The Possibility of Evil by Shirley Jackson Review
In the short story “The Possibility of Evil” written by Shirley Jackson, the main character Miss Strangeworth’s is portrayed as a rude person through her thoughts and actions. This short story takes place in a small town; Miss Strangeworth believes that she owns the town considering that her grandfather built the first house on Pleasant Street. Consequently, Miss Strangeworth believes it is her responsibility to keep the town clean of evil. At first, Miss Strangeworth is perceived as being a kind person; however, her rude personality traits become more apparent later in the story. These rude traits are identified when Miss Strangeworth makes assumptions about the people in town, and when she writes impolite letters. Firstly, Miss Strangeworth’s rude personality is seen when she “noticed that Miss Chandler had not taken much trouble with her hair that morning, and sighed. Miss Strangeworth hated sloppiness.” (Jackson 115). When viewing Miss Chandler her first thought is that she “hated sloppiness”, this reveals that Miss Strangeworth is quick to assume that Miss Chandler is sloppy since she “had not taken much trouble with her hair that morning”. Also, it presents her rudeness considering that she does not know the reason why Miss Chandlers hair is a mess so assuming that she is a sloppy or a careless person can make Miss Strangeworth think negatively about her and can affect the relationship between the two. Furthermore, Miss Strangeworths rude personality is seen again when she writes her inconsiderate letters. These handwritten letters are anonymously mailed so Miss Strangeworth can sustain a good reputation. One of these letters written to Mrs. Harper says, “YOU FOUND OUT YET WHAT THEY WERE ALL LAUGHING ABOUT AFTER YOU LEFT THE BRIDGE CLUB ON THURSDAY? OR IS THE WIFE REALLY ALWAYS THE LAST ONE TO KNOW?” (Jackson 177-179). She then writes another letter to Mrs. Foster that says, “YOU NEVER KNOW ABOUT DOCTORS. REMEMBER THEY’RE ONLY HUMAN AND NEED MONEY LIKE THE REST OF US. SUPPOSE THE KNIFE SLIPPED ACCIDENTALLY. WOULD DOCTOR BURNS GET HIS FEE AND A LITTLE EXTRA FROM THAT NEPHEW OF YOURS?” (Jackson 198-202). Both of these quotations can unveil more about her personality. In the letter, Miss Strangeworth asks Mrs. Harper if she “found out yet what they were all laughing about...on thursday”, can be observed as rude or disrespectful acknowledging that Miss Strangeworth is bringing up a problem that does not include her. This action is disrespectful because she is bringing more attention to a problem that she is not part of which will cause more conflict. The second letter is also a sign of rudeness, Miss Strongworth accuses the doctor of solely “needing money like the rest of us”. This is a rude accusation to state about a person who is trying to heal people, as a result of this letter it could destroy the doctor’s reputation. In the letter to Mrs. Foster, it also questions if “the knife slipped accidentally.” Mrs. Foster is planning on receiving surgery next month, and this sentence from the letter could make Mrs. Foster hesitant of receiving the surgery and cause the surgeons to lose money. In summary, Miss Strangeworth from the story “The Possibility of Evil” by Shirley Jackson is developed to have a rude character with being judgemental and by anonymously writing nasty letters to the townspeople.