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The Impacts of Differences In Parental Beliefs for Children In

Equus Play By Peter Shaffer

Nurfajri Ayu
English Department, Faculty of Humanities, Andalas University,


This article discusses the issue of differences parental beliefs that impact children in Equus, a
play by a British playwright. The work is apparently coded how differences in beliefs in a family
impact on children and how it can be seen as a reflection of real-life society. It explores how the
teachings of devout mothers and atheistic fathers with different dogmas make children confused in
social life. The play which is entitled as Equus is analyzed through Sociology approach using Emile
Durkheim theory of Functionalism which society is more than the sum of its parts; rather, each part
of society is functional for the stability of the whole. It also uses a theory by American
sociologist Robert K. Merton developed structural strain theory which learns about the origin of
deviations between goals in a society and the abilities that an individual has to achieve them.. it is
concluded that Equus Play also involves criticism on different parental dogma, deviant and society.

Keywords: Institutions, different parental dogma, deviant, society.

In society, there are several institutions that play an important role. These institutions
make regulations and set sanctions to create a safe and controlled society. Generally, people assume
that the institution is only the government or other official government agencies. Whereas in fact, a
family is the first institution that takes on a crucial role in a society. The first lesson a child gets is
from parents. The lessons are about how to speaking, socializing and praying. It is sure that every
parent wants their child to get a teaching that they think is right. However, the problem that arises is
when both parents have different views on things such as religion.

The problems raised by the family as the main institution in society are clearly illustrated
in the drama Equus written by Peter Shaffer. It starts with a husband and wife who have different
beliefs.His wife is a devout Christian while her husband is an atheist. The function of an institution,
especially the family, should provide a clear foundation for a child so that later he is able to achieve
the goals of life in a society. But what about parents who have different beliefs? Of course their way
of looking at a problem is not the same. This then becomes a problem because later the child gets a
different perspective. He had not really been able to distinguish between the two sources and
certain purposes in a dogma. Later on, this becomes the beginning of a failure to understand from a
teaching. Because of this misunderstanding, the child who grew up was not able to adapt to society.
He interpreted things differently. So that people who do not understand that this child is
experiencing failure to understand the dogmas given by their parents. The failure of this
understanding seems very clear in terms of beliefs about religion and sexual attraction.

The author also criticizes the role of the people who often consider behavior deviations to
someone is the person's fault. Even though the deviations could be the cause of his own family.
Deviations that occur in a person usually have a process why he can do deviations. Thus, this drama
clearly illustrates that a deviation that occurs in a person has many causal factors.
Generally, the definition of "functionalism or functionalist theory" is an understanding
that the community is an organization which requires staff to support it in order to remain standing.
these staffs are then referred to as institutions. Meanwhile “structural strain” is a development of
the functionalist perspective on deviance.

The theory of functionalists was developed by Emile Durkheim, a French sociologist who
focused on institutions that built a society. One of them is family. Because the family is the main
institution that prepares a child to be able to socialize in community life. Meanwhile, the theory of
structural strain is the development of functionalist theories that focus on deviations. according to
Robert k. Merton, an American sociologist, deviates from this because there is a gap between the
cultural goals and the average number of people who can achieve it.

By using these two theories, the writer reveals how misunderstood dogma then collides
with values in society.


The role of the family, especially parents, is very important. this role refers to the social
foundation obtained by the child from both parents. As one of the institutions in society, the family
becomes the first place for the child to learn what society is. Besides that, in social life, there are
already justified assumptions, such as how to worship God with various beliefs, how to socialize and
questions of interest in sexual contexts. Social concepts offered by the community are indeed not
entirely true, but all the concepts are considered reasonable and accepted by many people.

The problem in this novel arises when the main character named Alan Strang has
deliberately blinded 6 horses on a farm owned by Harry Dalton. Initially, Alan cared for Dalton's
horses well until one night when he met another worker named Jill Mason. Jill who also works for
Dalton teaches how to get good horses. In short, Jill then invites Alan to have sexual relations. Alan
looks not very interested in Jill's presence.But because Jill was aggressive, Alan finally took off his
clothes. But then Alan stopped because he felt he was being watched by horses around the cage.
feeling anxious and anxious, then alan stabbed the horse's eye with a sharp iron.

This problem became even greater because Dalton the horse owner and employer Alan
reported the action as a crime to the authorities. Until Alan was later met with a woman lawyer
named Hester Solomon. Because of Alan's young age, Hester appealed by suggesting that he be
taken to a psychiatrist. he is a close friend of Hester named Martyn Dysart. From here one by one
the instructions is found.

Initially, it was very difficult for Dysart to get Alan to say everything that happened to him.
but then one by one the mystery was revealed. Dysart several times conducted interviews with
Alan's parents, namely Frank Strang and Dora Strang. After several questions were asked, it was
revealed the fact that Alan kept a photo of a white horse in his room named the nugget. The photo is
the result of a calendar photo printed by his father. Before going to bed, his devout Christian mother
always told Alan about horses. In some of his mother's stories to Alan, his mother once said that "...
when the Christ of the first appeared in the new world, the thought of a horse and the rider was one
person?". Almost every day his mother told Alan about horses, so alan became so interested in
horses. no longer just as an animal, but as a god. He sees horses as something he must respect.
when his mother continued to cultivate religious-style dogmas to alan, fatherhood, Frank Strang
actually blamed Dora for the deviations made by Alan. He assumed that Dora was overly imposing
alan on religious dogmas. frank, an atheist, argues in one of his dialogues with Dysart that "...
religion is a neglected opium". He also said that people who claim obedience always feel that what
they are teaching is the best. but for Frank what was said by Dora to Alan had backfired for Alan

After interviewing both parents alan, Dysart then asked about the most memorable
memories of childhood. Alan explained that at that time he was on the beach then came a horse
driver with his horse. At that time Alan climbed his horse. with horse movements that are quite
aggressive make, Alan really enjoys it. from here then Alan begins to have a sexual attraction with
horses. during adolescence, Alan had no interest in women. In fact, Alan admired horses as god and

Back to the theory carried out by Emile Durkheim, we can examine that Alan's family as the
institution closest to him has failed to meet the social demands of Alan. Normally, Alan should
worship Jesus and have an interest in women as the opposite sex. As explained by Robert K. Merton
about structural strains where people in their equivalents have certain standards for carrying out the
life they call normal. Then this is the climax of this problem. Alan's parents then blamed each other.
whereas, if examined from the perspective of both parents, they would want their children to grow
properly. This is evident from the words Dora strang on act II in Equus. Dora said "... I've heard it all
my life. It's our fault. Whatever happens, we did it ...". Dora as a mother seemed so unhappy when
she was denied what happened to her child. dysart as a psychiatrist who is a representative of the
form of society itself is also trying to restore alan to normal life.

Over time, Dysart also sees how confused the situation is. In his view and belief, he saw that
the horse he called the nugget was a picture of the belief itself and his pleasure with horses was a
natural attraction arising from his childhood processes. However, because he lived and lived with the
community he could not continue what he believed because it did not fit the structure in the
community. Dysart who has handled a lot of cases about deviations of children also began to
question the truth of his actions. Because he never felt a relationship that was so strong as the
relationship that Alan had expressed with the horse.

Taking from a brief discussion about the drama, we can also reflect it into the present era
where there is a widespread occurrence of marriages with different beliefs. Some of them look fine,
but from this story, we can see that having parents with different beliefs can cause confusion in
community life. Then with the community itself, we can learn that every deviation that occurs in
someone has a background. It is necessary for us to continue to pay attention to the surrounding
environment and understand others.


Equus was first staged in 1973, has conveyed so many social issues that occurred among the
people. one of them is having parents with different beliefs. This difference certainly affects how
they raise their children. This case is clearly illustrated in Equus drama by Peter Shaffer. A person's
behavior will be deemed deviant if it is no longer in line with the community order. Because basically
there is already a separate structure in society. Meanwhile, parents must be reluctant to be denied
what happened to their children, because basically every teaching they teach aims to make their
children better. Meanwhile, the deviations that occur in the child will make the child feel
embarrassed because the environment begins to assume it is strange. From this drama, we can also
learn that as a society we should not only judge every time one of the members of the community
deviates. Maybe, all the teachings are the result of his insult from the teachings of both parents and
their environment.

References :

[1] Shaffer, Petter. Equus. New York. Penguin Books, 1984.

[2] Ziyanak, Sehabattin and James L. Williams. “Functionalist prespective on Deviance”. International
Journal of Human sciences 11. 2014

[3] Openstax Collage. Introduction to Sosiology. Texas. Rice University, 2013.