Vox, published in Italy by Editrice Nord, is the overwhelming debut novel of Christina Dalcher, an American linguist with a degree in Italian and an expert in Florentine dialect. A dystopian book that describes a dark and terrifying future, creating scenarios that push us to reflect deeply on the society we live in.
“I hope this book would make you a little bit angry and would make you think” writes the author in the acknowledgments and indeed anger and dismay have accompanied us during the reading.
Cult of domesticity
In imaginary United States crushed by religious fanaticism, women are considered immoral within a society that is desperately seeking for a renewed purity. Women live in a psychological and emotional imprisonment and they can’t go over a limit of 100 spoken words a day. Women are thus completely excluded from the public sphere, they cannot dialogue, read, work, write or communicate with sign language, their only task is that of being dutiful wives and devoted mothers.
“After all, one day my daughter will be expected to shop and run a household, to be a devoted and dutiful wife. You need math for that, but not spelling. Not literature. Not a voice.”
We witness the exhumation of “the cult of domesticity”, where, according to this idea, men and women have separate duties. Political and economic matters are concentrated in the male hands, while female matters are exclusively related to the domestic environment. Women are supposed to possess four virtues: piety, purity, domesticity, and submissiveness. And it is within this scenario, that we see women losing everything, not only the voice and the right to speak, but also freedom. And it is precisely on the importance of fighting for freedom that the author talks about. What are women willing to do to make themselves heard, to use their own voice?
The topics Christina Dalcher addresses are not new, but certainly she was able to make us feel scared, anxious and terribly angry while reading about such a cruel and unjust reality. The sense of injustice is profound and at times unmanageable. Chapter after chapter, we realise how the balance between good and evil is subtle and constantly in danger. We also see how citizens become weak and passive when facing fanaticism. And it is precisely a passive attitude that makes evil triumph.
With a simple and direct writing, the author tells us to be careful, to actively observe the society we live in,without losing our voice. It is not only a message towards women, but also towards the male world.
Dalcher’s style and writing did not always convince us, especially when we think about the ending, though this book is an interesting starting point to carefully reflect on the role of women within society. What do you think about it?