How is Miss Strangeworth viewed by members of her community? 

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The narrator does not specify how Miss Strangeworth is viewed by all the members of her community, but there are indications that she is generally well regarded. 

Walking down Main Street on a summer morning, Miss Strangeworth had to stop every minute or so to say good morning to someone or to ask after someone's health. When she came into the grocery, half a dozen people turned away from the shelves and counters to wave at her or call out good morning.

She is an institution in the town. Everyone is familiar with her habits. They take her to be a nice old lady and know nothing about her dark side. The reader knows nothing about this dark side either. It comes as a surprise to see that she is responsible for creating suspicions, fears, and unhappiness with her anonymous letters. No doubt the people in her town would have an entirely different opinion of her if they knew the truth. We can judge how people feel about her now by imagining how they would feel about her--and how they would treat her--if they ever found out that she was a secret trouble-maker.

Only one man in the town finds out the truth about her character. He is Don Crane, who has her poison-pen letter hand-delivered to him by the teenaged Dave Harris after she accidentally drops it on the floor at the post office.

There was always a group of young people around the post office....Most of the children stood back respectfully as Miss Strangeworth passed, silenced briefly by her presence, and some of the older children greeted her, saying soberly, "Hello, Miss Strangeworth."

It might seem that the young people of the town sense something about this little old lady that the older people do not. The kids treat her with respect because she is an iconic figure, but they do not like her. Perhaps they sense intuitively, as children can do, that there is something a little sinister about her.

Don Crane and his wife have received at least one previous letter in which Miss Strangeworth suggested that their baby might be mentally handicapped. When Dave Harris gives him the pink envelope and tells him who dropped it at the post office, Don sees that the envelope and note are in the same "childish block print" as the note or notes they received before. He takes his revenge by destroying her precious rose bushes during the night and sending her an anonymous letter which reads:

Look out at what used to be your roses.

The reader is left wondering. Will Don Crane or his wife Helen tell other people what they know? Will this old woman be exposed to the whole community as the destructive nut case she is? Will Miss Strangeworth be frightened into giving up her sinister hobby of writing poison-pen letters? Will she keep a lower profile and perhaps even seclude herself like Miss Havisham in Charles Dickens' novel Great Expectations or Miss Emily Grierson in William Faulkner's story "A Rose for Emily?"

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