Who sent the poison pen letter to Miss Strangeworth and destroyed her rose bushes?

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The writer doesn't directly say who sent the letter, but when Miss Strangeworth accidentally drops it on the floor outside the post office, it is Dave Harris who picks it up. Seeing the letter is addressed to Don Crane, he tells his girlfriend that he will drop it by the Cranes' house later on.

So, the story suggests it could be one of three people who wrote the letter and destroyed the roses: Don Harris, Don Crane, or Helen Crane. However, Miss Strangeworth seems to have sent out so many of these poison pen letters that if the word got out that it is was her, it could have been anybody who spread the news.

Probably Miss Strangeworth's mistake was underestimating the children. She states in the story that she always posted her poison pen letters as the day was drawing to a close because at that time there were only children outside the post office, and when they saw her "they stood back respectfully."

That doesn't happen at all. In fact, behind her back they call her "Old Lady Strangeworth" and question whether she would ever be generous enough to send anyone a cheque.

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Miss Strangeworth is an older and bitter woman, who has a habit of sending two to three of these mean and nasty letters anonymously to her neighbors per day. She goes undetected for some time, until Miss Strangeworth drops one of her poison pen letters, one addressed to Don Crane, while she is at the post office. The Harris boy and Linda attempt to get Miss Strangeworth's attention to return the letter to her. However, she fails to notice their attempts. In courtesy, the Harris boy decides to hand-deliver the letter to Don Crane in case there might be something exciting in the letter. The next morning, Miss Strangeworth finds a little green letter at her door that reads, "Look out at what used to be your roses." Since the letter had been delivered to Don Crane by the Harris boy, we can assume that he (Don Crane) sent her back a response from her awful note.

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Miss Adela Strangeworth writes what used to be commonly called "poison pen letters." The term is not heard often nowadays, but there is a great deal of poison pen e-mail on the Internet. Wikipedia defines a poison pen letter as follows:

A poison pen letter is a letter or note containing unpleasant, abusive or malicious statements or accusations about the recipient or a third party. It is usually sent anonymously. Poison pen letters are usually composed and sent to upset the recipient. They differ from blackmail, which is intended to obtain something, in that they are purely malicious.

The author Shirley Jackson specifies that Miss Strangeworth uses colored paper and colored envelopes which are so common that most people in her town buy and use them.

Miss Strangeworth used a pad of various-coloured paper, layered in pink and green and blue and yellow; everyone in town bought it and used it for odd, informal notes and shopping lists....

This bit of exposition has a dual purpose. It makes it impossible for any recipient to trace a letter back to Miss Strangeworth, since the letter could have been written and sent by anybody in town. Furthermore, it will make it impossible for Miss Strangeworth to identify the person who sent her the letter on green paper in a green envelope at the very end of the story. Hence, she will never know who destroyed her beautiful roses.

But the reader ought to be able to tell who cut up all her rose bushes and sent her the letter reading:

Look out at what used to be your roses.

Early in the story Miss Strangeworth stops to chat with Helen Crane, who has a baby only six months old. Helen confesses that she is worried about the baby girl because she doesn't seem to be developing as fast as she should.

"She just seems--slow," Helen Crane said.

Later Miss Strangeworth writes a poison-pen note on a pink sheet which reads simply:

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

Eventually the reader is told that she addresses an envelope to Don Crane, who is Helen's husband and father of the baby girl. Earlier, when Miss Strangeworth had stopped "to smile down on the Crane baby,"

Don and Helen Crane were really the two most infatuated young parents she had ever known, she thought indulgently, looking at the delicately embroidered baby cap and the lace-edged carriage cover.

Miss Strangeworth uses "a pink envelope to match the pink paper." Then when she accidentally drops one of her three poison-pen letters at the post office, the Harris boy, who has been the victim of one of her anonymous letters, picks it up and says to his girlfriend:

"It's for Don Crane....this letter....Might as well take it on over."

So Don Crane receives the pink letter, and the Harris boy tells him Miss Strangeworth accidentally dropped it while depositing letters into the slot at the post office. Don Crane is obviously the only person in town who knows that Miss Strangeworth has the hobby of sending out poison-pen letters to make other people frightened, suspicious, apprehensive, jealous, angry, or otherwise upset. Therefore, Don Crane must be the man who destroyed all of her treasured rose bushes and sent her the letter reading:

Look out at what used to be your roses.

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