The Possibility of Evil by Shirley Jackson

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What is Miss Strangeworth suggesting in her letter to Mrs. Harper in "The Possibility of Evil"?

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Miss Strangeworth and Mrs. Harper know each other fairly well. They belong to the same bridge club and call each other by their first names, as they do when they happen to meet in the grocery store earlier. Miss Strangeworth's first name is Adela and Mrs. Harper's first name is Martha. Adela Strangeworth has already sent several of her poison-pen letters to this poor woman who appears to be someone she has known for years. That day when Miss Strangeworth gets home she writes another.

After thinking for a minute, she decided that she would like to write another letter, perhaps to go to Mrs. Harper, to follow up the ones she had already mailed. She selected a green sheet this time and wrote quickly: Have you found out yet what they were all laughing about after you left the bridge club on Thursday? Or is the wife really the last one to know?

She is obviously suggesting that Martha Harper's husband has been having an affair with some women in the town and that everybody knows about it except his wife. This was probably more or less what Adela Strangeworth had hinted at in "the ones she had already mailed." Why is she doing this? She must be crazy. She doesn't realize that she is being cruel. From her point of view she is just warning Mrs. Harper of the "possibility" that her husband could be having an extramarital affair. When she runs into Martha Harper at the grocery store earlier, she notices that the woman seems different.

“Ran out of sugar for my cake frosting,” Mrs. Harper explained. Her hand shook slightly as she opened her pocketbook. Miss Strangeworth wondered, glancing at her quickly, if she had been taking proper care of herself. Martha Harper was not as young as she used to be, Miss Strangeworth thought. She probably could use a good, strong tonic… 

Miss Strangeworth is keenly...

(The entire section contains 633 words.)

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