"The doubts have been there for years, piling up steadily in this dreary place. It's only the extremity of this case that's made them active."
Dysart begins the play by immediately recounting his fears about his profession to the audience, but specifies that it was Alan's case in particular that brought these doubts to the surface. This is because Alan's was a very unconventional situation: very rarely does Dysart treat children who have developed entirely new systems of worship for themselves. Over the course of Alan's treatment, Dysart comes to believe that taking away a person's worship, regardless of whether it would allow them to live a normal life, is not morally justifiable.
"The only thing is, unknown to them, I've started to feel distinctly nauseous. And with each victim, it's getting worse."
Dysart's dream about being a Homeric priest and sacrificing children is clear symbolism for the work he does a a psychiatrist. With each and every client that passes through his office, he feels more and more like he is sacrificing children to make them 'normal,' getting rid of their individuality. As it goes on, he is becoming more and more unsettled by it; Alan is the final straw.
"Bloody religion—it's our only real problem in this house, but it's insuperable; I don't mind admitting it."
Dysart's visit to the Strang household reveals some important clues to the mystery behind Alan's crime. Alan has been heavily exposed to religion and the Bible through his mother. Frank believes that this is the core of the problem, since many Bible passages are dark and twisted and not suitable for children. This also sets up the rift between Frank and Dora; they each believe the other is responsible for Alan's straying from the path, and it has greatly divided them.
"I couldn't take my eyes off them. Just to watch their skins. The way their necks twist, and sweat shines in the folds..."
This is the first time Alan describes his true attraction to horses. He focuses greatly on their physicality, describing them sexually. This shows that horses have more than just a spiritual appeal to Alan; he was initially attracted to them for the power in their bodies, and was appalled by the way humans restricted this power and freedom through the chains and bits they used to control them.
"Behold—I give you Equus, my only begotten son!"
This quote, taken from Alan's chanting in front of the horse photograph hanging in his room, confirms that Equus has become representative of Christ in Alan's mind. Equus is a Christlike figure in many ways, from his omnipresence in Alan's life to his wearing chains to bear the sins of humanity. This moment reveals how intensely Alan worships these creatures, and lets Dysart know exactly what he would be taking away by treating Alan.
"We worked for each other. She actually for me through a kind of briskness. A clear, red-headed, inaccessible briskness that kept me keyed up for moths."
Though Dysart has been hinting at an unhappy marriage for the majority of Act I, this conversation with Hesther is the first time he talks about his wife in great detail. He and Margaret originally worked well together, because she brought to his life a kind of speed and excitement that was not there before. Since Dysart is dissatisfied with his career, he needed this—however, marital happiness did not last, since neither of them truly understood the other.
"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."
This quote encompasses one of the main themes of the play: normality is both good and bad. Being normal often means losing a sense of individuality, and Dysart is afraid that Alan would lose that key part of his identity if he succeeded in making him normal. 'Normal' in adulthood is a dull life that Dysart himself is currently experiencing; since he is dissatisfied with it, he is hesitant to wish that kind of life upon anyone.
"You'd know the Devil isn't made by what mummy says and daddy says. The Devil's there."
Dora argues that despite Dysart constantly trying to place the blame on her and her husband, they are not responsible for the way Alan has turned out. She insists that Alan's worship and crime came from inside himself; it was not anything either parent did wrong while raising him. This fits with the theme of blame present throughout the play.
"I'm jealous, Hesther. Jealous of Alan Strang."
To Hesther, Dysart admits that he is jealous of Alan despite the pain that the boy experiences, since this pain stems from an extreme passion that individuals are rarely able to attain. To Dysart, the pain is worth the passion; in his dull, passionless life, he would welcome this intensity. He claims that he has never known true worship as Alan has, despite his fascination with the gods of ancient Greece.
"Equus... Noble Equus... Faithful and True... God-slave... Though—God—Seest—NOTHING!"
These are the final words that Alan speaks before blinding the six horses with a spike in Dalton's stables. He cannot stand the idea of his god, Equus, constantly judging and watching him the way he watched as Alan tried to sleep with Jill. This epitomizes the pain that Alan suffers as a result of his intense worship, the pain that Hesther insists that Dysart must remove.
Equus Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Equus is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
I believe that Frank and Dora are equally responsible. Dora is a devout Christian, who shared her beliefs with her son. Her husband is the exact opposite and publicly criticized his wife. None-the-less, both parents are controlling, and their...