Equus

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Dora Strang Character Analysis

Alan Strang’s mother. A devout Christian and an indulgent parent, Dora brought up her son by telling him Bible stories and secretly allowing him to watch television, an activity her husband, Frank Strang, forbade. She is heartbroken by Alan’s crime, but believes that neither she nor Frank is to blame for his bizarre behavior.

Dora Strang Quotes in Equus

The Equus quotes below are all either spoken by Dora Strang or refer to Dora Strang. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Passion Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Books edition of Equus published in 1984.
Act 1 Quotes

I was pushed forward on the horse. There was sweat on my legs from his neck. The fellow held me tight, and let me turn the horse which way I wanted. All that power going any way you wanted…. It was always the same, after that. Every time I heard one clop by, I had to run and see…. I can’t remember when it started. Mum reading to me about Prince who no one could ride, except one boy. Or the white horse in Revelations. ‘He that sat upon him was called Faithful and True. His eyes were as flames of fire, and he had a name written that no man knew but himself’…. No one understands! …Except cowboys. They do. I wish I was a cowboy. They’re free. They just swing up and then it’s miles of grass…I bet all cowboys are orphans! …I bet they are!

Related Characters: Alan Strang (speaker), Dora Strang, Young Horseman
Related Symbols: Horses
Page Number: 48-49
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Alan describes to Dysart his first experience of riding a horse as a child. Alan's narration shows his powerful association of horses with freedom. In light of his controlling father, it makes sense that riding the horse would have given him a feeling of freedom and control for the first time in his life. The description is also evocative of a sexual experience, as Alan describes the physical feeling of being on the horse, particularly the sweat from the horse rubbing off on his legs. In addition to associating this experience with freedom and sex, Alan brings up imagery from the Book of Revelations, which ties horses in with Alan's interest in religion. Clearly, the experience of being on a horse evoked in Alan all of the things about which he cares the most, and also the things which he is denied forcefully by his father--no wonder the experience was powerful. Dysart senses, rightfully, that this experience was formative in Alan's development.

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Frank: He took a piece of string out of his pocket. Made up into a noose. And put it in his mouth. And then with his other hand he picked up a coat hanger. A wooden coat hanger, and—and—
Dysart: Began to beat himself?
Frank: You see why I couldn’t tell his mother…Religion. Religion’s at the bottom of all this!

Related Characters: Martin Dysart (speaker), Frank Strang (speaker), Alan Strang, Dora Strang
Related Symbols: Horses
Page Number: 51
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Frank comes to Dysart in secret to inform him of a few things he knows about Alan that he does not wish his wife to know. One of these things is that Frank witnessed Alan performing a secret ritual in his room, with Alan imitating a horse being ridden. Alan's imitation of a horse, though, also has clear parallels to the violent religious imagery Alan was so drawn to. The whip a rider uses on a horse, for instance, is evocative of the extreme Christian practice of self-flagellation, in which a believer tries to physically understand the pain of Christ. Frank believes, then, that religion is to blame for his son's bizarre behavior. By this point in the play, though, it is beginning to become clear that it is Frank's strict insistence that Alan not pursue his passion for religion that causes Alan to worship in secret and develop more and more bizarre practices. We also get the sense here that Frank has something to hide, too, since he is coming to Dysart in secret. This passage begins to get at the dangers of living in the kind of society in which natural interests and passions cannot be expressed.

Act 2 Quotes

Whatever’s happened has happened because of Alan. Alan is himself. Every soul is itself. If you added up everything we ever did to him, from his first day on earth to this, you wouldn’t find why he did this terrible thing—because that’s him; not just all of our things added up. Do you understand what I’m saying? I want you to understand, because I lie awake and awake thinking it out, and I want you to know that I deny it absolutely what he’s doing now, staring at me, attacking me for what he’s done, for what he is! [Pause: calmer.] You’ve got your words, and I’ve got mine. You call it a complex, I suppose. But if you knew God, Doctor, you would know about the Devil. You’d know the Devil isn’t made by what mummy says and daddy says. The Devil’s there.

Related Characters: Dora Strang (speaker), Martin Dysart, Alan Strang, Frank Strang
Page Number: 78
Explanation and Analysis:

This monologue, in which Dora tries to convince Dysart that she and Frank are not to blame for Alan's behavior, echoes the monologue of Dysart's that we've just heard, in which he puzzles over how someone becomes the person he or she is. Dora and Dysart share the acknowledgement that a person's development is mysterious, and it is hard to account for which factors matter and which don't. Dora and Dysart also share, in a sense, a commitment to the idea that each person is an individual who is not wholly accountable to a set of experiences or a culture. But Dora believes that what accounts for Alan's behavior is the Devil. Because of this, Dora doubts the power of psychiatry to address Alan's problems. It's ironic that she and Dysart share this doubt about the power of psychiatry, but for very different reasons. Dysart's doubts about psychiatry are wrapped up in his uncertainty about whether Alan's behavior is evil at all, while Dora doubts the practice because it doesn't address the main issue (as she sees it), that of spiritual warfare.

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Dora Strang Character Timeline in Equus

The timeline below shows where the character Dora Strang appears in Equus. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1
Passion Theme Icon
Religion and Worship Theme Icon
Modern Society and Normality Theme Icon
...allow Alan to watch it. The scene segues into a scene between Frank, Alan’s mother Dora Strang, and Alan. Frank claims that TV is like a drug; television “seems to be... (full context)
Religion and Worship Theme Icon
Modern Society and Normality Theme Icon
...describes Frank as a “[r]elentlessly self-improving” socialist. Dysart goes on to discuss Alan’s relationship with Dora; the boy is proud of his mother, and has a close relationship with her. A... (full context)
Religion and Worship Theme Icon
Scene 7. Martin Dysart visits the Strang home on a Sunday evening. He meets Dora there, but Frank is still at the printing press—he “doesn’t set much store by Sundays,”... (full context)
Passion Theme Icon
Religion and Worship Theme Icon
Sex and Sexuality Theme Icon
Modern Society and Normality Theme Icon
Frank returns home, and Dora resumes talking. She says that the Strangs have always been a “horsey” family. Her grandfather... (full context)
Sex and Sexuality Theme Icon
Psychiatry, Repression, and Madness Theme Icon
...onto his shoulders—and they ride together along the beach, faster and faster, until Frank and Dora realize what their son is doing. They yell at the Horseman to stop. (full context)
Psychiatry, Repression, and Madness Theme Icon
...rides off, splashing the Strangs with water. As Frank yells after the Horseman, still incensed, Dora begins to laugh, “amused” by the fact that they are covered in water and sand.... (full context)
Passion Theme Icon
Religion and Worship Theme Icon
Scene 11. Later that evening, Dora visits Dysart’s office; she wants to tell the doctor something important about the horse photograph... (full context)
Passion Theme Icon
Sex and Sexuality Theme Icon
Modern Society and Normality Theme Icon
...continues to describe the erotic feel of horses, claiming that his mother would never understand. Dora likes the showiness of horseback riding, Alan says—the bowler hats and jodhpurs—but Alan feels that... (full context)
Passion Theme Icon
Religion and Worship Theme Icon
Scene 14. Frank Strang enters the square. Dora doesn’t know he is here—he tells Dysart that he must inform him of an event... (full context)
Act 2
Modern Society and Normality Theme Icon
The Nurse interrupts Dysart’s musings. She tells him Dora has come to visit Alan, and they have begun to quarrel. Mother and son leap... (full context)
Religion and Worship Theme Icon
Psychiatry, Repression, and Madness Theme Icon
Scene 23. Dysart asks Dora not to visit again: Alan is at a fragile stage of his treatment and cannot... (full context)
Sex and Sexuality Theme Icon
Modern Society and Normality Theme Icon
Psychiatry, Repression, and Madness Theme Icon
...old sod,” and the girl agrees. He surmises that Frank attends the pornography theater because Dora Strang “doesn’t give him anything”; she is too prim and proper to be a sexual... (full context)