Character Tracking ¡V Frank Strang


Character Description:

Frank is presented as a man who likes to be in control and the initial disagreement over the television where he declares that it is ¡§a true swiz ¡K if you receive my meaning¡¨ (27), paints him as relatively intolerant character to whom we are unsympathetic. This is reinforced by his unsympathetic criticism of his wife¡¦s religious views and the fact that he is not particularly proud of his son, as is evident from the line ¡§He¡¦s always been a weird lad, I have to be honest¡¨ (33).


In addition, he is a proud man who, perhaps because of his lower class origins, seems to believe he has a reputation to uphold and who is particularly sensitive to anything perceived as a slight against him. This, in addition to certain turns of phrase he has adopted in order to reinforce his sense of his own credibility, makes him seem pompous at points. However, although Frank rarely admits that he is wrong, he does have a softer side which surfaces in occasional moments of tenderness with Dora. He is not a brute but can be quite calm and stiff, especially in situations where he is uncomfortable.



Quotations & Analysis:


¡§DORA: All the same, times change, Frank.


FRANK [reasonably]: They change if you let them change, Dora. Please return that set in the morning.¡¨

This quotation reflects Frank¡¦s belief in the possibility of control and displays his confidence that he is not wrong. However, there is a certain irony in the fact that he was unable to prevent his own son changing in ways far beyond what he thought possible, implying that, for all his self-belief, he cannot anticipate and control everything.


His statement in the quotation is firm, but not overly aggressive, showing that even though he occupies the dominant position in his family, he does not violently reinforce this. This is suggested by the instruction ¡§reasonably¡¨ which seems to reflect what Frank thinks of his demand and his calmness here does make him seem reasonable, despite his position being somewhat of an overreaction.



[tight], [startled], [FRANK moves away from them and sits wearily.]

¡§[embarrassed]¡¨ (35)

¡§[He is nervous and embarrassed] (49)

The stage directions when Frank first meets Dysart characterize him as untrusting and awkward. This is most prominently seen in the third stage direction where Frank creates a physical distance between Dora, Dysart and himself. The fact that he sits ¡§wearily¡¨ may suggest that the kind of discussion he foresees as happening during the psychiatrist¡¦s visit is one that has been held many times before and this it is also possible to read him sympathetically here.



¡§If you receive my meaning¡¨

The repetition of this line initially suggests an air of pompousness to Frank¡¦s character, as if he believes that others are not intelligent enough to understand what he is saying. However, the repetition of this line also suggests that he is trying to dance around the subject, and not directly say what he feels which suggests a certain awkwardness and evasiveness to his character.



¡§Well, look at it yourself. A boy spends night after night having this stuff read into him; an innocent man being tortured to death ¡K It can mark anyone for life, that kind of thing. I¡¦m not joking ¡K [Pause.] Bloody religion ¡V it¡¦s our only real problem in this house, but it¡¦s insuperable; I don¡¦t mind admitting it.¡¨


This quotation shows the strength of Frank¡¦s feelings against religion and his efforts to be taken seriously by Dysart. Interestingly, every major statement he makes is immediately supported by a personal comment such as ¡¥I¡¦m not joking,¡¦ as if he doubted Dysart would believe him otherwise and this serves to undermine his claim as the comment seems unnecessary and it makes Frank appear desperate for credibility.


Frank¡¦s addition of ¡§I mean, real kinky ones, if you receive my meaning¡¨ and ¡§I had to put a stop to it once or twice!¡¨ reinforces the sense that Frank really believes that he is right and the ellipsis breaks the previous agitated rhythm indicating a moment of reflection when Frank thinks back to the incident and resumes in a more subdued way. He doesn¡¦t mind admitting that ¡§[b]loody religion¡¨ is the only real problem in his house, but he cannot admit that he might be part of that problem as well and as such it also possible to read Frank as trying to find someone or something other than himself to blame for Alan¡¦s behaviour. In this light he appears to be similar to Dora who also appears to be unwilling to accept any responsibility for Alan¡¦s actions.


This quotation also reveals a very unorthodox but quite plausible perspective of the violent nature of the Christian religion with its emphasis on the pain and suffering of Christ that is not frequently pointed out.



¡§All that stuff to me is just bad sex.¡¨

Frank¡¦s comment on religion here obviously contrasts ironically with his own visits to the skin-flick at the cinema which is clearly also a form of bad sex. This line may also suggest that, like Dysart, his sexual relationship with his wife is also unfulfilling and it may even hint at the way that Frank has been observing Alan and has seen a connection between Alan¡¦s masochistic self flagellation, his awakening sexuality and religious ecstasy.



¡§[kindly] No one¡¦s laughing, Dora. [She glares at him. He puts his arm around her shoulders.] No one¡¦s laughing, are they doctor? [Tenderly he leads his wife out of the square and they resume their seats.]

The stage directions here contrast with most of the rest of this scene where we clearly see Frank as being quite vocally and orally aggressive, especially with regards to religion and television. Here we can see a softer side to his character and his gentle insistence that no one is laughing at Dora conjures a sense of intimacy, softness and tenderness that is rarely seen. It not only is significant in this way in showing a different side of Frank, but also shows the closeness between Dora and Frank and we may also feel sympathy for these two parents here who are bewildered, ashamed and perhaps guiltily wondering how their son has managed to commit such a brutal crime.



¡§I intend to report you to the police for endangering the lives of children¡¨

This is what Frank says immediately after Dora tells him that Alan is bleeding. Frank¡¦s inability to control himself when he is challenged shows his defiant character but the unwarranted hyperbole here once again suggest something ludicrous about his pomposity. This is especially true when we bear in mind that it was actually he who injured his own son by pulling him from the horseman¡¦s shoulders.



¡§Upper-class riff-raff! That¡¦s all they are, people who go riding! That¡¦s what they want - trample on ordinary people!¡¨

This quotation shows the importance of social class to Frank and implicitly reveals the sense of inferiority that he seems to feel as he tries to belittle the horseman in revenge for the perceived insult that Frank feels he has suffered.



¡§DORA [amused]: Look at you. You¡¦re covered!


FRANK: Not as much as you. There¡¦s sand all over your hair!

[She starts to laugh.]

[Shouting] Hooligan! Bloody hooligan!

[She starts to laugh more. He tries to brush the sand out of her hair.]

What are you laughing at? It¡¦s not funny. It¡¦s not funny at all. Dora!

[She goes off, right, still laughing. ALAN edges into the square, still on the ground.]

It¡¦s just not funny! . . .

[FRANK returns to his place on the beach, sulky.

Abrupt silence.]¡¨


This quotation, which comes after the horseman on the beach gallops past the Strang family splashing them with sand and water, reinforces how easily Frank feels slighted as is evident the sense of frustration and almost childish stubbornness created here. Both Alan and Dora are amused at being covered in sand and only is Frank is upset which makes him seem ridiculous as he continues shouting ¡§Hooligan!¡¨ This touch of comedy is further reinforced when he tries to convince Dora that the situation is not funny where the repetition seems almost sulky as if he finds it hard to understand that this perceived slight is not taken as seriously by others.


Nonetheless, his trying to brush the sand out of Dora¡¦s hair which suggests a more gentle and caring side of his person, even though the action itself might not have been especially gentle due to his frustration.


¡§It might show her where all that stuff leads to, she drills into the boy behind my back.¡¨

It is ironic that Frank accuses Dora of ¡¥drilling¡¦ religious beliefs into Alan when he himself also constantly and persistently imposes his beliefs onto his son. In addition, the fact that Frank so clearly blames Alan¡¦s odd behavior on his mother¡¦s influences reveals once again how intolerant we can be of the faith of others and how we fail to realize that our own deeply held beliefs can be just as arbitrary and just as damaging.



¡§You see why I couldn¡¦t tell his mother . . . Religion. Religion¡¦s at the bottom of all this!¡¨

This quotation once again shows that Frank lays the blame for Alan¡¦s deviant behaviour squarely at the feet of his wife without being willing to admit that his own actions played an equally significant role in the development of Alan¡¦s character. This not only suggests his pride as a character but also echoes the general human trait that we are quick to blame others of things for which we are also culpable.



¡§Nothing. I coughed - and went back downstairs¡¨

This quotation characterizes Frank as being reserved and as someone who, somewhat like Dora, avoids awkward confrontations. This is further emphasized in the line ¡§I can¡¦t speak of things like that, Doctor. It¡¦s not in my nature.¡¨ when Dysart asks about whether he has ever educated Alan about sex.



¡§DYSART: I don¡¦t quite understand.


FRANK: Everything said in here is confidential, you said.


DYSART: Absolutely.


FRANK: Then ask him. Ask him about taking a girl out, that very night he did it . . . [Abruptly.] Goodbye, Doctor.¡¨

This enigmatic behavior from Frank builds mystery and suspense as we wonder how he knows about Alan¡¦s date with Julie, especially because his insistence on confidentiality conveys the idea that the information he refuses to divulge is something he wishes to be kept a secret due to its embarrassing nature. In retrospect Frank¡¦s awkwardness takes on a more comic light as we imagine the scene when he runs into Alan at the skin-flick and this may further serve to portray his character as pompous and hypocritical.


On the other hand, it is possible to read Frank more sympathetically as a man who, like Dysart, is also trapped in an unfulfilling relationship with a woman he feels inferior to. As a result he resorts to sordid trips to the cinema to indulge in pornography as a shallow echo of the sexual fulfillment he fails to receive at home. In this light he becomes another example of a person whose life lacks the passion and vitality of Alan¡¦s when he is worshipping Equus.




Role of Frank in the Play:

Like Dora, Frank is used to reveal how easily we can be affected by elements in our environment as we end up weaving together a belief system out of a whole patchwork of unintended influences. We see this clearly in Alan¡¦s question ¡¥Who said that ¡¥religion was the opium of the people?¡¦ and his unconscious adoption of several of Frank¡¦s sayings like ¡§Mind your own beeswax¡¨ and ¡§You¡¦re a swiz!¡¨. Frank¡¦s influence is most significant when he replaces Alan¡¦s picture of Christ on his way to Cavalry with a picture of an all-seeing horse as this appears to be the moment at which Alan transferred his burgeoning religious devotion from Jesus to Equus. However, a further, more subtle, example of this may also be seen in the way that Frank¡¦s own shameful sexuality has lead Alan to express his sexuality in equally shameful ways, for example thrashing himself and then guiltily running back to his bed when he was caught and creating a god who prevents him from having sexual interactions.


Frank¡¦s socialism and strictly atheistic beliefs also act as an example of yet another belief system (like Dora¡¦s Christianity or Dysart¡¦s enchantment with Ancient Greece) and the parallel between these belief systems and Alan¡¦s force us to call into question the validity of the beliefs of all of these characters and even our own. In a similar vein Frank may be read as yet another character who lives an unfulfilling life as a printer engaged in a dying trade with a son he can¡¦t be proud of and a relationship which does not seem to bring him sexual satisfaction and in this way his lackluster life contrasts for the richness of Alan¡¦s ¡¥glowing world of horses¡¦ and Dysart¡¦s admiration for the commitment and passion of which Alan is capable.