"Equus enables us to question what we mean my normal and insane." Discuss.

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accessteacher's profile pic

accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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This is a play that above all puts into confusion the supposedly secure and discrete boundaries between the two separate states of sanity and insanity. This is perhaps part of this play's enduring appeal is that it challenges the audiences about our notions of these two states and argues that actually we are more insane than the sanity we claim we possess, and suggests that those who insane by the standards of society may have actually more sanity than we would like to admit.

Applying this to the play, we have Dysart who is confronted with a new patient who has admittedly committed acts that lead us to consider him insane by the standards of society. As the play develops, and Dysart has success in uncovering early memories and reasons for Alan's behaviour, it becomes clear that through this process Dysart comes to profoundly question the labels of "sanity" and "insanity" as terms that have been created by society and are culturally specific. This is particularly shown through the allusions to Greek mythology and the fact that what one culture considers to be sane behaviour is considered to be taboo by another culture. Dysart questions such social constructions through expressing his fear that "curing" Alan and returning him to the state of "sanity" could actually be counterproductive in terms of removing from him a joy and appreciation of life that most individuals never experience. Perhaps, the play suggests, it is better to be "insane" and have this enjoyment than "sane" and become boxed in by society's expectations of us.

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journalisticwonder's profile pic

journalisticwonder | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

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One thing that pops up during the play is the definition of normal.  What is normal? Also the difference between Alan and society. Is Alan crazy or is society crazy? Society turned against Alan becuase he wasn't like everyone else. He was torn in between religions- his mother   imposing Christianity on him and his father with Atheism. 

Dysart is at first reluctant to treat Alan, because, in his eyes, it would make Alan 'worshipless'. Treating Alan would make him 'normal'. Once again it shifts the center to ' what is normal'? Dysart feels that if he 'cures' Alan, it would make him lose part of his personality. Curing Alan would make him just another pawn in society and just like everyone else. 

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