Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




The purpose of this study was to disclose a dramatic political event in droughtstricken North Dakota during the so-called "Dirty Thirties." After completing a Communist investigation for the Americanism Committee of the American Legion Auxiliary for the Department of North Dakota, Agnes Kjorlie Geelan began speaking engagements to inform the public about the results of the report and to persuade members of the American Legion Auxiliary to act upon the information. This study specifically analyzed the rhetoric of Geelan’s "Nuclei of Discontent" Address at the American Legion Auxiliary State Convention in June 1932 in Devils Lake, North Dakota.

To provide a design to study the rhetoric, Kenneth Burke’s dramatistic approach was used. By using Burke’s pentad, the critic considered the economic background of northwestern North Dakota in the Depression (Scene), the function of Geelan’s speechmaking (Purpose), what took place in the rhetoric (Act), the background of Agnes Kjorlie Geelan (Agent), and what strategies the agent used to motivate listeners to pursue patriotism (Agency). Burkeian analysis allowed the critic to examine each component of the pentad to find what methods of persuasion were used by the rhetor.

The pentadic approach revealed that Geelan was a dynamic speaker with superior organizational skills and a keen political sense. This speech, early in her career, demonstrated Geelan’s ability to motivate and provide alternatives for social change, at grass roots levels, for North Dakotans.