Power In The First Part Of A Clockwork Orange Essay
Power In The First Part Of A Clockwork Orange
The opening of the novel is the line “What’s it going to be then, ey? ” This is clearly something that is said by someone in an authoritative position and we learn in the next sentence that this is Alex. He is our narrator and this gives him a certain amount of power as he can choose what he wants to tell us as readers. Burgess also shows Alex’s power through the various violent attacks he perpetrates on people who we would consider to be in a position of more authority than Alex is in our own society.
The first of these instances is the attack upon a schoolteacher, which is a clear and obvious indicator that this society is very wrong. At the tender age of fifteen, it would be considered totally inconceivable that Alex would not only attack, but also humiliate a man who relies upon respect from youths in order to do his job. The physical power the gang have over the teacher is almost a way of compensating for Alex and his gang feeling threatened intellectually and in this sense the teacher is the more powerful.
This idea of physical versus intellectual power is explored again when the gang leave the town centre to seek victims in the suburbs. When they find the writer and his wife, they destroy the book and beat the couple into teary subordination. These actions are lead by Alex who is portrayed as an almost psychotic intellectual and so dislikes the idea of not understanding the “fair gloopy title” of the book. I believe he is also prone to paranoia because he gets angry at the merest suggestion of someone being more intelligent or cultured than himself.
As a totally egocentric way of asserting his power, Alex also beats up a drunk who is stumbling around and singing because he found him “disgusting”. This does not show any correlation to the other attacks as there is obviously no intellectual challenge from this man and so this attack is purely a confidence boost and has no real reason at all. Aside from their physical power, Alex and his gang also command a certain amount of fear amongst the elderly folk at the pub they visit.
They are able, through brash bribery and intimidation, to get a room full of adults to comply with their wishes fairly easily even though no violence is used, or even suggested. This shows that the gangs of youths roaming the streets are infamous and that the civilised society they prey upon is doing little, if anything, to stop them. The power presented to us here, or lack of it, is the state’s diminished power over criminals of a violent and numerous nature. This is further demonstrated when Alex and his gang come across a rival gang in a desolate place where their laws are obeyed e.
g. survival of the fittest. The power each gang has over the other is decided in a very fitting way considering what is done with this power because the gang who can cause the most injury and pain wins the power to carry on doing so to other people outside the gang wars. One such unfortunate victim is the old woman who is the last of Alex’s victims as a free man. The gang, and Alex, assume they have unrivalled power over the old woman not only because of her age but also because they see themselves as untouchably strong in fights and aggression.
However, Alex’s power seems to be with his gang because, contrary to his own beliefs, he finds he cannot do the robbery alone and is shocked to find the old woman beating him with a stick. This is a very strange thing to happen to Alex as he sees himself as above the possibility of actually getting hurt. However, it is clear that this invulnerable character is only as such when he is supported by his gang, who are given very little credit throughout the first half of the novel for their various roles within the crimes.
The utterly surreal struggle for power and control between the old woman and the young but hardened criminal ends with a swift blow to the head from Alex and so we see his physical power keeping him in control yet again. However, the authorities finally get Alex under their control through (ironically) fairly violent methods. The police are portrayed as fighting fire with fire, so to speak, as they beat Alex and humiliate him just as he had done to so many before.
This is cleverly done by Burgess as this lets the reader see how these people, who are fighting against Alex and the culture he represents, are actually no better than him in a moral sense as they get their power in exactly the same way e. g. through violent beatings and intimidation. Another example of role reversal is the relationship between P. R Deltoid and Alex both before and after his arrest. Prior to the arrest, Alex was very dismissive of P. R Deltoid’s warnings and cared little about what he had to say, as he was untouchable and would never be caught, as he was such an intelligent young man.
However once he realises how much trouble he really is in, he becomes very meek and humble before P. R Deltoid and asks him for help. It is then that P. R Deltoid becomes the one who does not care and, in his position of power over Alex, spits in face. This is an act usually saved for use by the very lowest of people and is yet more evidence of the hypocritical use of humiliating actions on Alex by the people who are supposed to be putting an end to these actions.
Throughout the first part of the novel, Alex uses barbaric force and pure physical strength to overpower his enemies and victims. He sees this as proof of his own undeniable strength when, in fact, it is down to his gang that he is not harmed by his numerous encounters with violence. His egotistical delusions lead him to believe that he can impose his power upon someone by himself and this over-confidence ultimately concretes his arrest. From this point, the readers of this novel would expect to see the police processing and punishing Alex harshly but effectively and humanely.
Instead, we realise that the police are so used to seeing the violence that they no longer try to avoid it and instead resort to it themselves. We are shown that power has changed hands dramatically over the course of the first part of the novel but we can also recognise that the way in which the power is gained and exerted does not change in the slightest as it passes from criminals to civilians to policemen. This is a very interesting comment on the dystopian society presented to us in this book and serves as a powerful warning for our own future.