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

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For Helen, the Mecca that she has built in her yard and within her home symbolizes freedom. When she was married to her husband, Stefanus, she felt that "it was all a terrible, terrible lie." She admits that she never loved him, and that her

black widowhood [after his death]...

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For Helen, the Mecca that she has built in her yard and within her home symbolizes freedom. When she was married to her husband, Stefanus, she felt that "it was all a terrible, terrible lie." She admits that she never loved him, and that her

black widowhood [after his death] was really for [her] own life [...]. While Stefanus was alive there had at least been some pretense at it . . . of a life [she] hadn't lived. But with him gone . . .

After his death, she began to feel the light of inspiration, as she was called to create her statues, and her life "started to get brighter and brighter" when she responded to these callings and stopped going to church. Helen created a world for herself where she does not depend on the opinions of other people, where she can do what she wants because it has meaning to her, regardless of what others think should be meaningful. She tells Marius, the pastor,

This is my world and I have banished darkness from it.

All of her statues face east, toward the real Mecca, in the direction where the sun rises each morning, and so the symbolism of a new lightness in Helen's life lines up with the light of the life-giving sun. Marius sees Helen's sculptures as a "nightmare," but to Helen, they are an "expression of freedom": from social rules and from others' expectations. Helen wasn't free when she played the dutiful wife to a man she didn't love and attended a church where she did not feel inspired and uplifted. And, as Elsa says,

That stopped fifteen years ago when she didn't resign herself to being the meek, churchgoing little widow [everyone] expected her to be. Instead she did something which small minds and small souls can never forgive . . . she dared to be different!

Elsa is not surprised that the statues seem monstrous to the pastor because "they express Helen's freedom," something which she feels probably "ranks as a cardinal sin in these parts."

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The image of her Mecca symbolized her opportunity to continue her life without her husband and the ability to fill the void that had been with her throughout her life. She filled up her house with light, art and cement sculptures in her garden in an attempt to create her Mecca. Helen understood that she was unable to effectively take care of herself but at the same time she did not want to go to a home for the aged. According to her, by refusing to go to the home she was in turn holding on to her creativity and life. Her Mecca also symbolized her desire for freedom, light and the need to sustain her faculties. These were the reasons she gave to the pastor who felt that Helen had alienated herself from her previous Christian values.

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