Whose play is it?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Everyone knows that Alan (Daniel Radcliffe) plays a central role in Equus but is the play really about him?

Alan faces a struggle between not only his family, but with society in general and with himself. He struggles with an attraction that is condemned by both his family and by society. His parents are confused and puzzled not only by his decision to blind the horses but by his insatiable obsession. His father, especially appears to be disgusted by Alan. His father not only abhors his obsession with horses but also Alan’s fanatical obsession with religion, which his mother seems to feed and nurture. I believe that Alan’s parents (as well as the stable owner) serve to symbolize society as a whole. They view Alan as strange and sick, he does not fit inside society’s norms and as a result they try to change him and make him “normal” by seeking help from the psychiatrist Martin Dysart.
Alan also struggles with himself which is evidenced during the scene where he and Jill start to get intimate, but he in effect flips out because he is convinced that the horses are watching him. I think that Alan is also aware that he is not normal, or viewed as such by the outside world.
But Alan is not the only character to struggle and wrestle with himself and with society. Martin Dysart also faces a poignant and difficult struggle. He feels extremely dissatisfied with his life, and even jealous of Alan. It is hard to imagine why anyone would be jealous of Alan, but as Dysart points out “that boy has known passion more ferocious than I have felt in…my life.” (Act 2, scene 25) Dysart has never known worship, true worship. He feels isolated, especially from his wife. He feels as if he and his wife live in different parts of the world. “I wish there was one person in my life I could show.” He laments to Hesther. Alan also struggles with his profession. He wonders whether what he does actually serves any purpose other than to try and force people into the mold that society has set up.
Because of Dysart’s inner struggle, I feel as if the play belongs to him rather than Alan. Yes Alan’s struggles and battles against society are extremely important to the play but I feel as if more people will be able to relate to Dysart. Alan is content in his own little world, but Dysart wants more. Most people when they hear about the play Equus they immediately think and are disgusted by Alan’s relationship with the horse. But hopefully, when they study and exam the play they realize that it is about so much more. Dysart, unlike the other characters in the play realizes how many people live a passionless life, devoted to the conventions of society. Society dictates what is acceptable and what is not. Society dictates what God is to be worshipped and what gods are to be cast down and discarded. Society looks at Dysart as doing a respectable and necessary job. He fixes people that are in society’s view, “broken.” Dysart is the only one who stops and questions whether or not what society deems to be correct is so. He is the only one to see that Alan has something that most people never come close to attaining, passion. And some could argue, passion is what makes life worth living.