The Road to Mecca

by Athol Fugard

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How does Helen show trust, love, and friendship to Elsa in The Road to Mecca? How does Elsa do the same? 

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Elsa thinks of herself as a "serious young woman" who most people think is not very fun, and yet she is able to be silly and let down her guard with Helen. Clearly, Elsa trusts Helen, perhaps because Helen is so accepting and nonjudgmental of her. Elsa says to Helen, "You have the rare distinction of being the only person who can make me make a fool of myself." Helen responds by extending Elsa some grace and using self-deprecatory humor, saying, "You weren't making a fool of yourself. And anyway, what about me? Nearly seventy and behaving as if I were seven!" Helen makes Elsa feel at ease by offering sincere friendship, and she earns Elsa's trust and love in this way. Helen also knows Elsa well, knows what a kind person she is, even if other people in Elsa's life do not see it. She tells Elsa, "There's a new sound in your voice. One I haven't heard before," and she explains that she knows Elsa cares about the woman to whom she gave a lift on her way there even though Elsa spoke as though she does not. Helen very clearly just wants "to help" her friend, and Elsa is certainly aware of her friend's concern and love. Elsa returns Helen's care and concern as well, insisting that Helen not defend the "bigots" in town after "the way they've treated [Helen]." She wants Helen to stand up for herself, and she defends her as best she can when the pastor arrives.

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