The Possibility of Evil by Shirley Jackson

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Is the punishment Miss Strangeworth receives at the end of the story appropriate?

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D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Miss Strangeworth takes great pride in her roses. At the end of the story, when she is unmasked as the author of the poison pen letters, she receives her own letter—telling her that her roses have been destroyed.

This would seem to be a fitting punishment for someone who has destroyed other peoples' lives through her malice. It is also not violent, in the sense that no human being was physically hurt, and yet it sends a strong message.

However, it is not really an appropriate punishment, because Miss Strangeworth misses the point completely. As she reads the letter, she begins to "cry silently for the wickedness of the world."

The letter becomes simply another confirmation, ironically, that everyone else in the world is secretly wicked. She doesn't understand that it is her own wickedness that brought this sad fate on her. Despite all that she has done, she still thinks she is pure and an agent of goodness in a fallen world.

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Lenny Wiza eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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It could be said that the punishment that Miss Strangeworth...

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David Morrison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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