Equus

Alan Strang Character Analysis

An intense teenage boy, age 17, with a deep connection to religion, who blinds six horses one night in Harry Dalton’s stable. He is the son of Frank and Dora Strang. Up until the crime, Alan worked a job that he hated at an appliance store and spent weekends in Dalton’s stable, grooming the horses. Sent to psychiatrist Martin Dysart for treatment, Alan slowly discloses details about his repressed childhood and his fascination with horses. He eventually reveals the secret rituals he practices in praise of Equus, the horse-god he has invented.

Alan Strang Quotes in Equus

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

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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:

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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:

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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:

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The Normal is the good smile in a child’s eyes—all right. It is also the dead stare in a million adults. It both sustains and kills—like a God. It is the Ordinary made beautiful; it is also the Average made lethal. The Normal is the indispensable, murderous God of Health, and I am his Priest. My tools are very delicate. My compassion is honest. I have honestly assisted children in this room. I have talked away terrors and relieved many agonies. But also—beyond question—I have cut from them parts of individuality repugnant to his God, in both his aspects. Parts sacred to rarer and more wonderful Gods. And at what length…Sacrifices to Zeus took at the most, surely, sixty seconds each. Sacrifices to the Normal can take as long as sixty months.

Related Characters: Martin Dysart (speaker), Alan Strang, Hesther Salomon
Page Number: 64-65
Explanation and Analysis:

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Alan [ritually]: Equus—son of Fleckwus—son of Neckwus—Walk.
Here we go. The King rides out on Equus, mightiest of horses. Only I can ride him. He lets me turn him this way and that. His neck comes out of my body. It lifts in the dark. Equus, my Godslave! …Now the King commands you. Tonight, we ride against them all.
Dysart: Who’s all?
Alan: My foes and His.
Dysart: Who are your foes?
Alan: The Hosts of Hoover. The Hosts of Philco. The Hosts of Pifco. The House of Remington and all its tribe!
Dysart: Who are His foes?
Alan: The Hosts of Jodhpur. The Hosts of Bowler and Gymkhana. All those who show him off for their vanity!

Related Characters: Martin Dysart (speaker), Alan Strang (speaker)
Related Symbols: Horses
Page Number: 73
Explanation and Analysis:

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I’m raw! Raw!
Feel me on you! On you! On you! On you!
I want to be in you!
I want to BE you forever and ever! –
Equus, I love you!
Now! –
Bear me away!
Make us One Person!

Related Characters: Alan Strang (speaker)
Related Symbols: Horses
Page Number: 74
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 2 Quotes

A child is born into a world of phenomena all equal in their power to enslave. It sniffs—it sucks—it strokes its eyes over the whole uncomfortable range. Suddenly one strikes. Why? Moments snap together like magnets, forging a chain of shackles. Why? I can trace them. I can even, with time, pull them apart again. But why at the start they were ever magnetized at all—just those particular moments of experience and no others—I don’t know. And nor does anyone else. Yet if I don’t know—if I can never know that—then what I am doing here? I don’t mean clinically doing or socially doing—I mean fundamentally! These questions, these Whys, are fundamental—yet they have no place in a consulting room.

Related Characters: Martin Dysart (speaker), Alan Strang
Page Number: 76
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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Can you think of anything worse one can do to anybody than take away their worship?

Related Characters: Martin Dysart (speaker), Martin Dysart, Alan Strang, Hesther Salomon
Page Number: 80
Explanation and Analysis:

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Hesther: I mean he’s in pain, Martin. He’s been in pain for most of his life. That much, at least, you know.
Dysart: Possibly.
Hesther: Possibly?! …That cut-off little figure you just described must have been in pain for years.
Dysart [doggedly]: Possibly.
Hesther: And you can take it away.
Dysart: Still—possibly.

Hesther: Then that’s enough. That simply has to be enough for you, surely?
Dysart: No!
Hesther: Why not?
Dysart: Because it’s his.
Hesther: I don’t understand.
Dysart: His pain. His own. He made it.
[Pause.]
[Earnestly.] Look…to go through life and call it yours—your life—you first have to get your own pain. Pain that’s unique to you…. He’s done that. All right, he’s sick. He’s full of misery and fear…. But that boy has known a passion more ferocious than I have ƒelt in any second of my life. And let me tell you something: I envy it.
Hesther: You can’t.
Dysart [vehemently]: Don’t you see? That’s the Accusation! That’s what his stare has been saying to me all this time. ‘At least I galloped! When did you?’ …[Simply.] I’m jealous, Hesther. Jealous of Alan Strang.

Related Characters: Martin Dysart (speaker), Hesther Salomon (speaker), Alan Strang
Related Symbols: Horses
Page Number: 81-82
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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All right! I’ll take it away! He’ll be delivered from madness. What then? He’ll feel himself acceptable! What then? Do you think feelings like his can be simply re-attached, like plasters? Stuck on to other objects we select? Look at him! …My desire might be to make this boy an ardent husband—a caring citizen—a worshipper of abstract and unifying God. My achievement, however, is more likely to make a ghost!

Related Characters: Martin Dysart (speaker), Alan Strang, Hesther Salomon
Page Number: 107
Explanation and Analysis:

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And now for me it never stops: that voice of Equus out of the cave—‘Why me? …Why me? …Account for me!’ …All right—I surrender! I say it! …In an ultimate sense I cannot know what I do in this place—yet I do ultimate things. Essentially I cannot know what I do—yet I do essential things. Irreversible, terminal things. I stand in the dark with a pick in my hand, striking at heads!

I need—more desperately than my children need me—a way of seeing in the dark. What way is this? …What dark is this? …I cannot call it ordained of God: I can’t get that far. I will however pay it so much homage. There is now, in my mouth, this sharp chain. And it never comes out.

Related Characters: Martin Dysart (speaker), Alan Strang
Related Symbols: Horses, Hoof-pick
Page Number: 108-109
Explanation and Analysis:

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Alan Strang Character Timeline in Equus

The timeline below shows where the character Alan Strang appears in Equus. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1
Modern Society and Normality Theme Icon
...as a listening station when he is not in the square; it also functions as Alan Strang’s hospital bed. Alan’s parents sit on the bench to the right of the circle.... (full context)
Passion Theme Icon
Sex and Sexuality Theme Icon
...1. The play begins with a dim light on the central square. In the spotlight, Alan Strang caresses a horse named Nugget. Lights come up on the outer circle, and we... (full context)
Modern Society and Normality Theme Icon
Psychiatry, Repression, and Madness Theme Icon
...doubts about his profession have been growing over the years, but that the “extremity” of Alan Strang’s case has brought them to light. He then introduces the next scene as the... (full context)
Modern Society and Normality Theme Icon
Psychiatry, Repression, and Madness Theme Icon
...that she has encountered the “most shocking case” of her career. The boy in question, Alan Strang, was going to be sent to prison until Hesther convinced her bench to send... (full context)
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Hesther proceeds to tell Dysart that Alan Strang, age 17, blinded six horses with a hoof-pick one night in a stable where... (full context)
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Scene 3. Dysart begins to go through Alan’s file, and asks the boy questions as he reads. We learn from the file that... (full context)
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Scene 4. The Nurse and Alan walk to the bench on the left side of the circle, which serves as Alan’s... (full context)
Religion and Worship Theme Icon
Modern Society and Normality Theme Icon
Psychiatry, Repression, and Madness Theme Icon
...and addresses the audience: he relates the dream he had the night after he met Alan Strang. In the dream, he is a priest in ancient Greece. He wears a mask... (full context)
Religion and Worship Theme Icon
Modern Society and Normality Theme Icon
Psychiatry, Repression, and Madness Theme Icon
...is unworthy to fill [him].” He also tells Hesther that in his dream, it was Alan Strang’s face that he saw on every child he sacrificed. Alan’s stare, he says, is... (full context)
Passion Theme Icon
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Dysart’s description of his encounter with Alan is itself interrupted by the boy, who leaps to his feet and reenacts the moment... (full context)
Religion and Worship Theme Icon
Modern Society and Normality Theme Icon
...office, the psychiatrist 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... (full context)
Religion and Worship Theme Icon
...much store by Sundays,” according to his wife. Dysart and Dora begin to talk about Alan’s crime. Dora is still incredulous that Alan could do such a thing, especially since he... (full context)
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Religion and Worship Theme Icon
Sex and Sexuality Theme Icon
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...grandfather would ride every morning “all dressed up in bowler hat and jodhpurs.” She mentions Alan’s fascination with the word equus, Latin for “horse.” She also states that Alan never learned... (full context)
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Scene 8. Alan, in the middle of a nightmare, writhes in bed “as if frantically straining to tug... (full context)
Psychiatry, Repression, and Madness Theme Icon
Scene 9. The next day, Alan visits Dysart’s office for his session. He is evasive, and insists that he will answer... (full context)
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Scene 10. As Alan describes this memory for Dysart, he walks around the circle and acts it out onstage.... (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 that Alan was perfectly safe. Frank tells his... (full context)
Psychiatry, Repression, and Madness Theme Icon
Dysart thanks Alan for sharing the memory and comments that he has never been on a horse before,... (full context)
Passion Theme Icon
Religion and Worship Theme Icon
...visits Dysart’s office; she wants to tell the doctor something important about the horse photograph Alan has in his room. She reveals that this photograph actually took the place of a... (full context)
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Religion and Worship Theme Icon
Sex and Sexuality Theme Icon
Modern Society and Normality Theme Icon
Scene 12. Harry Dalton, the owner of the stable where Alan worked, visits Dysart’s office. He says that in his opinion, Alan should be in prison,... (full context)
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Scene 13. Alan, sitting on his bed, gives the tape recorder to the Nurse, who in turn gives... (full context)
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Modern Society and Normality Theme Icon
Alan continues to describe the erotic feel of horses, claiming that his mother would never understand.... (full context)
Passion Theme Icon
Religion and Worship Theme Icon
...of an event he witnessed eighteen months ago. Late one night, Frank says, he saw Alan performing a sort of ritual in his bedroom. As he describes the ritual, Alan rises... (full context)
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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 his mouth to simulate... (full context)
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Scene 15. Dysart questions Alan about Jill, the girl who introduced Alan to the stable. Alan tells him that they... (full context)
Religion and Worship Theme Icon
...We hear the “exultant humming” of the Equus Noise, and the sound of horses’ hooves. Alan stands in the middle of the square, which is now Dalton’s stable. Immersed in this... (full context)
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Psychiatry, Repression, and Madness Theme Icon
Alan touches Nugget’s shoulder, then slowly feels the horse’s neck and back. He smells his palm,... (full context)
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Scene 17. Dysart apologizes for his persistence, but Alan is still fuming. He demands that the doctor answer some of Alan’s own questions. Dysart... (full context)
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Modern Society and Normality Theme Icon
Dysart changes the subject and begins talking about Alan. He asks Hesther what he should be trying to achieve by treating Alan. Hesther replies... (full context)
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Psychiatry, Repression, and Madness Theme Icon
Scene 19. Alan and Dysart meet for a session. They have both calmed down since their fight the... (full context)
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Once Alan’s hypnosis is complete, Dysart instructs the boy to answer all of his questions. He tells... (full context)
Religion and Worship Theme Icon
Dysart asks Alan to remember Dalton’s stable. He asks Alan if the stable is Equus’s temple, and Alan... (full context)
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Scene 20. Alan opens the door of the stable and the chorus begins humming the Equus Noise. As... (full context)
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Scene 21. Alan undresses and puts a stick, which he calls a “Manbit,” in his mouth. He feeds... (full context)
Act 2
Modern Society and Normality Theme Icon
Psychiatry, Repression, and Madness Theme Icon
...Act 2 begins slightly after Act 1 left off. Dysart is in a reflective mood; Alan has gone to his room, and the psychiatrist is now “alone with Equus.” Dysart tells... (full context)
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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 up from their respective benches... (full context)
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Scene 23. Dysart asks Dora not to visit again: Alan is at a fragile stage of his treatment and cannot be disturbed. Dora angrily tells... (full context)
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Scene 24. Dysart assures Alan that he has not told his mother anything that Alan divulged under hypnosis. Alan, glaring... (full context)
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...25. Incredulous, Dysart relates this encounter to Hesther during their next meeting. He believes that Alan actually wants a truth drug; he wants to be able to speak freely. Dysart tells... (full context)
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Hesther argues that Dysart has a chance to relieve Alan of an immense amount of pain. “That simply has to be enough for you, surely?”... (full context)
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Scene 26. Dysart reads a letter from Alan apologizing for his previous defensiveness, and admitting that what he said under hypnosis was true.... (full context)
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Scene 27. Dysart thanks Alan for the letter and offers to have a session with him now. This surprises Alan,... (full context)
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Dysart opens up to Alan about his life. He tells the boy he is weary of his work—he wants to... (full context)
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Excited by the effect of the placebo truth drug, Alan tells Dysart to ask him a question. Dysart immediately asks him about Jill. Alan turns... (full context)
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Scene 28. Jill’s behavior “is open and lightly provocative.” She tells Alan that when her father left her family, her mother was left with no money and... (full context)
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Jill tells Alan that she loves horses’ eyes. “D’you find them sexy?” she asks Alan. Shocked, Alan leaps... (full context)
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Alan is initially hesitant, but Jill persuades him to go with her by evoking images of... (full context)
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Scene 29. Alan enters the square again, which is now a darkened movie theater. Together, he and Jill... (full context)
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Scene 30. Frank, Alan and Jill stand at a bus stop outside the movie theater. Alan and Jill try... (full context)
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Scene 31. Alan walks around the circle and describes Frank’s face as he rode off on the bus... (full context)
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Alan now feels sorry for Frank, a man with secret needs and desires, just like himself.... (full context)
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Scene 32. The chorus “makes a warning hum” as Alan steps back in horror. Jill pressures him to enter the stable. Alan asks if they... (full context)
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Scene 33. Alan and Jill enter the square; he tells her to lock the door to the stable,... (full context)
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Alan and Jill sit down and begin to kiss, but a “faint trampling” startles Alan. Despite... (full context)
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Dysart asks Alan what happened next, and Alan responds that he “put it in her.” Dysart, disbelieving, tries... (full context)
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Jill sits up and asks Alan what the matter is, but Alan runs into a corner and crouches down, horrified and... (full context)
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Scene 34. Alone now, and still naked, Alan hears Equus laughing and mocking him. He begs Equus to forgive him; kneeling down, he... (full context)
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Terrified, Alan exclaims that Equus sees him with “[w]hite eyes—never closed.” However, after a pause, he steels... (full context)
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...convulsing boy and lays him down on a bed, trying to comfort him. He tells Alan that the worst of it is over now, and that he will get well—no more... (full context)
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...psychiatrist shouts. But what happens next? He says that his goal may be to turn Alan into “a caring citizen—a worshipper of abstract and unifying God,” but the treatment will probably... (full context)
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Dysart addresses Alan, who is still asleep. “You won’t gallop any more, Alan,” he says. “You will, however,... (full context)