The Possibility of Evil Questions and Answers
by Shirley Jackson

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What is the characterization of Miss Strangeworth in "The Possibility of Evil"?

In "The Possibility of Evil," primarily through indirect characterization, Jackson shows us that Miss Strangeworth only pretends to be kind and compassionate. In fact, she has stuffed down her aggressive and negative emotions behind a smiling facade. Her poisoned soul wells up and expresses itself through the cruel letters she anonymously sends to her neighbors.

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Miss Strangeworth is primarily characterized indirectly in this short story. This means that Jackson mostly shows us what she is like through her actions and thoughts rather than using an omniscient narrator to tell us what Miss Strangeworth is like.

Because of the indirect characterization, our awareness of who Miss Strangeworth is unfolds slowly. At first, she appears to be a kindly older woman who grows beautiful roses in her yard and is actively engaged in the life of her neighbors. As the story continues, however, we realize that Miss Strangeworth is the author of poison pen letters meant to hurt others in her community.

Miss Strangeworth feels superior to the other people in her town, who don't seem to meet her standards. For example, the librarian can be "sloppy" about her personal appearance, and the grocer is wrong not to instantly remember Miss Strangeworth's order.

As the self-appointed arbiter of good and evil in the town, Miss Strangeworth justifies her letters as a way to...

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