What do people in town generally think of Miss Strangeworth in "The Possibility of Evil"?

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People in town generally think of Miss Strangeworth as a respected citizen. This is due to the reputation of Miss Strangeworth's family. At the beginning of the story, we learn that her grandfather built the first house on Pleasant Street. Her garden, tended by both her grandmother and mother before her, is famous for the trademark roses which have become a tourist attraction. People acknowledge Miss Strangeworth's presence and greet her when they see her. Even the young people in town address her respectfully.

Also, because of her age and respected position in her town's history, many people look to her for advice. In the story, we see Helen Crane asking Miss Strangeworth for advice about her baby. When Helen confesses her worries about her baby's developmental growth, Miss Strangeworth reassures her, arguing that all babies develop at their own pace. In short, the town generally thinks well of Miss Strangeworth, unaware that she is the culprit behind the troubling and judgmental letters many people have been receiving.

However, towards the end of the story, Shirley Jackson hints that Miss Strangeworth's anonymity may soon come to an end. When Miss Strangeworth receives what appears to be one of her own letters back, her shock is genuine when she reads of a threat to her roses. The tables have been turned, and Miss Strangeworth is horrified to fall victim to the same malice she has inflicted on others.

 

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