(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Martin Dysart, an overworked psychiatrist, is given the case of Alan Strang, a stableboy who has recently shocked the country by blinding nine horses with a hoof pick. At first reluctant, Dysart becomes intrigued with Alan, whose contemptuous stare makes him feel “accused.”

Meanwhile, Dysart questions Alan’s mother and father and discovers that both parents, though well-meaning, have strong views: His mother is a pious Christian, and his father is an atheist and old-style Socialist. Repulsed by a lurid crucifixion that Alan has chosen to hang over his bed, his father one day replaced it with a calendar that shows a horse photographed straight-on that seems to be all eyes.

When Alan got a job as a stableboy, the owner suspected him of secretly riding at night. Dysart hypnotizes Alan and gets him to act out his naked midnight rides on Equus. The ride, which begins with religious ritual, ends in masturbation. This overpowering scene ends act 1.

Dysart confesses to the magistrate that he is envious of Alan’s passion, but she reminds him that his job is to return Alan to the world of the “normal.” Dysart begins asking Alan about the girl he worked with, Jill. One night after work, Jill asked Alan to take her to a “skin flick.” During the movie, Alan was aroused but spotted his father in the audience. An argument ensued, and Alan refused to go home with his father.

Jill took him to the stable where she attempted to seduce him. But Alan felt threatened by the presence of Equus and sent Jill away. In a rage, Alan blinded the horses.

Act 2 ends with Dysart’s indictment of his own part in relieving Alan of his feeling, but Dysart admits that he is as much a slave as is a horse. “There is now, in my mouth, this sharp chain. And it never comes out.”

Despite his crime, Alan is seen finally as a boy willing to risk anything for what he...

(The entire section is 785 words.)