The Possibility of Evil

The Possibility of Evil, by Shirley Jackson is a short story about a woman named Miss Strangeworth. Miss Strangeworth is an older lady whose family has lived in the same town, on the same street, and in the same house since anyone can remember. The town that Miss Strangeworth lives in shows her much respect. Miss Strangeworth thinks that since her and her family have lived in the town for such a long time it is her responsibility to address or take care of the “evil” that is corrupting the town. Miss Strangeworth does this by writing anonymous detailed letters to the people creating the evil in the town. Miss Strangeworth thinks that by sending the letters she is helping get rid of the toxic nature of the town, but in reality, she is the epitome of the evil that resides in the town.
Miss Strangeworth is a very narcissistic character. She is a character who throughout the story thinks that she is above all the others in the town, she feels that since her family had been there forever then she owns the town, when in fact she does not. Sometimes when tourists stroll through the town and stop at her house she likes to brag about her roses that her grandmother planted, and about how her family built the very first house on pleasant street. In lines 8-10 she says, “My grandfather built the first house on pleasant street, she would say, opining her blue eyes with the wonder of it. This house, right here. My family has lived here for better than a hundred years.” The reason that Miss Strangeworth tells tourists this, is so that she can be recognized as the head of the town, or better yet, the leader of her town.
Moreover, Miss Strangeworth sees writing her letters as a necessary task for a Strangeworth. Since Miss Strangeworth thinks that her family has founded the town and now she owns it, she feels that it is here obligation to expose the evils that are hidden within the towns people. Miss Strangeworth believes that without her to replace the wickedness with pureness then her beloved town will slowly degrade until there is nothing left of it. In lines 199-idk she says, “Miss Chandler, the librarian, and Linda Stewarts parents would have gone unsuspectingly ahead with their lives, never aware of the possible evil lurking nearby, if Miss Strangeworth had not sent the letters to open their eyes.” Then in lines 818-idk she states, “as long as evil existed unchecked in the world, it was Miss Strangeworths duty to keep her town alert to it.” Also in lines 181-idk she says, “There were so many wicked people in the world and only one Strangeworth left in town.” All of these are examples of how Miss Strangeworth feels that it is her duty and responsibility to write her letters.
Lastly, the story of Miss Strangeworth has a strong irony in it. That irony is that while Miss Strangeworth is trying to get rid of all the evil she is actually the one who is creating or instigating the evil. Miss Strangeworth believes that she is atoning for all of the corruption in her town when in fact she is the corruption and wickedness. By the end of the story it is reveled to us that on the outside Miss Strangeworth seems to be a nice older lady who is friends with everyone and has no enemies. Just beneath the surface of Miss Strangeworth we see that she is really a dark person who feels the need to vilify people in order to keep her town clean.