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Yearning for Mecca: Resonance in selected plays of Athol Fugard

Cynthia J Totten, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


The foremost critical approaches to dramatist Athol Fugard's work indicate a symbiotic dichotomy: that Fugard is a regional writer protesting the South African ethos of apartheid and that Fugard is a universal writer focussed on the wider spectrum of human existence. Some scholars, such as Robert M. Post and Robert Brustein, classify Fugard's plays as condemnations of South Africa's oppressive government, for they address such issues as white employer-black servant conflicts ("Master Harold"$\...$ and the boys), the Group Areas Act (Boesman and Lena), the pass laws (Sizwe Bansiis Dead), inequities in public education (The Road to Mecca), political imprisonment (The Island), racial friction (The Blood Knot and My Children, My Africa), the Suppression of Communism Act (A Lesson from Aloes), and miscegenation (Statements After an Arrest Under the Immorality Act). Russell Vandenbroucke and Cedric Callaghan, among others, contend that Fugard depicts Everyman, the solitary human traveling through life grappling with timeless problems that transcend the confines of the Eastern Cape: loneliness, acceptance, love, death, duty, prejudice, survival. The surface level of Fugard's plays plumbs the twisted Orwellian world of apartheid while the more inclusive core extends beyond the backdrop of South Africa, to touch people regardless of race or nation. Fugard does not concentrate on these undercurrents in his plays, insisting instead that he writes specific stories, powerful because they are about people. He maintains that they are appreciated because of their inherent truths about human nature. Preferring to focus on storytelling, Fugard begins with specific details which later resonate beyond the original plotline. In addition to an overview of South African apartheid and a brief biography of the playwright, this dissertation provides a moment-to-moment exploration of resonance in six major plays of Athol Fugard: The Blood Knot, Boesman and Lena, A Lesson from Aloes, "Master Harold" ... and the boys, The Road to Mecca, and his latest published work to date, A Place with the Pigs. ^

Subject Area

History, African|Theater

Recommended Citation

Totten, Cynthia J, "Yearning for Mecca: Resonance in selected plays of Athol Fugard" (1989). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI9118479.