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Last Updated on October 15, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 314

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Miss Helen lives in a Christian community that she finds stifling and oppressive. Her late marriage is portrayed similarly, and it is only after Miss Helen's husband dies that she begins to create her sculpture garden. The creation of her Mecca has been an outlet for self-expression and source of spiritual and artistic meaning in her isolation and old age. She finds happiness, guidance, and clarity through her artistic independence, but most of her neighbors do not understand or support her artistic endeavors. Elsa is one of the few people who reaches out to Helen, and Miss Helen attempts to explain her views to Elsa as follows:

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.

Miss Helen's Mecca has given her purpose again. Creating and living within her Mecca provides a source of fulfillment, and her free artistic expression is her own form of worship. But both the restrictions of old age and the pressure from the community adds to Miss Helen’s fear of losing her freedom. Elsa clearly understands this, because it is Elsa who explains it to Marius:

Those statues out there are monsters. And they are that for the simple reason that they express Helen's freedom. Yes, I never thought it was a word you would like. I'm sure it ranks as a cardinal sin in these parts. A free woman! God forgive us!

Marius at first appears to be concerned about Miss Helen's unstable relationship with the church, as her nonconformist spirituality appears unsettling in the eyes of the Calvinist pastor and the rest of the community. However, through Elsa's explanation and the happiness that he sees in Miss Helen, Marius is able to come to terms with Miss Helen’s personal spirituality.




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