Equus Summary and Analysis of Act I, Scenes 7-12


Scene 7

Dysart arrives at the Strang household, where he speaks first with Dora while waiting for Frank to return from work. Dora expresses that she has no idea how this has happened, since Alan has always been a gentle boy with a love for horses. She tells a story about a book she used to read to him as a child, about a horse named Prince that nobody could ride. She and Alan act this out as if Alan were young again. She also recounts Bible passages about horses that she used to recite to Alan. 

Frank comes home and joins the conversation, and they remember the photograph he gave Alan of a white horse that still hangs in his room. They also remember Alan being fascinated with the word ‘equus’, which means ‘horse’ in Latin. The most peculiar thing they tell Dysart, though, is that despite his love for horses, Alan never wanted to ride them. 

When Dora leaves the room to get Dysart a cup of tea, Frank criticizes his wife's indulgence of their son and her religious beliefs, claiming she shoved her religion down Alan's throat. He believes it was the constant exposure to Bible passages that caused this. Dora, who has been eavesdropping, decides she cannot take anymore, and insists that this is not true. They discuss Alan's exposure to sex and whether or not he is knowledgeable about the subject, and Dora becomes upset. 

 Scene 8

Alan has a nightmare and begins to shout the word "Ek" in his sleep. Dysart goes to Alan's room to observe him, and when Alan wakes up from his nightmare they simply stare at each other before Dysart leaves. 

Scene 9

In their next session, Dysart asks Alan if he dreams often. Alan refuses to answer until Dysart agrees that they can take turns questioning each other. Dysart asks about Alan's first memory of a horse, but Alan then presses Dysart about his wife. Dysart asks Alan what "Ek" is, which sends Alan into another round of singing commercial jingles. Dysart announces that they are done for the day, and Alan is angry with this, so he answers Dysart's original question: his first memory of a horse was on a beach. 

Scene 10

Alan is six years old, digging a sandcastle at the beach, and a young man comes by on his horse. The man invites Alan to pet the horse, named Trojan, and lifts him up on to the horse's neck. As the horse begins to run around, Alan is enthralled; this does not go on for long, however, before Frank and Dora appear and are outraged that this man would put their child in such a dangerous situation. The horseman insists that it is not dangerous at all, but despite Alan's protests, Frank still pulls Alan off the horse, and he accidentally falls in the process. 

After Alan tells this story, Dysart remarks that he has never been on a horse in his life. Alan says that after that moment, he has never been on a horse either, not even while working at the stables. Alan will not say why he will not ride one; Dysart responds by giving him a tape recorder for Alan to use in his bedroom, so that he can record anything he does not want to say to Dysart's face. 

Scene 11

That evening, Dora appears at Dysart's office. She reveals to Dysart that the photograph of the horse that Frank gave to Alan to hang in his bedroom actually replaced another religious painting, a reproduction of Our Lord on his Way to Cavalry, which she admits is a little extreme for a child's room. Frank disapproved of it for its religious nature, so he tore it down, which made Alan cry; when he received the replacement picture of the horse, he placed it in exactly the same position. Dora describes the photograph; it is head on, and the horse's eyes are staring straight at the viewer. 

Scene 12

The owner of the stable Alan worked at, Mr. Dalton, comes to see Dysart. He says stubbornly that the boy should be in prison. He tells Dysart about Jill Mason, the girl who referred Alan to Dalton's stables in the first place; apparently she had a nervous breakdown after the incident. He also describes other oddities during Alan's time at the stables, and believed that the horses were being taken out at night because one of them would always be sweaty in the morning. He wonders if Alan were riding in secret at night. 

That evening, a tape recording arrives from Alan. 


The information that Dysart learns through visiting the Strang household is important, since when a child is troubled mentally, it often stems in part from what goes on in the home. The disparity between Frank and Dora is immediately evident; neither seems to show particular regard for the other, and both disagree with each other's ways of raising their son; Dora does not like Frank's denying Alan television, and Frank loathes the intense way that Dora exposes Alan to religion. Dora also insists that Alan was a normal, gentle boy, while Frank repeatedly comments that his son was a strange fellow. Growing up in a household with parents who so drastically disagree with each other may have had some influence on Alan. 

 Slowly more information about the intensity of Alan's relationship with horses begins to unravel. There is a stark contrast between Alan as a child, enthusiastic and star-struck during his first experience with a horse, and Alan in the present, curt and emotionless as he speaks to Dysart about his experiences.

It is also easy to tell when Dysart is straying into sensitive territory with his questions based on Alan's reactions; when an answer is to personal to reveal, Alan will shut down, either getting angry or reverting back into his obsessive singing of commercial jingles. This allows the audience to take an active role in solving the mystery that is Alan. The audience can be sleuths themselves, trying to figure out what actually happened based on what he will and will not talk about. 

But it appears that Alan does want someone to understand, as he grows closer and more comfortable with Dysart. At the beginning of his treatment, Alan was eager to escape these sessions. Based on how angry he was in scene 9 when Dysart called off their session early, however, Alan is desperate for someone to understand what happened, and he believes that Dysart will be that person. He no longer has the drive to refuse treatment.

Horses clearly have a religious or spiritual significance in Alan's life, and this is most powerfully evidenced by Dora's story about the horse photograph in Alan's bedroom. It is no coincidence that this photo replaced a religious painting of Christ; when he received it he put it in the exact same place as the previous painting, in the exact same position. This symbolizes the horse becoming a religious figure for Alan, almost akin to Christ himself. 

At the end of scene 12, just before the contents of Alan's tape recording is revealed, the audience can recall the mysteries that still remain and keep track of whether or not this recording clarifies them. Firstly, the word that Alan shouts during his nightmares, "Ek," is still a mystery, as is his reasoning for claiming to never have ridden a horse after his traumatic childhood incident. Next, Dalton's visit to Dysart revealed some additional mysteries, about what Alan would do with the horses at night as well as the stable girl Jill's involvement in this crime. With these mysteries in mind, we can move forward in the hopes of uncovering the truth.