Poverty In Sicily – Part 1

I’m reading this book called Poverty In Sicily by Danilo Dolci, a sociologist from Northern Italy. It was written in 1956. The following is an interview with Nonna Nedda. I’ll let it speak for itself.

“Well, of course, a husband’s got the right to beat his wife. If she’s given him cause to beat her, of course he has the right. Say she starts arguing with him, back-answering him – he won’t put up with it, and no wonder, so he beats her. Has a wife got the right to raise her hand against her husband? For sure, she hasn’t!”

Can I just add at this point that this is a woman speaking.

“If we hear of a woman doing such a thing, we’re disgusted – ‘Dragged up, that’s what she was,’ we say. But if a husband’s got reason to beat his wife, we take his side, not hers. ‘Don’t tell us he beat you for nothing!’ we say to her. ” We know a thing or two about you!’ and then she’s properly ashamed. The sort of woman who’s no better than she should be, is always raising her hand to her husband. ‘Nice goings-on!’ we say to her, ‘shows how you’ve been brought up!’ We’ve got a name for a woman like that who doesn’t tend to her home and runs about with other men – a mare, we call her, a mare that’s always got someone on her back! When her husband’s giving her a beating, she’ll screech: ‘Seems I only please you when you’re on top of me!’ and that’s why we call her a mare.

All wives get beaten from time to time, but it’s only the mares that go to the police and complain. I ask you: Is it right for a woman to speak badly of her husband just because he gives her a thrashing? A decent woman wouldn’t think of doing such a thing – she’d never say a word against her husband. Take my granddaughter, Sariddu, for instance; her husband had thrashed her so hard she couldn’t get up from the floor and her face was all bruised. ‘Whatever have you done? How did you get that black eye?’ I asked her.  ‘I fell down the stairs, Nonna,’ she said. ‘Oh dear, dear, dear, and you expecting!’ I said.  ‘It’s all right, Granny,’ she said, ‘the baby hasn’t come to any harm – I can feel it moving. ‘ A well-brought up girl like Sariddu wouldn’t tell her own mother her husband had hit her. Once, my husband gave me such a beating that he broke one of my ribs – it hurt so much that I had to go down on my knees to make the bed. When people asked me what was wrong with me, I said: ‘Nothing, my head aches, that’s all. ‘ I never told a soul what my husband had done to me.

When a woman spends all her time gossiping, we’ve no use for her, I can tell you.

‘She hasn’t got a good word for anybody – she’s always saying things behind people’s backs. It’s a good thing her husband beats her – pity he doesn’t do it oftener, though!'”

4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Alex Jones on August 26, 2014 at 11:17

    Regardless of gender nobody has the right to infringe the personal space of another through violence without good reason such as self defence.


  2. Growing up in Italy, I often felt some parts of the South were like a foreign country. Having said that, things have improved, but not so much that a woman gets killed (mostly by her domestic partner/husband) every three days. Crazy uh?


    • Very. It seems the north and south are different worlds. I can’t believe people had such attitudes towards women so recently. The extreme levels of poverty and lack of work in some of the other interviews in the book are shocking.


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