Just outside town, the boys abandon their car and take the train back into the center of town. Alex notes that they pay the fare like perfect gentlemen and then nonchalantly describes their subsequent vandalism on the train.
The boys return to the Korova Milkbar and notice that a few things have changed since they left. To Alex’s distaste, the patron drinking hallucinogenic milk is still there and still intoxicated, leaving himself open to torment and mockery. The place is also filled with quite a few new faces. According to Alex, these are mostly other teens, and a few garishly made-up twenty- and thirty-somethings just getting off work from the television studio.
One of the people from the older crowd triggers an altercation among the boys. A woman, sitting at the bar with her friends, sings a few bars from an opera familiar to Alex. Clownish Dim, hearing this, makes an obscene gesture toward the woman. The woman doesn’t notice, but Alex does and becomes enraged. He calls Dim a “[f]ilthy drooling mannerless bastard” and deals him a hard punch on the mouth. Dim is at first confused and then angry, telling Alex he had no right to hit him like that. It begins to look like the two might have to go outside and settle the dispute with knives, but Pete tries to calm them down. Alex starts trying to defend what he did, saying that he’s the leader, that he has to maintain discipline among them, and that “Dim . . . has got to learn his place.” The other boys don’t quite seem to agree, but, wary, they keep quiet. To Alex’s surprise, Dim suddenly drops the argument and suggests that they all just go home and go to bed. The boys agree and plan to meet as usual the following night.
Convinced that this squabble has no significance, Alex leaves the Korova with razor in hand, prepared for any trouble from Billyboy or other warring gangs. On his way home to Municipal Flatblock 18A, he passes evidence of some typical street violence: a boy sprawled out and bleeding on the street; a pair of girls who have likely been assaulted and raped. Reaching his building, Alex passes a vandalized municipal painting as well as a freshly damaged elevator and takes the stairs up to his tenth-floor flat. Inside, Alex eats the dinner his mother has laid out for him and gets ready for bed. Before trailing off to sleep, Alex turns on his stereo. He listens, enraptured, to classical music, first by an American named Geoffrey Plautus, then Mozart, and finally Bach. During the Bach compositions, Alex muses on what he read at the writer’s house earlier that night. He thinks he understands it better now, and if anything, he wishes he could have “tolchocked them both harder and ripped them to ribbons on their own floor.”
In an interview, Burgess called writer George Steiner “the biggest bloody fool who ever lived” for being “so foolish as to wonder why Nazis, why a concentration camp officer could listen to Schubert and at the same time send Jews to the gas.” There are, Burgess says, “two different kinds of good”: the aesthetic and the ethical, and, as he demonstrates with the character of Alex in Part One, these two kinds of goodness don’t necessarily correlate with one another. Alex loves doing cruel things to people, and Alex loves listening to Beethoven. Though this situation may instinctually feel counterintuitive to us, there’s no logical reason why these two predilections should conflict with one another. On the contrary, as we see, Alex thinks they go together perfectly—he likes very much to lie on his bed, listening to Mozart and fantasizing about beating and raping people. It makes sense, then, that Alex would give Dim a great big punch in the mouth for being disrespectful toward a beloved opera. This incident, which sows the seeds of a rebellion against autocratic Alex, does again illustrate Alex’s strange fastidiousness: he’s violent, but he abhors vulgarity.
The bit of opera that the woman sings foreshadows Alex’s misery later on in the book. The name of the fictional composer is Gitterfenster, which is German for “barred window,” pointing toward Alex’s coming imprisonment, and the bit of an aria that she sings—“it was the bit where she’s snuffing it with her throat cut, and the slovos [words] are ‘Better like this maybe’”—points toward Alex’s suicide attempt in Part Three Chapter 5, when, in the little apartment he decides he has “to do [himself] in, to snuff it.” Another bit of foreshadowing of the suicide attempt comes at the end of this chapter, when he’s lying in bed listening to some music, thinking about rape, and he actually ejaculates with the bliss of it: “when the music...rose to the top of its big highest tower, then, lying on my bed with glazzies [eyes] tight shut and rookers [hands] behind my gulliver [head], I broke and spattered and cried aaaaaaah.” The way in which this is described very closely echoes his attempted suicide in Part Three, Chapter 5, when he goes over to the window, high up in a big apartment tower, climbs “on to the sill, the music blasting away to my left, and I shut my glazzies and felt the cold wind on my litso [face], then I jumped” and spattered on the pavement below.