Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Dr. Charles Johanningsmeier


Literary historians have often referred to Tillie Olsen's background as a Communist. This is not surprising, since her writings are overtly political, and she contributed a great deal to the Communist Party of the United States of America (CPUSA) in her younger days through her literature as well as through other forms of activism. However, Olsen is actually a counterrevolutionary because as a feminist writer, her themes and style concern the emotional, individual, and even the spiritual. These features contradict the rational mode with dominated Communist Party leadership. Music, an important part of the Communist movement, also plays a significant role in many of Olsen's writings. Olsen uses this very emotional medium as yet another form of rebellion against the Party's analytical, rational ways. Olsen's use of music in the novel Yonnondio and in the short stories "O Yes" and "Tell Me a Riddle" represents a blatant rebellion against the Communist agenda While a number of critics have noted ways in which Olsen defied Communist expectations with regard to literature, thus far, her revolt with music has been overlooked.


A Thesis Presented to the Department of English and the Faculty of the Graduate College University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Arts University of Nebraska at Omaha. Copyright 2000 Melissa Wilkinson Warr