Act One Scene Six

Synopsis of Scene 6

Hesther enters and we assume that Dysart has told her of his dream as she responds that Dysart is indulging himself, when in fact he has done very good work with children. Dysart apologises, suggesting he has been working at this job for too long. Now he feels too good for the job, and wants to be able to leave and go to explore Greece. He also tells Hesther that he blames Alan Strang.

Dysart tells Hesther that Alan is now talking to him, when a nurse enters, explaining that she has had to give Alan tablets to calm him down at night, as he screams. She says the word he screams sounds like ‘Ek’.

The action then moves to an episode when Alan comes into Dysart’s room and tells him that his father didn’t like him to watch television. We see Alan’s father Frank, telling Alan he should be reading, and that it is bad to watch television because it drains one’s intelligence. Although Alan’s mother Dora takes Alan’s side, Frank is determined that the television can’t stay in the house.

Dysart and Hesther discuss Alan’s parents and their effect on their son, and at the same time Alan maintains a question-and-answer session with Dysart.

Commentary on Scene 6

professional menopause: Dysart is suggesting that he has been in his job a while and is having a kind of mid-life crisis, in which he wants to change his life and his work.

Ek: We later discover that Alan is actually calling Equus, his horse-god.

it’s a swiz … old chum: Frank uses old-fashioned, out-of-date slang, which annoys Alan.

Karl MarxCommunistSocialist: Hesther and Dysart assume that Frank’s views on television are related to his left-wing political views.

Religion is the opium of the people: Dysart’s answer to Alan’s question is correct; the phrase was first used by Karl Marx. Marx was explaining his view that religion was used to subdue the working-classes and to make them docile and obedient. However, it seems that Frank Strang used the expression, which has stayed in Alan’s mind and, as we later find out, contributed to his psychiatric problems.

Mind your own beeswax: Alan is quoting his father, who uses a common expression meaning ‘mind your own business’.

Sabbath: The Sabbath is a holy day of rest for Christians, which is usually considered to be a Sunday, although in Judaism the Sabbath is a Saturday.

Investigating scene 6...

  • Why is Dysart thinking about Alan’s family background?
  • What impression do you form of Alan’s relationship with his parents?
    • How does he feel about his father? 
    • Why does he quote what his father says even though he doesn’t agree with him?
    • What do you think he feels towards his mother?
  • What do you make of the question and answer session between Dysart and Alan at the end of the scene? 
    • Does it shed any light on Alan’s situation?
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