Alan Strang's parents

The characterisation of Dora Strang

Dora is Alan’s mother and throughout the play she demonstrates that she cares for him. Dora was a teacher and is clearly neither stupid nor neglectful as a mother, as her conversations with Dysart demonstrate. She is aware of the needs of children and teenagers but is nonplussed by the behaviour of her son.

Something has gone wrong with her son yet she cannot equate this with the impact of her religious beliefs and her conflicts with Alan’s father, which have clearly caused some issues for Alan.

Alan sees his mother as being boring and old-fashioned, and particularly despises her approach to horses, who, he feels, should be free. Alan clearly sees his mother as repressive and narrow in her ways.

Investigating the character of Dora...

  • What is your first impression of Dora?
    • How does this impression change over the course of the novel?
  • How is she characterised in the play? Think about:
    • Dora’s appearance and physical presentation onstage
    • The language she uses
    • Her relationships with other characters
    • The way she is described by others.
  • To what extent do you feel that Dora is responsible for Alan’s emotional problems?
    • Do you feel sorry for her, or blame her?

The characterisation of Frank Strang

Frank is Alan’s father and described by his wife as ‘an upright man’. Although he displays some affection for his son, his awkward manner and way of speaking do not make him a particularly likeable character. His attempts to create a connection with his son are generally perceived as ‘digging in’ to Alan. 

Although Frank tries to explain some things to Dysart, his lack of perception means that he is of little help when Alan is in hospital.

Frank is depicted as a man of strong political views, which have impacted on Alan’s life considerably. He is particularly conscious of social class and appears to feel threatened that the education and advantages of others will expose him. That theme of ‘covering up’ is echoed in the hypocrisy exposed by Alan when he catches his father watching the same pornographic film that Jill has taken Alan to. Although this leads to Alan’s greater understanding of his father, he is still keen to dissociate himself from Frank and does not want to be like him.

Investigating the character of Frank...

  • What is your first impression of Frank?
    • How does this impression change over the course of the play?
  • How is he characterised in the play? Think about:
    • Frank’s appearance and physical presentation onstage
    • The language he uses
    • His relationships with other characters
    • The way he is described by others.
  • How does Alan feel about his father?
    • How does this affect our view of Frank?
  • Is Frank more, or less, responsible for Alan’s situation than Dora?
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