The Road to Mecca is an eye opening play written by Athol Fugard that displays a deep and significant message about the importance women’s right to express themselves freely. Elsa, a character in the play, sums this idea up in a sentence she says in the play: “There’s nothing sacred in a marriage that abuses the woman”.
The story is primarily based on a woman by the name of Helen Martin. Helen lived in a culture with certain social norms and conformities, where women specifically were afraid of pursuing their dreams due to an unwarranted fear of what others would think of their ideas and them, themselves as human beings. Helen conformed to the social norms and married, but when she died I believe that she was able to follow her dreams due to the fact that she did not have her husband’s religious judgments stopping her. After her husband’s death, her community expected her to begin a new life of quiet mourning, but instead she followed her dreams and began to build her own Mecca. This consisted of making many various statues in her backyard. Instead of the village residents in her community admiring and appreciating her art, instead they thought of her to be eccentric and rejected her. Helen was admirable as she continued her passion of art and creation even though her society was against her artistic ways. Instead of deciding to stop, even when stones were thrown at her house, she carried on building her Mecca. She dared to be different!
Helen’s courage and free-will in this play portrays an important message of free expression that all women deserve and are entitled to have. Worrying about what other people think about you will never allow you to find out who you really are. Helen was torn between deciding whether or not to conform to the social norms expected of her or to carry on with her dreams and experience freedom. She chose the latter and fulfilled her own heart’s desires. Even though she lost many friends by doing so, there was Elsa, who accepted and supported her ways. Being yourself, and putting your dreams, thoughts and ideas in to reality is a true representation of who you are and thus you will know who your true friends are.
Helen’s courage in the play can be learnt by all women. Following societal norms and doing everything that is expected by you from society may be an easy way out. But by following this safe and easy way through life, there will be many potential characteristics and qualities wasted in your life. In Helen’s case she pushed through the societal norms and gained admirable qualities and characteristics such as love, courage, freedom and of course her artistic talent. Freedom is what we all desire, deserve and should have. Without it we will never have a true sense of happiness. Women have constantly either been forced or compelled to do what is expected of them. For example, in relationships, it is a husband’s expectation of a woman to cook, clean and even behave in a certain manner. In Helen’s case she was only able to follow her passion after her husband’s death. In these days women need to know that if they want to rather follow their dream, for example to help people and become a nurse, they can! If their husband doesn’t allow it, the question must be raised, is he allowed to stop my dreams and passions from becoming a reality?
Marriage is an extremely important decision to make, especially for women. It is very common for women to marry and for the husband to change and become abusive and controlling. This play can give women hope and a sense of courage to follow their hearts desire. If the husband does not allow for that, he does not truly love you because your dreams, hopes and passions all form part of who you really are. Therefore if they cannot be accepted and approved of, neither can the credibility of the relationship. Having trust with your heart’s desires and loving yourself are the most important things in order to be truly happy and free.
To conclude, it is unfortunate that Helen was only able to follow her dream and portray her talent after the passing of her husband. All women can learn an imperative lesson from this play: A lesson of great courage and determination. It is never too late to follow your dream and realise that you have a right and freedom to be who you want to be. Yes, some people may reject you, but you will gain friends who really matter and more importantly, you will gain a new sense of love for yourself.
Nobody else has the right to stop you from expressing yourself freely and if they do try to, you must realise that they are not worth being a part of your life. Putting your dreams first may be a tough thing to do at times, as in Helen’s case, but if you don’t you will never experience the true joy and satisfaction that you could benefit from life. Finding and loving yourself should always be the biggest priority in women’s lives. By doing this first, the true friends and true love will follow.