What was Miss Strangeworth's motivation to write the poison pen letters in "The Possibility of Evil"?

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We are never told exactly what motivates Miss Strangeworth to write her anonymous poison pen letters, but we are given several clues. In both of the quotes below, Miss Strangeworth dwells on the idea that the world is an evil place. She also repeats that she is the last Strangeworth left in the town. This suggests that the Strangeworths are the kind of people who have a history of being judgmental and seeing evil where none exists:

There were so many wicked people in the world and only one Strangeworth left in town. Besides, Miss Strangeworth liked writing her letters.

. . .

The town where she lived had to be kept clean and sweet, but people everywhere were lustful and evil and degraded, and needed to be watched; the world was so large, and there was only one Strangeworth left in it.

The quotes also give us some clues as to what might be going on beneath the surface of Miss Strangeworth. She is seeing evil lurking everywhere, and she believes she is the last of her family left to uphold morality by rooting out wickedness.

First, we learn that Miss Strangeworth likes writing the letters and that she perceives a divide between a town facade that is "clean and sweet" and the underlying (to her) reality that people are really "lustful and evil and degraded." It seems that Miss Strangeworth herself has felt forced to keep up too much of facade of sweetness and perhaps been trained to repress too many of her negative or aggressive emotions. They have welled up inside her as a poison, and she "likes" writing the letters because they help her express some of the anger and negativity she has been forced to hide. She is projecting her own evil onto others so she can continue to feel pure and good, and at same time, let some of her aggressions out.

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Miss Strangeworth has been sending her poison-pen letters to people in her town for a long time. Does she just enjoy making trouble? Or is there a reason why she targets certain people? She is called Miss Strangeworth because she is obviously an old maid. This might seem to put her in the same category as Miss Havisham in Charles Dickens' Great Expectations and Emily Grierson in William Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily," both of whom are consumed with hatred. Miss Strangeworth may hate people who are happy because she has never been loved.

When she gets home she writes three of her letters. One of them goes to Don Crane. Miss Strangeworth had just been talking to his wife Helen, and she knows they are both worried about their six-month-old baby daughter's development. She may be motivated by jealousy of this young couple who love each other and now have a baby to love. So she writes:

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

Her next letter is for Mrs. Harper. She may be jealous of her because she has a husband. She writes:

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 obviously would like to poison the long marital relationship between the couple by planting the suggestion that Mr. Harper is having an affair with another woman.

Miss Strangeworth's third and final letter is "to old Mrs. Foster, who was having an operation next month." She writes:

You never know about doctors. Remember they're only human and need money like the rest of us. Suppose the knife slipped accidentally. Would Doctor Burns get his fee and a little extra from that nephew of yours?

It could be surmised that Miss Strangeworth is jealous of Mrs. Burns because she has a lot of money and also because she has a nephew who loves her and looks after her.

Miss Strangeworth has created trouble for a couple of teenagers, Linda Stewart and Dave Harris. These two are going steady and are in love. This could easily make Miss Strangeworth sufficiently jealous to do what she did. She sent Linda's parents a letter suggesting that their fifteen-year-old daughter was having illicit relations with the Harris boy. She overhears the two youngsters talking when she gets to the post office to mail her three letters.

"I can't tell you, Dave," Linda was saying—so she was talking to the Harris boy, as Miss Strangeworth had supposed—"I just can't. It's just nasty."
"But why won't your father let me come around anymore? What on earth did I do?"
"I can't tell you. I just wouldn't tell you for anything. You've got to have a dirty, dirty mind for things like that." ....

It is a touch of irony that Dave Harris, who has no idea that Miss Strangeworth is the cause of his troubles with Linda's parents, tries to help the old lady out by hand-delivering her poison-pen letter to Don Crane and telling Don that Miss Strangeworth accidentally dropped it at the post office.

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