Themes and Meanings

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

The Road to Mecca is an examination of the dual themes of artistic creativity and the often lonely place of the artist in society. In the character of Miss Helen, Athol Fugard has created an example of an artist driven purely by a need to create. Lacking encouragement, recognition, or any other social reward, Miss Helen persists in her work out of a profound need for self-expression, a need so fundamental that she is willing to risk censure and ridicule from her neighbors as well as the isolation that accompanies them. The play never addresses the question of the actual merits—or lack thereof—of Miss Helen’s sculptures, and it is clear that for Fugard’s purposes the issue has no meaning. The world’s evaluation of Miss Helen’s work as “good” or “bad” is unrelated to the crucial fulfillment and meaning it brings to her life.

As she explains to Marius, Miss Helen’s life with her husband was an empty denial of her true creative spirit; his death was a liberating moment that offered her the chance to pursue a path utterly out of step with the small community in which she lives. That art itself can be perceived as a dangerous threat to those within society who adhere strictly to its conventions is evident in the protests and bannings that have been directed at many works of art over the years, from Édouard Manet’s Luncheon on the Grass (1863) and Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring (1931) to Martin...

(The entire section is 573 words.)