Repeated images of Angela Bari living an imprisoned life in Voices by Dacia Maraini play an important role in book. The internal and external forces surrounding Angela Bari lead her to a life of confinement and domination. If Angela Bari had broken away from her confinement she may have prevented her untimely death by exposing the ill ways of her stepfather, Glauco Elia. Angela’s secretiveness, self-doubt, and compliance with others lead her to victimization.
It is not until her unfortunate murder that Angela’s imprisonment gets unraveled. Her distorted emotions are revealed as this relatively unknown young woman’s death is investigated. Journalists trample inside Ms. Bari’s life without any regards to her in an attempt to solve this murder mystery (17). Angela’s body was discovered by the porter of her apartment who is “astonished that there should be so little blood on the floor” when he discovers that she is lying on the ground dead after being stabbed several times (18). This is the first clue that Angela is cornered in her own little world. She has little blood, which is regarded as the seat of emotions, and her lack of such nourishment suggests that perhaps she was never nurtured. Furthermore, her cause of death, internal hemorrhage, suggests that those feelings imbedded within her were lost rapidly and uncontrollably (19). The obscure grasp Angela has of her emotions is just one facet of her imprisonment.
Angela’s imprisonment is traced back to its roots in adolescence, when at the young age of eight her father dies leaving an “empty gap” in her life “that couldn’t ever be filled” (189). Shortly thereafter her mother remarries, and her bondage evolves. Her new family life is the main source of her isolation. It is, as though her family remained “cocooned inside its own cultural and linguistic bunker” (6). Similar to many, her family was like a “minefield” (39). The most explosive is Angela’s new father who sexually abuses her (214-215). “He loved her without respecting her . . . and treated her as if she belonged to him” (213). He felt as though he were taming her (233). He obviously sees nothing wrong in what he is doing as he claims, “I’m very content with my household of women” (190) as though they were objects. In addition, he does not see anything wrong with Marco beating Angela’s sister, Ludovica. “I know he beats her up but I think with good reason” (234). Glauco’s acceptance of this behavior further emphasizes the agony his daughters were subject to throughout their lives. Though Glauco Elia may have been Angela’s “torturer” (219) she loved him because growing up, captivity is all that she knew.
Augusta Elia, Angela’s mother is a second piece in the minefield composing Angela’s life. The key to this component lies in Ludovica, Angela’s sister’s question, “why daughters so often repeat detail for detail the story of their mother” (157). Angela’s mom also lived in a prison. For example, when she has an onset of eczema or headaches she barricades herself in the house with the blinds down. Ludovica even suggests that she “find herself another husband instead of shutting herself up in a room to suffer” (29). The mother also gives off different vibes at different times similar to her daughter. When Michela interviews Angela’s mother she feels that she is cold over the phone and then friendly in person (88). Even the taxi driver who drops Michela off for the interview exclaims, “This looks like a prison!” (87) Furthermore, the mom does not even care if they find Angela’s murderer (89) suggesting an isolation from her daughter.
Ludovcica, Angela’s sister is also seen “shutting herself off” at times (156). The two sisters grow up together and face the same problems including an abusive father and mother who was “blind and deaf” (214) to their problems. Ludovica gets confused between what happens to her and what happens to Angela (211) so the problems of the two sisters essentially are infused within one another. Like Angela, Ludovica has an abortion to end a pregnancy with her stepfather. She also goes to a psychiatric clinic and ends up sleeping with Angela’s husband (91). Ludovica grows up to live an awkward and artificial life as heard through her voice (96). When Ludovica speaks of visiting her mother she even says, “I stayed with her for a little while and then I escaped” (158) implying that indeed their house was a prison. Ludovica’s response to their upbringing is another contributing factor to Angela’s imprisonment.
Sabrina, a close friend of Angela’s is another influence on Angela’s self-imposed incarceration. Sabrina admits to teaching Angela like a mother teaches her daughter (63). Sabrina, a mentor, for Angela ends up hanging herself in prison (145). Her suicide serves a purpose in the book because it shows how another of Angela’s role models also confined her problems deeply within herself.
Nando, another friend of Angela may have also been an influence on Angela’s confinement. Nando has keys to Angela’s apartment and it is not known whether Angela was even aware of this. The fact that Nando has keys to Angela’s apartment signifies that she no longer has control over who has access to entering her life and that she must continue to lock up her emotions so that she can protect herself. Similar to Augusta Elia, Nando also could not care less if the Angela’s murderer is found (152) signifying that he too is isolated from Angela.
Angela’s relationship or lack of it with her neighbor, Michela, contributes to her imprisonment. Angela admired Michela so much, but never spoke with her even though she had the opportunity to do so (28). Furthermore, Ms. Bari seemed to know so much about her neighbor while everyone including Michela knew so little about Angela (153). She tries to get close to Michela the only way she knows how (222) and this is by seeing Marco, Michela’s boyfriend, secretly (211). Angela’s inability to express her desires is one of the greatest sources of her isolation.
Before her death Angela makes a tape that is delivered to Michela after her murder. The cassette is filled with fairy tails of a daughter who is always being punished by her father.
The king is portrayed as an unpredictable tyrant, sometimes he piles presents on his daughter, sometimes tortures her, keeps her a prisoner, or shuts her inside a tower without doors or windows. (154)
Similar to the stories that get more “savage” as they progress, Angela’s imprisonment also gets “deeper and more desperate” (154) until it culminates with her death. As Michela listens to the tape she can hear “terror alternating with outbursts of happiness” (206).
As a result of all of these internal and external forces Angela has essentially created a prison for herself. She does not allow herself to let others know her or her feelings. She lives in an apartment which still bears the name plate of the previous tenant (6) and when coming home she repeatedly locks the doors as if to say, “keep your distance” from me (6). Angela is afraid of “exposing herself” (4) and would keep “even the silliest things hidden” (32) giving the impression of having “terrible secrets” (31). Even the repeated reference to her blue shoes symbolizes a confinement. The shoe is an outer covering, which is worn for protection, and Angela’s shoes happened to be “blue” which represents feelings of dismay. In addition she was “full of fears and doubts” (52) including fearing her father (29). “Since Angela was afraid of everything; she was always running away” (62). This explains the reason why Angela viewed owning property as a burden (31). By not owning property she is able to prevent herself from identifying with anything. Furthermore, by not owning anything she can easily run away and escape her problems.
Just as the media distorts images of Angela’s life as they try to solve the mystery of her murder (26) we realize that Angela was doing the same thing to herself in her own life. Angela’s reality was unpleasant and she tried to block it out (79) by being compliant and at everyone’s disposal (78). Furthermore, she “kept whole areas of feelings” unknown (81). The few things we did know about her were that she viewed herself as being ugly (86) and was fragile (160) indicating that she is susceptible to being cornered in her own little world.
Glauco Elia attempts to keep Angela imprisoned so that he can have her all to himself. He stoops as low as to send an anonymous letter to her future husband to try to scare him out of marrying her by stating that she suffers from nervous disorders (218). He tried to mold Angela like he molded the sculptures he created (192) He did this because according to him:
Anyone looking at her body clothed or naked, would be overcome by an excruciating desire to touch her, caress her, to penetrate her, even to rape her because in some way she was really asking for this . . . at the same time that brought out the wish to kill her. (237)
Angela’s life was marked by this torture. Glauco Elia lived so that he could dominate and overpower Angela like so many people did, but in the end no one was able to really control her. Just as she began to truly break away from her prison by exposing the “horrible things” that encompassed her she is murdered by her stepfather because he loses all his sense of power. She tells him that he had “ruined her life, her body was dead, forever, dead” (241).
Similar to Michela who has trouble finding Glauco’s house even when she has directions (183-185) Angela is unable to find a path that will lead her past Glauco and his dominance. Even after her death Angela Bari’s soul “isn’t at peace” (55). Her body does not “remain whole until the Day of Judgement”, (57) but similar to her life she is “brutally torn apart” (22) at her death. Even her family does not come to Angela’s funeral (7) further illustrating the isolation Angela was bound to during her lifetime.