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A Clockwork Orange: Chapter One Analysis

Categories: A Clockwork Orange

One gets an initial impression of Alex and his friends from the first page: Alex says, “There was me… and my three droogs”. Immediately this suggests that he and his friends are close, like a gang, and this leads on to the idea of conflict. The closeness of Alex and his friends is elaborated upon throughout the chapter. He frequently uses the phrase “The four of us” and, when speaking to Pete, Georgie and Dim, he says, “Oh my brothers”. Their close camaraderie is summed up on page six, where Alex describes it as being “usually one for all and all for one”.

Then he begins to describe three “devotchkas”, whom one presumes to be members of a rival gang (the reader is told that Alex and his friends are “malchicks”). There is no brevity in Alex’s description, and he goes into detail when describing the clothes and make-up. It is likely here that Alex has a certain respect for these gang members, indicated by his lengthy description of their bright uniforms, and by the fact that he speculates on the large cost of these uniforms.

But there is also a clear element of mockery. This is especially apparent in the sentence “These were supposed to be…

“, with an emphasis on the word “suppose”. He is putting the credulity of the gang into doubt, debunking their claims. This is quite childish in some respects, and reminds the reader of his tender age. Alex and his “droogs” also wear uniforms, and Burgess describes them in a way that makes them unique to those four – by telling the reader what design each of the four had for their “jelly mould”, he is putting them apart from the rest of the world, giving them a uniqueness and style that no one else possesses.

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The uniforms are also a barrier between them and the rest of the world.

This is also true of the “maskies” that the four often wear. As well as the more practical use of hiding their face from recognition, the masks separate the boys from the rest of society, making them stand out, and perhaps feel superior. Also, the outrageous costumes, to choose a better word, are a clear symbol of rebellion. It is ironic, therefore, that the boys wear them, as uniforms have always been associated with conformity. The language of the boys is the most successful at suggesting conflict with the outside. To begin with, the words are very harsh.

Hard sounds, especially obvious with the many Ks, make the words infinitely more savage. The language used to describe other people is degrading: old women are “ptitsas” and men are “vecks”. The boys do not use this language when speaking to people who are not involved in gang warfare. To the man coming out of the library, Alex is polite and uses mostly understandable language. It is obviously because he is mocking the man, but it is also possibly because he would not understand (since it seems that he speaks normally). So this is their language, something they use to each other.

This is a straightforward example of their conflict with the “outside”. But the language not only acts as a barrier between the four boys and the older members of society: it also acts as a barrier between the boys and the readers. For anyone starting the book for the first time, the words used are baffling, and it takes a lot of getting used to. What is more, Alex feels the need to explain what some of the words mean: “… a rooker (a hand, that is)”. It is at this point that the readers become, in effect, a part of the society that Alex is rebelling against. We are on the outside.

Finally, the language is used in such an extraordinary way, that it alienates us even further. It is in some instances quite chilling. Words like “poogly” are very childish; the best example is “appy polly loggies”, which is some corrupted baby version of the word “apologies”. It contrasts the stark violence of the book, giving it an even more savage tone. It is a strange mixture for Alex to use, reminding the reader that he is young. Plus, not only does it make the reader aware of the conflict Alex has with society, but also the deep struggle that is going on in Alex’s mind. 1.

What impressions are we given of the society and the environment presented in chapter one? Use examples. (10 marks) The first impression one gets when reading about Alex’s world is what an absolutely seedy place it must be. The “Korova Milkbar” sounds very entertaining but rather run down, and one is informed that it is one of many “mestos”. Obviously it sells milk, but reading further on, one is told that this milk is “plus something else”, that something else being hallucinogenic drugs of some sort. It is then that one gets an idea of the depravity of the society in which Alex lives.

Alex then mentions what he and his friends do to obtain money: either they can beat someone up in an alley and empty his pockets, or they can “do the ultra violent” on an elderly woman in a shop and steal the money from the till. One realises that, fairly obviously, something has gone wrong with the world in Alex’s time. Various violent and criminal topics follow, such as gang warfare and the description of a drug-induced “high”. It paints a morbid picture of a world in which violence reigns supreme, where there are no rules any more and society has disintegrated.

This is backed up by the fact that any kind of law enforcement is not mentioned until later in the chapter. These “millicents” are obviously not important and Alex and his friends can easily outsmart them. So, in effect, there is no law enforcement. Early on, the only indication that some sort of legal system exists is the fact that “mestos” were not licensed to sell liquor (which does not seem to stop them any way). Another aspect of society that is not missing, but seems unpopular, is that of literature.

Alex reports that “newspapers {are not} read much” – whether this is because of illiteracy or just lack of interest, one is unsure. The Public Biblio, which is the derelict-sounding municipal library, was something that “not many lewdies used those days”. Again, the reason why is not clear. Owing to the other “past-times” of the day, namely ultra-violent criminal activities, it is likely that nobody is interested in literature any more. This certainly fits in with the way in which Alex and his friends persecute a man just because they saw him coming out of the library with books in his hand.

However, there are references to institutions that seem very active in the Alex’s world. The first is the health service. A “rozz” informs the gang that there have been “two hospitalizations”. The fact that the hospitals in Alex’s world are busy is blatantly obvious, due to the height of criminal activity. One is unsure of how efficient these hospitals are. In a State-run society such as this, one would imagine they were very inefficient indeed. The other institution that is still up and running is school.

Alex himself tells us that he must go to school the following morning, and we later learn that this is a corrective school. Overall, the world in Alex’s day seems extremely bleak. Wherever Alex is, it is clearly a police state, where individual rights and freedoms do not stand for much. The older, and in some ways, unnecessary institutions, such as the library system and newspapers, seem to have lost appeal completely, presumably replaced by “worldcasts” and “Milkbars”. It does not sound like somewhere anybody would actually want to live.

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A Clockwork Orange: Chapter One Analysis. (2017, Aug 07). Retrieved from

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