Theory of Personality to the real world
Freud’s oedipal complex theory tries to explain the phenomenon of male children getting sexually attracted to their mothers. This is considered inappropriate in many societies and therefore must have a psychological problem attached to it. Freud’s theory has parallels to the play called Equu, where a young man is spiritually and sexually attracted to horses (Billington, 2007). Oedipus complex occurs as a stage of psychosexual development, states Freud’s theory. It occurs between the ages 3-6 years (Ahmed, 2012). It is a stage in which a boy feels the need to possess the mother sexually, while at the same time fearing the father. It is occasioned by a feeling described as castration anxiety, where the boy feels to be in competition with the father for the affections of the mother, but then feels the father is too big an opponent with the capacity to vanquish the boy (Ahmed, 2012). Oedipus complex is resolved after the boy realizes that he has more in common with the father, and the father is unlikely to harm him. He also identifies more with the father, as they have similar anatomy. If a boy becomes fixated on this stage, he may later on in life develop personality, psychological and sexual anomalies. The character named Alan in Equus seemed to have not resolved his Oedipus complex stage, hence the fixation on abnormal religion and the inability to differentiate between spiritual adoration of the horses and sexual attraction for them.
Equus and Oedipus complex
Equus is the story of a psychiatrist’s investigation on a young man accused of having blinded six horses. The psychiatrist named Dysart is interested in knowing the background of Alan, the young man that is responsible for the blinding of the horses (Billington, 2007). The first investigation leads Dysart into discovering the childhood memories of Alan. Alan has grown up in a homestead where the parents have extremely diverging views on religion. The father is an atheist while the mother is deeply religious (Shaffer, 1975). The father admonishes him whenever he exhibits spiritual leanings, while the mother insists on reading the bible to him very day and instilling religious values in him. One very important childhood event that may have resulted in Alan’s fascination and eventual worship of horses is the crucifixion painting that he is forced to remove by the father rom the bed. He replaces it with a painting of a horse and that he may have started to revere the image of a horse from then on.
This background of having parents with conflicting religious views, and each trying to enforce their views on Alan might have been the reason for the failure to resolve his Oedipus complex. At the age when he is sexually attracted to the mother, he views the father as the aggressor. At the same time, the mother, whom he is fixated on, is lavishing him with religion. The aggressor (father) is against the views held dearly by the mother. Yet, the father possesses the mother sexually (Ahmed, 2012). The conflicting views of the parents and their closeness must have had a confusing effect on Alan at this tender age. At the same time, the father, whom he secretly fears as the impediment to Alan owning the mother, is harsh as far as religion is concerned. Naturally the attraction of Alan to the mother makes him want to embrace it in order to please her. The father is distasteful of that making the young Alan to conclude that the father is for real the aggressor. There is no opportunity available for Alan to resolve and identify with the father. There is no way that he may displace the father and possess the mother on his own. This is because the father is much stronger than little Allan.
Having not resolved his Oedipus complex, and not being able to replace the father in his mother’s life, Alan might have resorted to clinging to the one thing that the mother seems to like: religion. He, however, is careful not to practice it in the way that his father finds annoying. This makes him start adoring the horse image on his bed. The adoration with horses grows into an obsession and finally worship (Shaffer, 1975). Alan ends up creating his own religion, in which the gods are horses, with the greatest among them being the one named Equus (Billington, 2007). The play describes an instance where Alan in the company of the father come across a horse rider, and Alan becomes so mesmerized by it only to get admonished by the father (Shaffer, 1975). This might in a way make him want even more to associate with horses. While interviewing Alan in a hypnotized state, Dysart finds out that Alan tends to like the muscular build of horses in an almost erotic manner. He also finds out that Alan has been riding the horse name Equus at night while in the nude (Billington, 2007). The laws to be followed by Alan in his self-made religion are similar to the ones that were ingrained in him by his mother in his childhood. Of the major ones include the notion that true love can only be found in devotion to religion and in the confines of marriage.
The details gathered by Dysart up to this point cannot yet explain the reason why the 17 year old Alan blinded six horses in the stable he used to work in. if he admire the horses so much, then why hurt them in such a manner? The answer to this question is made apparent when Jill, a young woman, comes along. Jill is the one that assists Alan in getting a job at the stables that belong to her boss. It later emerges that she is attracted to Alan. Alan seems unaware of the affection that Jill has for him, and this compels her to seduce him one night in the stables (Billington, 2007). Alan is unable to resist her and in no time, they are having sex in the stables. Their escapade is rudely interrupted when Alan finds Equus staring at them. He has been caught by his God getting intimate before marriage, and he sends Jill away while begging for forgiveness from the horses (Shaffer, 1975). He later on decides to blind the horses in the stables using a spike, as they have witnessed him doing what to him is the most heinous sin.
From the sessions that Dysart
gets to have with Alan, he gets to know the reason why Alan would hurt the
horses. It is his upbringing in a home with parents having extreme and conflicting
views on religion that makes him become fixated on the Oedipus complex stage
while growing up. This twists his understanding of religion and morals. He ends
up worshiping strange deities and ends up hurting them for witnessing his
moment of weakness. If the Oedipus complex stage had been resolved, then Alan
might not have grown to adopt such strange beliefs.
Ahmed, S. (2012). Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theory Oedipus complex: A critical study with reference to DH Lawrences Sons and Lovers. International Journal Of English And Literature, 3(3), 60–70.
Billington, M. (2007). Equus. the Guardian. Retrieved 25 September 2014, from http://www.theguardian.com/stage/2007/feb/28/theatre1
Shaffer, P. (1975). Equus (1st ed.). New York: Avon Books.