The Possibility of Evil
Evil is an ever present force in our society. It can’t be stopped or altered. It spreads like a cancer by the media and is embraced by the disenchanted and disenfranchised members of our society. In the story The Possibility of Evil, by Shirley Jackson, the protagonist, Miss Strangeworth, understands that evil is everywhere but does her best to stop it
In Miss Strangeworth’s mind she is the guardian and protector of the town. She feels that this responsibility has been accorded her because her grandfather was one of the town’s founding fathers. As such Miss Strangeworth often catches herself thinking that “the town belongs to her.” Furthermore, Miss Strangeworth feels that it is her duty to protect the town and its people from evil of all kinds. Unfortunately, not very many bad things happen in town. Nevertheless, she is still worried about the bad things that might happen. So she starts on a quest to warn people about the possibility of bad things happening in the hopes that they will be forewarned and therefore be safer. Unfortunately, this plan is fatally flawed.
What Miss Strangeworth seems unable to comprehend is that her hints, in the form of anonymous poison pen letters, are not based in any kind of fact or reality. She only deals in the “more negotiable stuff of suspicion.” Because of this, the people receiving the letters do become more aware of “evil” but not so they can avoid it, but so they can locate or confirm it. The people receiving the letters are worried and threatened by the information. The effects of the letters cause more harm than good. The people are stressed and suspicious. The people are hurt and distracted by what they have read in Miss Strangeworth’s cruel letters. Ultimately, the pain she has caused is turned back on her. She has driven the quiet, respectful, caring towns folk to perform an uncharacteristically mean act of revenge—destroying her precious roses.