The Possibility of Evil by Shirley Jackson

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What was the evil that Miss Strangeworth saw in "The Possibility of Evil?" 

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Miss Strangeworth did not actually see any evil. She didn't even guess that anybody in the town was doing anything evil. She sensed that there was evil behavior going on in the town, and she saw the possibilities of evil in many human relationships. The poison-pen letters she has been writing for the past year mostly hint at the possibility of evil, except for the letters she sends to Don and Helen Crane about the possibility that their adored six-month-old daughter could be mentally retarded. (The victimizing of Don and Helen Crane is a clue to Miss Strangeworth's real motivation.) According to Miss Strangeworth's twisted mind, if she hints at enough possible wrongdoings, a certain percentage will be correct. There is an element of truth to this strange hypothesis, because there is bound to be a certain amount of misbehavior going on in any community; and the bigger the community, the bigger the amount of undisclosed vice, crime, perversion, peculation, etc. If we knew all the guilty secrets of all the members of our community, all the skeletons in all the closets, we would be astonished. We do not know for sure whether Mrs. Harper's husband is having an affair with another woman. We do not know whether the grocer's grandson is stealing money out of the cash register. We do know, however, that Linda Stewart and Dave Harris, the high-school kids who love each other, are not going beyond the usual teenage necking.

Miss Strangeworth never concerned herself with facts; her letters all dealt with the more negotiable stuff of suspicion. Mr. Lewis would never have imagined for a minute that his grandson might be lifting petty cash from the store register if he had not had one of Miss Strangeworth's letters. Miss Chandler, the librarian, and Linda Stewart's parents would have gone unsuspectingly ahead with their lives, never aware of possible evil lurking nearby, if Miss...

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