The Pullman Times

A Follow-up Story


A Pullman psychiatrist finds the motives behind a 17-year-old’s mysterious act of violence, and discovers some of the same motives within himself.

Alan Strang, a Pullman High School student, was sent to psychiatrist Martin Dysart after he blinded six horses with a metal spike last month. It was a case that shocked the country, but in the aftermath, Dysart himself was the most shocked of all.

Strang was sent to the long-time child psychologist on the suggestion of Judge Hesther Salomon, who said that anyone else would have been too shocked and horrified to handle such a case. Salomon described how other doctors would react to such a case.

“Oh, they’ll be cool and exact,” Salomon said. “And underneath they’ll be revolted, and immovably English. Just like my bench” (19).

Dysart himself was not quite as confident in himself when the case first arrived. He said he expected very little to come from the Strang case.
“One more dented little face. One more adolescent freak. The usual unusual. One great thing about being in the adjustment business: you’re never short of customers” (21).

Needless to say, Dysart was quite troubled when he realized that this “adolescent freak” and himself have more in common than one might imagine.

Dysart began where every good child psychologist does: with the parents. Dysart said he had an idea of the type of people Frank and Dora Strang were before he ever met them. Alan’s actions suggested a religious and oppressive upbringing; however not uncommon by any means, Dysart said.

Frank Strang proved to be the stricter of the two. He believed in society and its ability to become better, Dysart said. Thus, he would not allow Alan to watch television for fear that it would stunt his mental growth.

“Relentlessly self-improving,” as Dysart described him (28).
Nora Strang put her beliefs and her hope in religion instead. She believed that that was the only law or discipline the boy needed to know, Dysart said.

The Strang’s lived by two different sets of laws, both laws set up by society, and very conflicting with one another in Alan’s mind.

Dysart said it reminded him of a couple he met with a few years back, Torvald and Nora Helmer. While Torvald believed in the laws set by government above all else, Nora believed that the laws set within oneself, dictated by love and emotion, overrides those set by government. The signals were also too confusing then, and Nora left her husband and children.

Dysart said he was surprised to discover that he too is part of a destructive relationship such as these. Dysart and his wife live on two different realms of what is important, just as the Helmers do and just as the Strang’s do.

“Do you know what it’s like for two people to live in the same house as if they were in different parts of the world? Mentally, she’s always in some drizzly kirk of her own inheriting: and I’m in some Doric temple – clouds tearing through pillars – eagles bearing prophecies out of the sky. She finds all that repulsive” (62).

These couples are living together as one, and yet as far apart in beliefs as strangers, as many couples do. Alan Strang sensed that in his own household, Dysart said.

Another shocking similarity, Dysart said, were the concurrent nightmares of Alan and Dysart. While he never learned specifics, Dysart did discover through Alan’s parents that he was dreaming about the horse “Equus” – Alan’s God.
Dysart, similarly, said he was dreaming about his God, Greece, and yet in his own dream, Dysart almost was the God. When one places that much power in themselves, as Dysart did in his dream, there is the fear of failing. Dysart felt that fear in his dream as he fought to hold back nausea.

Many people try to be their own God, it seems. They worship nothing – except themselves and their own abilities, and yet that leaves so much room for failure, as in Dysart’s case.

Which lead him to his final and most unnerving conclusion, Dysart said, which was that Alan had what Dysart wanted – something to worship. Dysart thought his wife was the worshipless one, when he says:
“If I had a son, I bet you he’d come out exactly like his mother. Utterly worshipless” (62).

Dysart thought he worshipped Greece, until he met Alan who really worshipped something, with his whole self, and Dysart said he realized that that is what he was missing. And Alan knows this. Alan should be the psychiatrist, because Dysart is the one missing something, Dysart said.

“That’s the Accusation! That’s what his stare has been saying to me all this time. ‘At least I galloped! When did you?’ … I’m jealous Hesther. Jealous of Alan Strang” (82).

The Pullman psychiatrist was disturbed to discover that he and Alan Strang were so similar. The motives that lie within this violent boy also lie within an accomplished child-psychologist. And within everyone, Dysart said, but everyone is not as passionate and strong as Alan Strang, so we keep those things hidden. Dysart must bring Alan back into the world of normalcy that Dysart himself has come to hate.

“I’ll give him the good Normal world where we’re tethered beside them – blinking our nights away in a non-stop drench of cathode-ray over our shrivelling heads! I’ll take away his field of Ha Ha, and give him Normal places for his ecstasy – multi-lane highways driven through the guts of cities, extinguishing Place altogether, even the idea of Place!” (108).

By: Kelly Dobbs
Expected graduation date: May 2005
Major: English, Journalism
Hometown: Lake Chelan, WA

As an English major, I write a ton of papers. Too often the required format is very structured and I have very little freedom. With this paper, I took advantage of the freedom to be creative, and had a great time writing it. You can learn so many new things simply by looking at a text from a totally different perspective.

Great Student Papers