Article published in:Beyond Narrative Coherence
Edited by Matti Hyvärinen, Lars-Christer Hydén, Marja Saarenheimo and Maria Tamboukou
[Studies in Narrative 11] 2010
► pp. 121–146
“There is no fear in my lexicon” vs. “You are not normal if you won’t be scared”
A qualitative semiotic analysis of the ‘broken’ discourse of Israeli bus drivers who experienced terror attacks
Bus drivers in Israel have coped with decades of stress, fear, and the constant threat of terror. This paper summarizes a qualitative analysis of the form and content of narratives told by Israeli bus drivers who directly experienced a terror attack. A preliminary discourse and semiotic analysis of a case study is presented here as representative of a ‘broken’ narrative, as reflected in what initially appear as internal contradictions in both form and content. The non-random distribution of personal pronouns is analyzed, and hypotheses are postulated regarding the meaning of the interviewee’s communicative strategies in telling his narrative and coping with his lived experience. In particular, the interviewee makes openly conflicted statements regarding his sense of fear and willingness to admit being scared, while using the first-person and both gendered second-person pronouns in a uniquely patterned manner that also reflects this ambivalence. A careful analysis of these seeming contradictions, inconsistencies, and ‘broken’ narrative patterns leads to the ultimate suggestion that certain messages in individual discourse can reveal the narrator’s feelings and attitudes about the surrounding hegemonic social discourse. In the case of Israeli bus drivers, this discourse facilitates a collective sense of obligation to act and cope resiliently, and discourages ‘less acceptable’ reactions.
Published online: 13 January 2010