Equus: Character Profile ¡V Jill



Character Description:

Jill is portrayed as a young girl who is romantically (and sexually) interested in Alan. Although we rarely see direct evidence of this, the audience are given the impression that Alan continually shuns Jill¡¦s advances until the disastrous sexual encounter that begins the build up to the climax of the play. Jill¡¦s overt sexuality helps to paint her as a child of the increasingly liberal 70¡¦s (the period in which the play is set) and suggests that she too, like most other characters, unconsciously adopts the social mores of her times. Furthermore, her inability to comprehend Alan¡¦s devotion to Equus (comparing his acts of worship to the way in which young girls pat and kiss horses) may also suggest the way in which she represents the ¡¥normal people¡¦ who are unable to conceive that there can be a valid world view that is markedly different to their own and who are left disturbed, shaken and horrified when they finally stumble upon this possibility.



Quotation & Analysis:





¡§I¡¦ve seen you too, haven¡¦t I? You¡¦re the boy who¡¦s always staring into the yard around lunch-time.¡¨


¡§Jill comes into the square; a girl in her early twenties, pretty and middle class. She wears a sweater and jeans.¡¨


Jill¡¦s clothing implies that she is a relatively ordinary young girl. Although she is in her twenties, the use of ¡§girl¡¨ suggests her bright young personality and the fact that she is aware of Alan (whom she might believe has been staring at her when, really, he has been staring at the horses) begins to suggest her consciously flirtatious and sexually provocative nature.



¡§See how he loves it? I¡¦m giving you a lovely massage, boy, aren¡¦t I?¡¨


¡§Down towards the tail and right through the coat... Very good... You¡¦ve got a feel for it. I can tell. It¡¦s going to be nice teaching you. See you later.¡¨


Jill is very knowledgeable about horses as she expertly and confidently teaches Alan how to groom them.


However, despite her expertise, it is clear that her interactions with horses are far less intense than Alan¡¦s and Shaffer perhaps uses this to show how completely different worldviews can coexist in almost complete ignorance of one another. The different belief systems that these two characters have also reveals how something mundane and relatively ¡¥normal¡¦ to one person can be a moment of reverence to another and this perhaps in turn suggests the ultimately arbitrary nature of all of our belief structures.



¡§I saw you staring into Nugget¡¦s eyes yesterday for ages. I spied on you through the door!¡¨


¡§You¡¦re a real Man of Mystery, aren¡¦t you?¡¨


¡§[coolly] How would you like to take me out tonight?¡¨


¡§I love horses¡¦ eyes. The way you can see yourself in them. D¡¦you find them sexy?¡¨


¡§Girls do. I mean, they go through a period when they pat them and kiss them a lot.¡¨ I know  I  did. I suppose it¡¦s just a substitute, really.¡¨


The flirtatiousness in these quotations suggest Jill¡¦s sexual provocative nature and her interest in Alan.


Her observation of Alan staring into Nugget¡¦s eyes indicates that she is somewhat aware of his deep fascination with horses. However, she misinterprets this moment of worship and instead mistakenly believes that his obsession with horses is similar to that of a young girl. It appears that Jill cannot comprehend Alan¡¦s devotion to Equus because it is so outside the realm of what is normally experienced in society.




¡§It¡¦s true, Mr. Strang. It wasn¡¦t Alan¡¦s idea to go there. It was mine.¡¨

Despite her obvious misunderstanding of Alan and his fascination with horses, it is clear from this scene that Jill is a genuine and caring character who is willing to defend Alan from his father¡¦s accusations. In this way Shaffer is perhaps suggesting the kind of a normal, healthy and supportive relationship that will ultimately be denied to Alan unless Dysart is able to cure him of his devotion to Equus.


The fact that Alan clearly desires her too but is unable to sleep with her because he believes that Equus¡¦ is watching him all the time, contributes to the dilemma that the audience are left with at the end of the play. Although, like Dysart, we too may envy Alan¡¦s ability to ¡¥gallop¡¦ ¡K we can also clearly see the disadvantages of Alan¡¦s abnormally fierce devotion and are thus left uncertain as to whether or not it is better for Alan to be made ¡¥normal¡¦ or not.



¡§I can¡¦t. Mother doesn¡¦t like me bringing back boys. I told you... Anyway, the Barn¡¦s better.¡¨


¡§Dalton will be in bed... What¡¦s the matter?... Don¡¦t you want to?¡¨

Once again we sense Jill¡¦s attraction to Alan and her willingness to deceive both her mother and Mr. Dalton paints her as a rebellious character. In this way she appears to be a normal teenager / twenty-something ¡K a marked contrast with Alan.



¡§It¡¦s all right¡K It¡¦s all right¡K  Don¡¦t worry about it. It often happens- honest¡K There¡¦s nothing wrong. I don¡¦t mind, you know¡K I don¡¦t at all.¡¨

When Alan is unable to have sex with Jill because Equus is watching him, she misinterprets his impotence as a result of his nervousness and, once again, we see a kind and genuinely caring side to her character as she tries to reassure and comfort him. In this way Jill once again can be seen as representing the attractive side of normality ¡K without Equus, it would have been possible for Alan to have had a normal relationship with her. His inability to do so is the cost he has to pay for so intense a devotion.



¡§[In horrified alarm she turns- fumbles the door open- leaves the barn- shuts the door hard behind her, and dashes up the tunnel out of sight, past the barely visible figure of NUGGET.¡¨

Jill¡¦s final reaction of confused / shock and alarm ultimately, however, suggests the response of all ¡¥normal¡¦ people when they are confronted by the ¡¥abnormal¡¦ and this in turn suggests the way in which Alan ¡V if he continues to adhere to a belief structure so vastly different to everyone else¡¦s ¡V will never be able to belong in society.




Role In The Play:

Jill plays a number of roles in the play. Firstly she is a source of sexual tension and drama that acts as a fairly straightforward tool of audience engagement. More importantly it is the tension created between Alan¡¦s devotion to Equus and his desire to engage in a ¡¥normal¡¦ relationship with Jill that ultimately prompts the disastrous climax at the end of the play.


Secondly, she (like many of the other characters) represents the ¡¥normal¡¦ in that she is a product of her time (the sexually liberal 70¡¦s) and also by the way in which she seems unable to understand that there can be other ways of looking at the world. As such, she misinterprets Alan¡¦s behaviour to the horses by attempting to make sense of them from within her own belief system, e.g. in her comparison between Alan¡¦s feelings for Equus and the way in which young girls pat and kiss horses some times. Thus she (and, indeed, all of us) are ultimately unable to fully understand the depth of feeling possible to someone like Alan who is living his life on a different track of existence.


Finally, Jill (who is kind, caring, pretty and genuinely interested in Alan) represents the attractions of normal life. When Alan is unable to sleep with her, the audience shares his frustrations and this lends force to Hesther¡¦s arguments about the value of the ¡¥normal smile¡¦ in the eyes of a child which in turn undermines Dysart¡¦s claim that being an outcast is a price worth paying in order to live as intensely as Alan does.