Date of Award
Bachelor of Arts
Dr. Michael Rifenburg
Dr. Tamara Spike
Dr. Steve Smith
World War II carried profound sociopolitical and moral weight. At a time when so many lost their hope in humanity, some family members and soldiers wrote about their beliefs and continued to believe in something bigger than themselves. They corresponded with one another throughout the war, reminding each other of the fundamental truths that bound them together and enabled them to keep going. I sought to find how the Bible might have been used as a rhetorical device in these particular World War II letters. Four questions guided my research process: (1) Who wrote the letter? (2) What was their relationship with Christianity? (3) What external circumstances might have prompted the use of a particular passage? (4) What effect did the selected scripture have for the reader and writer? As I began compiling notes and research, it appeared as though some of the letters appeared to be similar in rhetorical purpose, which led to the development of five organizational categories in order to explain what the primary result might have been. The grouping of letters was intended to create a broad spectrum of potential rhetorical purposes the use of the Bible might have. The letters were found in online archives, like the BBC WW2 People’s War archive, and also from individuals who, with the help of scholars and family members, published their letters into book format. After research, the five purposes that World War II letters referencing the Bible might have are as follows: (1) To establish peace in chaos, (2) To provide comfort though familiarity, (3) To create confidence in morality, (4) To unite family from afar, and (5) To remember the character of God. It is hoped that this thesis might provide structure to additional research about the Bible as a rhetorical device, as well as a precedent for analyzing letters in academic writing, by telling the stories of the Great War’s lesser-known actors.
Ford, Mackenzie, "Pressed but not Crushed: How World War II Letter Writers Use the Bible as a Rhetorical Device" (2019). Honors Theses. 57.
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