A Study of Coded Messages in the Personal Narratives of Female Mormon Missionaries
Salt Lake City, UT
University of Utah
Sometimes women must communicate hidden, obscured or alternative messages because more direct messages may be dangerous or inappropriate due to the relative powerlessness of the female gender in certain social systems, such as patriarchy. The result of this power inequity may cause certain discourse authored by the powerless to erupt in the form of questions, ridicule, or defiance of patriarchal constrictions. That such messages exist and can be identified is the core of the argument presented in this dissertation. As women-authored, spiritual, personal writing presents the opportunity to study women and their discourse, this study seeks to explore coded or hidden messages in the personal missionary journals, diaries or oral histories of nine specific female Mormon missionaries. The research methodology used in this study is a kind of deconstruction defined as a practice of revealing contrary as well as hidden meanings. Such analysis has revealed a model of a continuum of rhetorical enactments or resistance strategies. The rhetorical enactments identified in this study group together in three distinct places on the continuum associated with the hiddenness of the subjectivity of the author and her connection to others: "I" forms, "I/Other" forms and "Other" forms. The five "I" form rhetorical enactments identified in this study are: silent complaint, justification, self-deprecating humor, gossip and rumor, and supercompetence. "I/Other" forms include: humility, mimicry and (in)validism. "Other" forms are identified in the study as: juxtaposition, appropriation and defiance talk/defiance. The topology of rhetorical enactments suggested herein is a new configuration of the ideas of rhetorical strategies and feminist messages. Careful consideration and substantial arguments have been made to support the particular enactments mentioned above. The framework of rhetorical enactments suggested in this study contributes to the field of rhetoric in that it provides a methodology rarely, if ever, used. It is further argued that this methodology is effective in decoding hidden messages deeply embedded in discourse.