Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy




This dissertation presents a method of identifying gender patterns (rhetorical patterns of style assigned by gender) in fiction. This identification is accomplished by studying the personal speech or "primary rhetoric" of fictional characters using syntactic and semantic variables that make up COMP STYLE, a package of computer programs designed by Rosanne G. Potter, Iowa State University. Among other functions, the COMP STYLE programs enable a user to accurately classify simple syntax in the dialogue of characters in fiction through the counting and sorting of the following variables: questions, imperatives, exclamations, pauses, fragments hypotheticals, definitions, negatives, universals, adverbs, and comparisons;The data field--the population studied--includes the dialogue from three novels by Henry James, Daisy Miller, The Portrait of a Lady, and The Bostonians, and the major novel of Kate Chopin, The Awakening. Two characters from each of the novels--the heroine and the male who most frequently interacts with her--function as specific subjects. The hypothesis is twofold: the dialogue of male characters reveals a gender pattern that denotes strength and power; the dialogue of female characters reveals a gender pattern that denotes polite and uncertain speech;James's works support both hypotheses; Chopin's novel exhibits variation in the first hypothesis, but supports the second hypothesis. The stylistic evidence from all the novels in this study support the conclusion that linguistic strategies do contribute to character definition and, in all probability, affect reader response, although this has not been tested emperically here;Gender patterns can be identified by rhetorical methods because they are embedded in language. Moreover, this language is not just the language by which characters in fiction are defined, but the language with which real people define gender roles, values, and acceptable behavior; the language with which teachers teach and students learn. Identifying gender patterns in language can be a positive step in creating a social reality where communication is neither marked by gender, nor limited by stereotype.



Digital Repository @ Iowa State University,

Copyright Owner

Eunice Mae Merideth



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131 pages