In Athol Fugard's play The Road to Mecca, Helen Martin does not physically travel to the geographical city of Mecca. Discuss what the image of "Mecca" symbolises for Helen. 

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Miss Helen's "Mecca" symbolizes what it is that inspires her and her own independence. She began to create her Mecca when her husband died, some fifteen years prior to the start of the play, when she realized that both her marriage and her church were never what they were supposed...

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Miss Helen's "Mecca" symbolizes what it is that inspires her and her own independence. She began to create her Mecca when her husband died, some fifteen years prior to the start of the play, when she realized that both her marriage and her church were never what they were supposed to be. She neither loved her husband nor felt inspired by church services.

Miss Helen quickly learned that, as a result of her refusal to adopt the socially appropriate role as a meek, church-going widow, she would be ostracized by her community. When she chose, instead of fulfilling this unsatisfying role, to embrace her new independence, acting on her inspirational visions of animals and wise men, she began to find what truly does make her happy. She created her own place of inspiration and independence, and she, therefore, found a way to reach spiritual fulfillment, much to the confusion and chagrin of her neighbors.

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For Helen, Mecca symbolizes her own spirituality, the visible expression of her soul, and the lightening of her dark fears of aloneness and age.

Having been stifled in her marriage, Helen was unhappy and felt as though she were in the dark because she could give no expression to her soul and feel no comfort. But, after her husband dies, Helen finds meaning in her life through her artistic endeavors. But, now that she is older, she tells her friend Elisa,

[It is]the only reason I've got for being alive is my Mecca. Without that I'm nothing...a useless old woman getting on everybody's nerves... and that is exactly what I have started to feel like.

Thus, the image of Mecca represents for Helen the spiritual comfort that arises from color and light and the creative expression of forming something as evidence of one's existence and vitality. Looking to Mecca returns to Helen an interest in life, making her feel productive, and truly vibrant in her acts of creation that are given meaning by standing in her yards.  It is this inner life which nourishes Helen and makes her feel fulfilled and happy. Her sculptures and statues are witnesses to Helen's creativity and soul.

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