36 pages 1 hour read

Athol Fugard

The Road to Mecca

Fiction | Play | Adult | Published in 1985

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Symbols & Motifs

Helen’s “Mecca”

The clearest symbol in The Road to Mecca is Helen’s home, which she refers to as her “Mecca.” It “attempt[s] to use as much light and color as humanly possible” (1) and includes an outdoor sculpture garden filled with Helen’s sculptures of Wise Men and animals pointed toward the East. As Helen frequently asserts throughout the play, her “Mecca” is a reflection of her true self, and her life’s purpose is its creation. Helen tells Elsa about her home: “This is what I really am. […] Nothing, not even my name or my face, is me as much as those Wise Men and their camels traveling to the East, or the light and glitter in this room” (24).

Helen’s “Mecca” is the physical manifestation of her radiant personality as well as her Eastern faith. More importantly, it represents her freedom and independence from her conservative South African community, in that she has personally transcended its conventions and limitations by physically creating a new world of her own.

Candles and Darkness/Light

Helen’s mental state throughout the play is represented through notions of darkness and light, particularly as manifested through the candles in her home. Light and candles are shown to be of particular importance to Helen from the first act.