New dystopian novel “Vox” finds a place in today’s political landscape


“Vox” cover, photo courtesy of Brooke Sufrin

Brooke Sufrin

Smile and be quiet, half the population has been silenced. This is evident in Christina Dalcher’s debut best seller, “Vox,” a feminist novel that takes place in a not-so-distant dystopia. Women are tracked with word counters on their wrists, limiting them to one hundred words per day. Once their counters run out, any further words used will give them an electric shock.

This riveting tale follows forty-three-year-old Jean, and the imminent physical, mental, and emotional struggles that her lack of speech generates. Intimacy issues with her husband that lead to adultery, the now-passive manner in which she must demand respect from her three sons, and worst of all, her inability to teach her young daughter, who is now comforted by and conditioned to silence. To add an element of irony in the work, Jean is a highly educated linguist, who was on the verge of a medical break through, curing aphasia, before her language and rights were stripped from her.

This particularly timely story written by Dalcher, a practicing linguist herself, seems to serve as a warning in the Trump era. Like classic dystopias such as George Orwell’s “1984” and Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World,” “Vox” is rife with symbolism. It secretly has a mind of its own, similar to its female protagonists. However, it does seem similar to the ever-trending and timeless work, “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood

In her story, Jean flashes back to a time where she sat in her college dorm room, refusing to partake in the civil rights parades and mocking those who did. “That could never happen to me,” she thought.

Years later, the character is forced to raise four children with no voice and reminisces to a time where she could have woken up and fought for the cause. Because in the end, the unthinkable did happen to her.

Although President Trump’s name is never specifically mentioned in the text, the story shares parallels to the United States’ current political climate. The devolution of women’s rights begins as a black man leaves office and a white man takes his place. The new ruler’s policies align with that of a male southern Baptist. Over time, his charisma helps him convince the majority of the population to join him in “righting the way of the world,” starting with gender. During his fictional rule, women were taken from their jobs, stripped of their voices, and put back in their place; at home. When Jean’s story begins, she and her fellow females are well on their way to wearing the white head guards and red gowns that the handmaids know best.

The political act of stripping power from a group of people seems to traditionally begin with the removal of civil rights. According to classic dystopian novels, these rights tend to regard sex, language, and the right to work. These basic human instincts become the opposing weapon. Dalcher inserts her willful message of taking action through the character of Jean.

The next generation will soon be the rule makers and policy implementers. According to Brookings Now, “Millennials are on the frontlines of political and cultural change in America.”

Following the theme of a horrifying reality, will this generation fall victim to the governmental procedures that they didn’t act against, or will they rise to be the change they wish to see in the world? Even with only 338 pages, “Vox” is sure to delve deep into some of today’s hottest polarizing issues.

"Vox" cover, photo courtesy of Brooke Sufrin
“Vox” cover, photo courtesy of Brooke Sufrin