Equus

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Frank Strang Character Analysis

Alan Strang’s father, a devoted atheist, and a hardworking, “self-improving” man. Frank’s strict and sometimes-explosive nature is the main source of tension in the Strang household. In addition, his atheism often comes into conflict with the religious feeling of his wife Dora and son Alan. Though Frank seems to be an exceedingly disciplined and rigid person, his own vices – and needs – are revealed when he is seen at the same pornography theater to which Jill Mason takes Alan.

Frank Strang Quotes in Equus

The Equus quotes below are all either spoken by Frank Strang or refer to Frank 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

You sit in front of that thing long enough, you’ll become stupid for life—like most of the population. The thing is, it’s a swiz. It seems to be offering you something, but actually it’s taking something away.

Related Characters: Frank Strang (speaker), Alan Strang
Page Number: 27
Explanation and Analysis:

As Dysart begins his treatment of Alan, Alan begins to reveal tensions between himself and his father. Here, Alan recalls his father Frank's removal of the television from their home. Frank removes it because he believes that television is taking away individuality and making people stupid. He wants his son to be exceptional, not like "most of the population" who just sit in front of the television. This interaction takes on deep irony as the play delves deeper into Alan's story. Frank seems to want his son to be unlike others in only very specific ways, but not in the ways that Alan already is unlike others. Alan's passions, for instance, are unique, but Frank insists that they are pathological and must be treated. This passage begins to reveal the hypocrisies and contradictions of a social morality that declares some abnormalities good and others evil (as well as condoning some evil as normal). We begin to get the sense that these delineations are arbitrary, and modern morality cannot be considered wholly rational.

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A boy spends night after night having this stuff read to him; an innocent man tortured to death—thorns driven into his head—nails into his hands—a spear jammed through his ribs. It can mark anyone for life, that kind of thing. I’m not joking. The boy was absolutely fascinated by all that. He was always mooning over religious pictures. I mean real kinky ones, if you receive my meaning…. Bloody religion—it’s our only real problem in this house, but it’s insuperable; I don’t mind admitting it.

Related Characters: Frank Strang (speaker), Alan Strang, Frank Strang
Page Number: 34
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Dysart is speaking with Alan's parents to try to untangle the things in Alan's past that might have led him to mutilate the horses. This passage, spoken by Frank, weaves together religion, violence, and sexuality in a way that will be crucial to the remainder of the play. Frank establishes that Alan is somebody naturally drawn to religion, and particularly to the parts of religion that have to do with punishment. Frank's use of the word "kinky" to describe imagery of the crucifixion is unusual and noteworthy; one would not likely jump to the conclusion that someone obsessed with the violence of religion is getting sexual thrill from it. So, while this passage is ostensibly Frank's condemnation of Alan's religiosity, the passage also raises questions about how Frank's parenting has affected Alan. Frank's rejection and sexualization of Alan's religion, for example, may have made Alan feel ashamed, or put ideas into his head about the relationship between sex and violence that he didn't have before. Regardless, Frank's rejection of Alan's passion for religion has made Alan practice in secret, which certainly contributes to the ways in which Alan's religion has diverged from "normal" worship.

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.

Poor old sod, that’s what I felt—he’s just like me! He hates ladies and gents just like me! Posh things—and la-di-da. He goes off by himself at night, and does his own secret thing which no one’ll know about, just like me! There’s no difference—he’s just the same as me—just the same—

Related Characters: Alan Strang (speaker), Martin Dysart, Frank Strang
Page Number: 97
Explanation and Analysis:

This passage comes after Dysart has given Alan a "truth pill" that enables him to talk about the experience with Jill that led up to him mutilating the horses. Alan and Jill went on a date to a pornographic film and Alan saw his father there, which ushered in a new understanding of and sympathy for Frank. It's significant that Alan's prevailing reaction is more relief than shame. Alan's father, who was the single most controlling and repressive force in Alan's life, is revealed to be someone with secrets of his own and with desires and rituals that he feels the need to hide. Instead of resenting his father's hypocrisy, Alan instead finds sympathy for Frank. This shows an incredible generosity and maturity in Alan, qualities that seem at odds with his subsequent behavior towards the horses. This passage shows, more than anything, that social norms cause everybody to repress and keep secrets. Social norms do not tell us much about who people are, but rather they represent an arbitrary standard of behavior that some are able to approximate better than others.

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Frank Strang Character Timeline in Equus

The timeline below shows where the character Frank 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
...and reenacts the moment he barged into the doctor’s office. Alan reveals that his father, Frank Strang, hates television, and doesn’t allow Alan to watch it. The scene segues into a... (full context)
Religion and Worship Theme Icon
Modern Society and Normality Theme Icon
Back in Dysart’s office, the psychiatrist describes Frank as a “[r]elentlessly self-improving” socialist. Dysart goes on to discuss Alan’s relationship with Dora; the... (full context)
Religion and Worship Theme Icon
...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,” according to his... (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... (full context)
Sex and Sexuality Theme Icon
Psychiatry, Repression, and Madness Theme Icon
...lifting Alan 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
The Horseman stops and Frank confronts him, angry that the man picked Alan up without permission. The Horseman coolly responds... (full context)
Passion Theme Icon
Religion and Worship Theme Icon
...a picture of Christ being tortured by Roman centurions—Our Lord on his Way to Cavalry. Frank allowed the first picture to be hung in Alan’s room, but one day, after an... (full context)
Passion Theme Icon
Sex and Sexuality Theme Icon
Modern Society and Normality Theme Icon
...bet all cowboys are orphans!” he says. The Nurse interrupts Dysart to tell him that Frank Strang has arrived to see him. The doctor, surprised, tells the Nurse to show him... (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... (full context)
Passion Theme Icon
Religion and Worship Theme Icon
Psychiatry, Repression, and Madness Theme Icon
As Frank continues to describe Alan’s ritual, we see Alan put an invisible piece of string in... (full context)
Act 2
Religion and Worship Theme Icon
Psychiatry, Repression, and Madness Theme Icon
...parents are always to blame for their children’s mental illnesses. Dora argues that she and Frank were good parents who shouldn’t be treated like “criminals.” They loved and cared for Alan.... (full context)
Religion and Worship Theme Icon
Sex and Sexuality Theme Icon
...girl in the film begins to take a shower, Alan grows excited. Meanwhile, we see Frank Strang enter the back of the square and look for a place to sit. Alan... (full context)
Sex and Sexuality Theme Icon
Modern Society and Normality Theme Icon
Scene 30. Frank, Alan and Jill stand at a bus stop outside the movie theater. Alan and Jill... (full context)
Sex and Sexuality Theme Icon
Modern Society and Normality Theme Icon
Psychiatry, Repression, and Madness Theme Icon
Scene 31. Alan walks around the circle and describes Frank’s face as he rode off on the bus as “scared.” He bitterly reflects on the... (full context)
Sex and Sexuality Theme Icon
Alan now feels sorry for Frank, a man with secret needs and desires, just like himself. Feeling distraught, he asks Dysart... (full context)