Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Lynne McNeill

Second Advisor

Jeannie Thomas

Third Advisor

Brock Dethier


This thesis analyzed the narrative devices women use when telling difficult or sad stories in familial settings. I documented a story told by my mother, Myrle Hoagland, about the death of her twin brother at age 17. I provided a textual analysis concentrating on the storyteller’s use of silence, additional information, and non-linear structure, to provide meaning and instruction to her family. I also contextually analyzed the story, illuminating the unique way informal learning affected the storyteller’s performance. My analysis demonstrated how I, as an emic ethnographer, documented a familiar story about a death in my family. Upon deeper study, the storyteller attempted to instruct both consciously and subconsciously on topics about sexuality, economics, motherhood, and identity. This thesis is a case study of how women in my family use narrative devices such as silence, overlays, and performative variations to both project and withhold meaning.