the unknowing innocent, does not understand what exactly Ludovico's Technique comprises.

Moreover, he has not understood what his punishment has meant. He promises to be careful not to get caught for crimes after he is freed, since the State has done so much to make him good. Of course, not getting caught is not the point of rehabilitation; not wanting to commit any more crimes is. This is Burgess's counterpoint to his argument; with incorrigible criminals, perhaps the only pragmatic solution is to force them to become good.

Part Two, Chapter 4 Summary:

Alex is wheeled to the unconventional movie theater; a bank of little meters is on one of the walls, and a dentist's-style chair with protruding wires faces the screen in the middle of the floor. Still weak, Alex is helped into the chair. He thinks he sees and hears people behind the film projection holes in the back. One of the three doctors straps Alex's head to the chair to keep his head still and force him to watch the screen; Alex does not understand, since he wants to look at the films. The doctors also clip Alex's eyelids to keep them open. The doctors say the film will be "'A real show of horrors'" and stick wire-laden suction pads on Alex's head, stomach, and heart.

Dr. Brodsky enters, and the lights go out and the film starts. The film graphically depicts two young men beating up an old man. As Alex watches this, he feels physically unwell, and attributes this to his malnourishment. The next film displays a brutal gang rape. Alex feels much worse despite knowing the films cannot be real, and when the film finishes, Dr. Brodsky makes a statistical note of Alex's reaction. A third film shows brutal violence done to a human face. Alex feels even worse, especially since he cannot vomit for some reason and cannot avert his propped-open eyes. The fourth film is of an old woman beating beaten and burned alive. Alex begs the doctors to allow him to vomit, but they assure him the films are not real. He watches the next film about Japanse torture in World War II, and begs the doctors to stop the film. They laugh and tell him they have hardly started.


Ludovico's Technique is finally exposed in the exact midpoint of the novel (note that the original British edition has 21 chapters as opposed to 20 in the American edition; this is the 13th chapter and therefore the midpoint). The reader understands that the "vitamins" Alex believes he has received have something to do with his intense negative reaction to the films. It appears that the doctors are conditioning Alex to equate violence and criminality with displeasure. Alex's free will to watch the films at the beginning is quickly undermined and, by the end of the chapter, he has no free will over either his reactions or the doctors' actions.

The choice of a war torture film is not incidental on Burgess's part; the doctors are sadistic torturers themselves, reveling in their violent experimentation on Alex. Their sarcastic remarks to the helpless victim are reminiscent of the sarcasm Alex and his gang used on their victims. Moreover, their act of forcing Alex's eyes open is similar to Alex's forcing the man from the "HOME" cottage to watch the rape of his wife. (Note that in that scene, the man's glasses "were cracked but still hanging on," ensuring he could still see the action.)

A few ironic puns shed more light on this chapter. One of the doctors calls the films "'A real show of horrors'" in response to Alex's slang usage of "'horrorshow.'" Alex's long-standing association of goodness ("horrorshow" means "good" or "well") with horror and with sight comes back to hurt him. In addition, the slang for cinema, "sinny," alludes to the sin prevalent in the films. That the doctors' method of mind-control is film (and government-produced film, at that) reminds us of Alex's disdain for television and Statefilm as methods of mass media mind-control.