person's head surrounded by envelopes connected by a rose vine that spirals into the person's brain and at the other end blooms into a rose surrounded by lost petals

The Possibility of Evil

by Shirley Jackson

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How does Miss Strangeworth feel about her family background, her town, and her roses?

Miss Strangeworth feels pride about her family background, her town, and her roses. She also feels a sense of ownership and superiority due to her family background, as well as resentment towards others townspeople and outsiders.

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Miss Strangeworth is proud of her family background. She is a descendant of one of the town founders. She asserts that "there wouldn't have been a town here at all" if not for her grandfather starting a lumber mill. Her family has lived in the town for more than a hundred years, and her grandfather built the first house on Pleasant Street, where Miss Strangeworth still lives. One of the first signs of her resentment and sense of injury shows when she states "sternly" that the town should have put up a statue to her grandfather rather than Ethan Allen.

Miss Strangeworth is equally proud of her roses, which were planted by her grandmother and which tourists sometimes stop and admire. However, Miss Strangeworth won't give any away: she is "bothered" that strangers want to take them away to strange places. She won't even donate any to decorate the church to welcome the new pastor, sending gladioli instead.

Miss Strangeworth feels a sense of ownership about the town because of her family's long history in it and because she has hardly left it. She knows everybody and "sometimes found herself thinking the town belonged to her."

All of this characterizes Miss Strangeworth as a person with a sense of superiority (masking insecurity) that allows her to feel she has a right to pass judgment on the other townspeople, as well as a resentment that her status has not been more acknowledged. Just as she does not want to share her roses, she resents having to share a town that she feels "belongs" to her with flawed others.

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