Throughout The Road to Mecca the reader experiences conflicting emotions towards the character Marius due to the complexities of characters and the dynamic events that occur during the play. This essay will explore the impact that the character, Marius has on the reader’s emotions as the play unfolds.
During the first act, Marius is not present, but is discussed between Helen and Elsa. From their conversation the reader develops a preconception that Maruis is manipulative and is attempting to convince Helen to move out of her home. This idea is reinforced by Helens fear to stand up to him. “It’s just that Maruis is such a persuasive talker.” (p.33 – Helen about Maruis) Upon meeting Maruis in the second act, he comes across as pushy when he explains to Helen that a lot of people have gone through great measures to secure Helen a spot at the old aged home.
By causing Helen to feel guilty and informing her that a decision needs to be made quickly, the reader feels that Marius’ manipulation is a result of possible ulterior motives. “For an old friend he sounds a little overeager to have you on his way.” (p31 – Elsa about Maruis) The reader also picks up on the Elsa and Helen’s attitudes towards Marcus and upon realizing Helen does not want to move out, the reader is inclined to support Elsa and Helen’s wants as the reader has developed an emotional attachment to them.
Marius’ conservative views and constant attempt to make Helen fit into society’s expectations are symbolic of old and pro-apartheid views. This furthers the reader’s dislike towards Maruis, as the reader would likely disagree with Maruis’ beliefs. “You turned your back on your church, on your faith and then on us for that?” (p 63 – Maruis’ about Helen’s Mecca) Maruis did not want Helen to defy the expectations of woman to go to church, to clean or to be obedient wives and when she did he was unable to accept that. This causes the audience to develop more of an emotional attachment to Helen as in the present it is praised when people do not conform to traditional gender expectations. However, the readers view point shifts as the play reveals new dynamics and complex situations.
The reader might have developed a dislike for Maruis due his seemingly manipulative actions in attempting to persuade Helen to move out of her home. However, this perspective shifts as it is revealed that Helen is not as capable of caring for herself as she claimed she was. After Maruis tells Elsa that Helen made no attempt to save herself when her house set alight, the reader begins to believe that Maruis concern for Helen is genuine, considering recent events. The fact that Elsa’s visit was due to a concerning, possibly suicidal letter that Helen wrote, emphasizes the fact that Helen might not be emotionally or physically stable in her current state. “My concern is that she gets a chance to live out what is left of her life as safely and happily as humanly possible.” (p57 – Maruis about Helen) Elsa begins to emphasize with Maruis after she realizes that Helen could put herself at further risk by staying alone at home.
Throughout the play Elsa has had Helens best interest at heart and her loyalty towards Helen is undeniable. The reader is therefore inclined to agree with whatever Elsa says as she is clearly a true friend of Helens. So when she too sees sense in Marius’ proposal, the reader realizes that Marius’ intentions, although they were represented of conservative beliefs, were truly good. One wonders if his actions were a result of being raised with conformist and conservative beliefs. The readers then feel a sense of sympathy as they regard Marius’ confirmative views and expectations as a result of an Apartheid upbringing. In a few pages the reader undergoes a complete emotional shift from disliking Maruis to sympathizing and even liking his character. This change is a result of the complexity of Helens lifestyle which was revealed by her inability to completely care for herself and by the change in dynamic between Elsa and Maruis as it is reveled they both have Helens best interest at heart.
The reader, after undergoing this emotional change is able to look at the situation from all of the characters perspectives. Through this the reader understands that in Marui’s own way, he was trying to be a good friend. He reveals that he cares and wants to help her even if they disagree. “A true friendship should be able to accommodate a difference in opinion.” (p44 – Maruis to Helen) The reader becomes fonder of Maruis once they understand the complexity of his character, their situation and the origin of his concern. Elsa is portrayed as a foil to Maruis, emphasizing his conservative views opposed to her avant-guard ways. This dynamic comparison has a profound effect on the reader’s emotions as they experience polar opposite emotions and reactions towards each character.
Experiencing two characters different relationships makes us feel sympathetic towards Maruis as we realize his friendship with Helen is built on Maruis’ perception of how he wants Helen to be, while Elsa appreciates Helen for the person she truly is. The reader feels Maruis’ heartbreak when he realizes Helen can never be the person he wants her to be and he can never be with her due to his conservative and confirmative beliefs. “It is not easy…trying to find the first moment in life that must be lived out in the shadow of something that is terribly wrong.” (p69 – Maruis to Helen.) The religious conflict between Maruis and Helen creates a complete dynamic that cause the reader to experience emotions such as anger, understanding, sympathy and heartbreak towards Maruis.
In the final pages of act two, if the reader has not already sympathized or developed an attachment to Maruis, they would when Elsa informs Helen that Maruis loves her. “It’s a very moving story. Twenty years of loving you in the disguise of friendship and professional concern for your soul.” (p71 – Elsa about Maruis) The reader realizes that Maruis character is a lot more complex than one might originally think. When Marius tells Helen “there is lighter in her than in all your candles put together” (p69) one cannot help but experience Maruis’ heartbreak. The tragic love between Helen and Maruis impacts greatly one the reader’s own emotions due to the interesting dynamics and complexity of their relationship.
The Road to Mecca does an excellent job of creating complex characters and interesting dynamics that are so powerful that they impact the readers own emotions, specifically with regards to the character Maruis. The reader is taken on an emotional journey as the character Maruis resonates with a verity of the reader’s emotions.
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