The Possibility of Evil Questions and Answers
by Shirley Jackson

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What are Miss Strangeworth's motivations in "The Possibility of Evil" by Shirley Jackson?

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Miss Strangeworth is a complex character. She believes it is her civic duty as the town's oldest resident and descendant of the town's founders to act as a sort of guardian of public morality. The truth seems to be that her real motivations are envy and jealousy. It is significant that all the people whose lives she has affected with her anonymous letters were made to feel threatened about their relationship with someone close to them. For example, both Don and Helen Crane are worried about the development of their infant daughter, and Miss Strangeworth intensifies their worries with a number of letters. Her latest one reads:

Didn’t you ever see an idiot child before? Some people just shouldn’t have children, should they?

Miss Strangeworth has never had a baby. She has never been married. She may never have had a boyfriend, or even a date. She is really a pathetic creature, a lonely old woman pretending to be an important member of the community. The recipients of the three letters...

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