“The Possibility of Evil” (Shirley Jackson) Response Package

1. Describe the setting.

The setting is a small, clean town. Everything was washed and bright.

2. Describe/discuss the character of Miss Adela Strangeworth.

Miss Strangeworth was a two-faced character. One face would be a sweet old lady that would lend a helping hand to tourists or people that needed help. The other side of her is an evil old lady that would spread terrible rumors about people by sending letters anonymously. She didn't care for facts, and everything was speculated. The purpose of these letters was to prevent evil from happening throughout the town, but really she was the one causing all the evil.

3. How long has Miss Strangeworth lived in her town? Discuss her ties to the town and infer how this makes her feel about her position there.

Miss Strangeworth has lived in the town all her life, and has watched it grow. She feels like it's her town, and tells tourists about her home and she's seem this town grow.
"My grandfather built the first house on Pleasant Street. This house, right here. My family has lived here for better than a hundred years...I've watched my town grow."

4. Discuss how the town’s visitors respond to Miss Strangeworth’s roses. Explain how she responds.

Miss Strangeworth absolutely refused to give away any of her roses. Tourists often asked her for them, and it bothered Miss Strangeworth that people wanted to take her roses into different towns.

5. Explain how the people in town react and respond to Miss Strangeworth. What do you think their impression of her is?

I think they treat Miss Strangeworth is respect. They understand that this old lady has been living in the town for longer than they can imagine, and they leave her to do her own thing. For example, Miss Strangeworth went for her afternoon nap, and she knew that nobody would dare knock on the door or phone her home because everybody knew that she was taking her nap.

6. Discuss the relationship between Tommy Lewis and Miss Strangeworth and explain how that relationship has changed over the years. Infer what might have been the basis of the relationship. Then explain how and why it changed.*

Tommy Lewis and Miss Strangeworth were obviously very close friends back in their school days. When Tommy left high school to work at the grocery store, they had stopped calling each other by their first names.

7. Describe Ms. Harper as she reaches for her pocketbook. Explain what Mrs. Strangeworth thinks about Martha’s behavior.

Miss Strangeworth took a glance at Martha and wondered if she was taking good care of herself because she didn't look well at all. When Miss Strangeworth asked her if she's okay, Martha quickly responded with, "I'm perfectly all right," and didn't say another word. Miss Strangeworth then shook her head.

8. Mrs. Strangeworth meets Helen Crane, the mother of a six month old infant, and Miss Chandler, the librarian. Discuss her interactions with them and her observations about them.

Miss Strangeworth tries to make Helen Crane relax over her six month infant. She acts very sweet and telling her things such as, "All babies are different. Some of them develop much more quickly than others." On the other side, she's quietly thinking that the baby is stupid, and will eventually write a letter to the Cranes warning them about this. With Miss Chandler the librarian, Miss Strangeworth noticed that she hasn't taken the time to tidy herself up. Her hair looked sloppy, and Miss Strangeworth didn't like sloppiness at all. Miss Strangeworth made note that Miss Chandler seemed like she was thinking about something else, and that her mind wasn't totally set on books.

9. There is a revealing statement (p. 215) about how the town views Miss Strangeworth. Explain what that is and why.

"There was a legend about a tourist once mistaking it for the local museum..." The town views Miss Strangeworth as a person that is a perfectionist, she loves keeping everything neat and tidy. Everything literally looked like it had not been touched. Her roses were flawless.However, the town was proud of Miss Strangeworth and her perfectionist ways.

10. Explain the difference between the papers Miss Strangeworth uses to write letters. discuss the other ways in which these letters differ.

11. Discuss the purpose of Miss Strangeworth’s letters.

The purpose of Miss Strangeworth's letters was to warn people about the possibilities of evil.

12. Why does Miss Strangeworth lie about the goings on in her town?

She doesn't know the facts before sending letters. She's more of a speculator and a rumour spreader.

13. Explain what Miss Strangeworth sees as her role in the community.

If there was any evil actually going on in her town, Miss Strangeworth believes that it is her job to keep the people alerted.

14. After finishing the letters, Miss Strangeworth sets down to tea. discuss the irony of her thoughts after writing the letters. Explain Miss Strangeworth’s idea of “liv(ing) graciously” (218). Then, prove that she is not.

Miss Strangeworth believes that she's doing the town a favour by trying to prevent the possibilities of evil. Ironically, she's the one causing the evil.

I think her idea of living graciously is that people must live nicely and should be respectful and curteous to everybody. Her sending out those awful letters proves that she isn't living graciously.

15. Explain why Miss Strangeworth never suspects the children of laughing or mocking. What does this prove about her opinion of herself.

She believes that she's well respected and wouldn't be laughed or mocked at.

16. Miss Strangeworth overhears a conversation between Dave Harris and Linda Stewart. Discuss the content of the conversation and explain Miss Strangeworth’s role in it.

Linda Stewart was clearly upset at Dave Harris for something, but Dave Harris doesn't know what she's upset about because he didn't do anything wrong. Miss Strangeworth's role in the conversation is that she must have sent a letter speculating that Dave Harris had done something wrong.

17. Miss Strangeworth thinks that there is “so much evil in people. Even in a charming little town like this one” (220). Explain what the evil is.

The evil is the negative emotions in peoplel, or the mistakes that people may have done.

18. Explain how the townspeople discover Miss Strangeworth’s role in the letters being sent to citizens. How do they get Miss Strangeworth back?

When Miss Strangeworth drops a couple of her letters, Dave Harris picks them up off the ground. When that happened, the anonymous letters weren't so anonymous anymore and the word spread that those letters were from Miss Strangeworth. She is the main reason why there is so much evil in this town. For revenge, the people of the town decide to send a letter that says, "Look out at what used to be your roses," and destroyed her roses.

19. Examine the last sentence of the story. How does Miss Strangeworth view her punishment? How does she view what she has done? Explain the irony of this.

She believes that she hasn't done anything to deserve this kind of treatment. The ironic part is that she was the reason why she was punished. She was the one that sent out the letters, she caused the evil, and she caused her roses to be ruined.

Short Stories - Literary Devises Title:__

Point of View: 3rd person

Protagonist: Miss Adela Strangeworth
What type of character is the Protagonist?
She is a round and a Static character
The antagonist is also Miss Adela Strangeworth
Describe the setting
The setting is in a small, quiet, clean kept town sometime in the 50’s or 60’s.

Type of Conflict: Man vs. herself

Describe the main conflict:
The main conflict is between Miss Adela Strangewood and her own actions towards the community.

Describe the Climax of the Story:
The climax of the story is when the Harris boy picks up the letter that Miss Strangeworth has dropped and decides to deliver it to its recipient

How does the Protagonist change over the course of the story?
The protagonist does not change throughout the story. She genuinely believes that what she’s doing is in the best interest of her town.

Describe the relationship between the title and the theme.

How does the main conflict help to illustrate the theme?

How does the climax help to illustrate the theme?

Give examples of each of the following literary terms in the story (use quotes):





Foreshadowing (give both elements):



Describe the relationships between the class theme and the story.