A Clockwork Orange (Film)

A Clockwork Orange (Film) Summary and Analysis of Chapter 15: Prisoner #655321 - Chapter 24: Your True Christian


A birds-eye view shot of a prison. Alex, through his voiceover, informs the audience that this is the tragic part of his story. Addressing himself in the third person, he tells us that he stood trial and was sentenced to 14 years in prison, locked up with perverts and hardened criminals. Alex says that his parents are understandably devastated. Still in his trial suit, a police officer brings Alex into the prison to start serving his sentence. When the Chief Guard asks him what his crime is, Alex smirks slightly as he replies, "murder". Alex is now to address every officer as "sir" and he will be known as "655321". In one long over-the-shoulder shot, Alex empties out his pockets. At another table, he answers the Chief Guard's medical questions while stripping off his clothing.

Cut to a close-up of the Prison Chaplain, who sternly encourages the prisoners to repent, reminding them that their sins will follow them into the afterlife. Alex is sitting at a table facing the "congregation". In a reverse shot, a middle-aged prisoner makes romantic overtures at Alex. The Chief Guard notices this and bristles. One of the prisoners lets out a loud burp, and everyone laughs, which infuriates the chaplain. He continues on with his vivid description of hell, which is soon interrupted by a fart. Alex, meanwhile, is submissively assisting the chaplain by scrolling through the lyrics of the hymns on a projector. In his voice-over, Alex says he has been in jail for two years and it has been brutal for him, especially as one of the younger prisoners. Cut to the library, where Alex is reading the Bible - he says he has become very interested in it.

Alex imagines Jesus, thorns on his head, carrying the Cross. He imagines himself dressed as a Roman solider, whipping Jesus as he walks. Alex is uninterested in the "preachy" parts of the Bible, but enjoys the parts that tell tales of bloody conflicts. Alex imagines himself slitting the throat of another soldier, and later, pictures himself lying beneath naked women who feed him grapes and fan him in a silken tent. The Prison Chaplain awakens Alex from his reverie and, thinking him deep in prayer, they recite scripture together. The Prison Chaplain compliments Alex's genuine desire to reform. In private, Alex asks the Prison Chaplain if he can be considered for a rumored new treatment that is supposed to get prisoners out and ensure that they are never imprisoned again. The Prison Chaplain asserts that the Prison Governor has serious doubts about the Ludovico technique, and that it is still experimental. Alex claims that he just wants to be "good".

Cut outside to a tiny prison yard, where all the prisoners walk in a tight circle, heads down. Meanwhile, four men in suits walk down the sterile, cement hallway of cells. The Minister enters Alex's cell and looks around. It is covered in photos of naked women, with a bust of Beethoven on his desk. Back outside, a prison guard lines up all the prisoners in a line against the wall. In a deep focus shot with Alex's profile in the foreground, the four suited men, including the Prison Chaplain, the Prison Governor, and the Minister, walk along the line of prisoners. The Minister supports "killing the criminal reflex", and Alex vocally agrees. The Minister considers Alex, and upon hearing about his crime, decides "he'll do" and says that Alex will be transformed beyond all recognition.

Alex comes to the Governor's office, who explains that the man he spoke to was the new Minister of the Interior. Even though the Prison Governor does not approve of reformation, Alex will be transferred to the Ludovico Institute. Presumably, Alex will be free in a few days. He signs a contract that says he is willing to submit to the Ludovico treatment.

The next morning, Alex narrates, he is transferred to the Ludovico Institute. The hospital exterior is gray concrete hospital, which gives it a prison-like feel. Alex is on his best behavior as he is released. The Chief Guard warns the admitting doctor about Alex's brutal nature, but he doesn't seem overly concerned. Later, Alex eats breakfast and reads the paper in a hospital bed. Dr. Branom arrives and speaks to Alex about his treatment. She is friendly, and tells him that he is going to get an injection after each meal because he is undernourished. Dr. Branom tells Alex that the treatment consists of watching films - and he is amused.

The next scene contains the most iconic images from A Clockwork Orange. Alex sits on a chair at the front of a nearly-empty movie theater, with a line of doctors sitting in the back row. Alex is bound in a straight jacket and there are several wires attached to his head. A doctor clips Alex's eyelids open, forcing him to keep staring at the screen in front of him. The first film shows men dressed like Alex and his droogs beating up a man. In his voiceover, Alex praises the realism of the film, especially the sound. As a doctor puts drops in his eyes, Alex smiles, calling the violence "beautiful". Then, during the next film, while watching the "droogs" rape a woman on screen, Alex starts to feel extremely sick. He cannot shut his eyes, and asks to get up - he's going to vomit. In the back of the theater, Dr. Brodsky informs his colleagues that because of the drugs he has been given, Alex is feeling terrified, as if he were about to die. This is the treatment - Alex's body will automatically become helplessly ill and scared whenever he witnesses or tries to commit violence.

Cut to Alex's point of view as he sits in bed, sipping tea. Dr. Branom tells him that the next day, he will have two sessions back-to-back. Alex finds the treatment brutal, and wonders why he feels so awful when committing acts of violence used to make him feel so "horrorshow". Dr. Branom informs Alex that he feels sick because his body is learning that violence is horrible, and that is part of his path towards becoming healthy. Cut back to the films, which show scenes of the Nazis' brutality. The score is the same pop recording of Ode to Joy from the record store scene. Alex says he is trying to be cooperative as best he can. This time, however, they start playing the 9th Symphony over the horrible imagery. Alex screams for relief - calling it a sin to associate Ludwig van Beethoven with ultra-violence. He claims desperately that he is cured, but Dr. Brodsky continues on with the treatment.

Cut to a wide shot of a darkened room where several men are sitting on chairs in front of a makeshift stage. Alex, dressed in a suit, is standing on the stage quietly while The Minister of the Interior addresses the audience, announcing that "the subject" is not drugged, or hypnotized, but simply cured of his criminal behavior. To demonstrate, an actor comes on stage and starts assaulting Alex. Alex tries to retaliate but he is overcome by crippling illness. He lies on the ground, the actor's shoe in his chest, begging to be let up. The actor forces Alex to lick his shoe clean. The audience looks on, impressed. The actor takes a bow while Alex writhes on the ground.

Next, a topless woman comes onto the stage and walks towards Alex. He describes feeling sexual desire, and reaches up towards her breasts, but suddenly, the sickness comes over him again like a wave. He crumples to the ground. The woman leaves and the audience applauds. In the audience, the Chief Guard's eyes nearly jump out of their sockets. Then, the prison Chaplain stands and says that the treatment has rendered Alex incapable of making moral choices; rather, he only abstains from violence because he is afraid of feeling ill. The Minister retaliates by saying that the purpose of this treatment is to reduce crimes and overcrowding in prisons - and in that, it is successful. Alex smiles broadly and the next day, he is free.


Despite his loss of power over his life in this section, Kubrick keeps Alex firmly in charge of the narrative of A Clockwork Orange. As Alex narrates to the audience, addressing us once again as his "brothers and only friends", this is the tragic part of his story. We don't see the trial, but rather, only hear about it from Alex's perspective - who only informs us about the "hard words spoken against [our] friend and humble narrator" and laments that he has been imprisoned amongst "smelly perverts" and "hardened prestoopniks". This introduction to Alex's life in prison is further evidence of the fact that Alex does not actually see himself as a hardened criminal. He never expresses regret for his actions - only for the circumstances of his imprisonment. This is evident when the Chief Guard asks Alex about the nature of his crime - and he responds 'murder' with his signature Alex smirk.

In prison, Kubrick films Alex in a less aggrandizing way than he did when Alex was free to unleash his terror. In the first shot of the prison, Alex is tiny, framed within the frame in a barred doorway. This shot is in marked contrast to the shot where he enters the record store earlier in the film. The record store shot is filmed with a wide-angle lens, keeping Alex in the center of the frame, and he motivates the camera movement - as it tracks backwards to follow him through the store. (This kind of shot, by the way, is pure Kubrick). In the prison, however, this theatricality behind the camera is gone. In a series of stationary shots, where Alex is hemmed in on either side by the officers, our protagonist is "stripped of his possessions and clothing, and implicitly - his identity, his name replaced by a number, [and] he is forced to suppress his wry intelligence and individuality" (Priestley).

While Alex certainly plays the part of a reformed man, pledging his newfound devotion to the Bible, Kubrick reveals the inner workings of Alex's mind. While Alex reads the Bible, he imagines himself as a Roman soldier whipping Christ on his way to Calvary and slitting other soldier's necks. Moments later, Alex tells the Prison Chaplain that all he wants is to "do good". The Prison Chaplain actually becomes Alex's most genuine defender, and his point of view embodies the film's thesis. He advocates for the power of choice. Anthony Burgess said of the novel, "I had tried to write... a sort of allegory of Christian free will... Man is defined by his capacity to choose courses of moral action. If he chooses good, he must have the possibility of choosing evil instead...".

In prison, Alex loses control of his space and his life - and then, the Ludovico treatment robs him of his power of choice as well, turning "him into a cringing, puking wimp" (McDougal 33). During the demonstration of the Ludovico technique, Alex wants to hit the actor who insults him, and he wants to touch the woman's breasts - but he is physically unable to. The only thing about Alex that has changed is his ability to do what he wants - but he has not lost his desire to do the things that led to his imprisonment in the first place. The Prison Chaplain stands up for Alex - because his nature has been changed by force, and not by choice. However, all the Minister cares about is that the treatment works - Alex can no longer commit crimes.

The Ludovico treatment, Stuart Y. McDougal writes, "becomes the metafictional moment that forces us to reflect on our own activity as film viewers" (McDougal 6). Alex's eyes are clipped open, and we - along with him - must "viddy" random acts of violence as they unfold across the screen. Susan Rice labels Stanley Kubrick a practitioner of the Ludovico technique himself - "our eyes clamped open to witness the horrors that Kubrick parades across the screen" (McDougal 37). However, this seems to be the core of Kubrick's point of view. A Clockwork Orange is a "work of irony," Kolker writes, "It invites us to take multiple views of its subject, to take pleasure of a world which, if it actually existed, would cause us to flee in terror and therefore admit to its artificiality" (35).

The theatrical nature of the mise-en-scene in this section underlines Kolker's point. While Alex is receiving the Ludovico treatment, he is sitting in a large, empty movie theater. He is directly in front of the screen, while his doctors are sitting in the back of the theater, watching him. These are deliberate choices, making the treatment appear more like entertainment than a medical procedure. Similarly, the 'demonstration' also takes place on a stage, with both of the people who try to provoke Alex - the "lick my shoe" man and the topless woman - taking large, theatrical bows as if they have completed a masterful performance.