The Possibility of Evil by Shirley Jackson

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Relating to "The Possibility of Evil," how is the author's view of society and evil revealed in the story? "The Possibility of Evil" by Shirley Jackson.

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In "The Possibility of Evil," Shirley Jackson responds to her view that society is too quick to judge people based upon outward appearances.

The people in Miss Strangeworth's town believe that Miss Strangeworth is a genteel, sophisticated woman whose behavior is above reproach.  This assumption is based upon her family's history and its roots in the town's "birth," and the careful, proper way she carries herself through every day of her life.  No one is suspicious of her, accepting her at face value.  The temptation to do this is great, but I do not feel that Jackson wants people to be inherently suspicious of their neighbors.  Perhaps, however, she conveys a sense of caution when dealing with people we do not really know.

This might be valid advice because as the town is so trusting of her, Miss Strangeworth is anything but genteel or sophisticated.  In fact, she takes pleasure in imagining the worst, and--more than that--feels it is her duty to be on the lookout for "the possibility of evil" and do something about it. Ironically, in trying to make the world a decent place, she is herself the very thing she fears.  She makes the lives of many people miserable by imagining unfounded evils about the thoughts and behaviors of the members of her community--she judges them, and then sends scandalous, accusatory, and harmful letters assuming the worst, but basing nothing upon facts.  As the narrator points out, Miss Strangeworth does not concern herself with facts.

In Jackson's story, she addresses those who believe too easily based upon what they see, and those who judge too quickly based upon what they think they see.

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2003

write4,119 answers

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Shirley Jackson's view of the world was always a little off center.  She had a way of presenting characters and situations that often had a hidden message about the quirky side of human nature.

In the short story...

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