Women's Rights to Express Themselves Freely in the Road to Mecca

Women’s rights to express themselves freely in The Road to Mecca
The theme of women’s rights to express themselves freely is prominent in The Road to Mecca. In Act I of the play, Elsa states: “there’s nothing sacred in a marriage that abuses women” (Fugard 2013: 23). Through a series of events in the play, the main characters Helen and Elsa obtain the ability to stand for their convictions and express themselves freely, which was typically uncommon for this period of time in a country where women were cast into dated gender roles based on cultural ideologies.
Set against the backdrop of South Africa during the 1970’s, which was a time in the Afrikaner culture where women were expected to act in a certain manner, this two act play revolves around the life of Helen Martins, an Afrikaans woman in her sixties from New Bethesda. She receives a visit from her friend Elsa who is a woman in her late twenties who is a teacher at a coloured school in Cape Town. She is a symbol of feminism and the hope for a new South Africa with regards to equality in that she goes beyond what is supposed to be taught in the classroom and gets her students to express their ideas and feelings. Elsa asks her learners as a homework exercise to write an essay to the State President on the subject of racial inequality (p. 27). This action concerning Elsa’s conduct is not taken lightly by the Cape Town school board. She tells Helen: “all I deliberately look for are opportunities to make those young people in my classroom think for themselves” (p. 27-28). This becomes her personal goal to get Helen to also think and freely express herself.
In another instance, Elsa reveals to Helen of having an affair with a married man, who she started to open up to and was “in it for keeps” (p. 30). After the relationship ends Elsa finds out she is pregnant. The act of expressing herself freely as a woman at this point comes when she reveals to Helen that she had an abortion: “I had an abortion. I put an...