An Essay on Equus

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Equus is as complex as the human mind. Exploring psychological questions such as what does it mean to be normal, and should individuality be sacrificed for the sake of normality? Whilst propelling a mystery, crime story, and a psychological thriller, Peter Shaffer's Equus examines the minds of a young stable boy who has blinded several horses and the aging psychiatrist asked to "cure" him. But would a "cure" really normalize the teenager?

A seventeen year old boy, Alan is brought to a psychiatric hospital because he has blinded six horses with a hoof pick. Dysart, a psychiatrist, works to "normalize" the boy, feeling that as he makes the boy "safe" for society, he is taking away his worship and sexual vitality, both of which are missing in the doctors own personal life. Dysart actually envies Alan and the sexual worship he has experienced. In spite of his own hang-ups, the doctor does help the boy work through his obsession, in which he identifies the horse Equus with God.

Shaffer is expressing to his audience that taking away the atypical aspects of this boy would take away part of the person he is, part of the character he has developed and most important, the God he worships.

When Equus leaves - if he lives at all - it will be with your intestines in his teeth...I'll give him the good, normal world...and give him normal places for his ecstasy...
Passion, you see, can be destroyed by a doctor it cannot be created."
Pages 92 & 93*

Alan's love for horses develops into devotion, a religious passion for the horses as all-powerful Gods. As Dysart envies Alan's passion for horses, a type of passion that he knows he will never feel, he questions his livelihood as a healer. He is healing nothing by removing the boys worship and faith. Is it right or worthwhile to try to "normalize" Alan when what others consider his infatuation with horses, he considers his religion.

Dysart: What am I trying to do...
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