Why does Miss Strangeworth take time to greet so many people? Does Miss Strangeworth seem like a reasonable person? Explain.

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Miss Strangeworth quite obviously is an old woman who has nothing to do all day except to spend a little time with her cherished rose bushes. She shows how she has to find ways to fill up time when she goes to the grocery store. She buys one veal chop,...

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Miss Strangeworth quite obviously is an old woman who has nothing to do all day except to spend a little time with her cherished rose bushes. She shows how she has to find ways to fill up time when she goes to the grocery store. She buys one veal chop, one box of strawberries, one can of cat food, one tomato, and a quarter of a pound of tea. This means that she will have to come back again tomorrow and the next day. It doesn't occur to her that she is making a nuisance of herself. Her shopping gives some purpose to her day.

Since Miss Strangeworth has so much time on her hands, it isn't surprising that she stops to talk to many people she knows, and she knows everybody. Younger people have other things to do besides talk to old ladies, but most of them are polite. An impolite person might describe her as a nosy old busybody. She dispenses free advice to people like Helen Crane. Her tendency to pry into other people's affairs and to offer free advice suggests why she might have carried it over into writing anonymous letters.

We see that the children do not like Miss Strangeworth at all.

Most of the children stood back respectfully as Miss Strangeworth passed, silenced briefly in her presence, and some of the older children greeted her; saying soberly, "Hello, Miss Strangeworth."

She is the kind of old person who corners children and asks them question after question until they feel desperate to escape. Perhaps we ought to feel sorry for this old lady with her empty life. She may not realize how unhappy she is. Her poison-pen letters may be a sign that she envies others who have fuller lives. All the letters mentioned in the story are to people who have someone to care about and someone to care about them.

Miss Strangeworth does not seem like a reasonable person. She seems insane and dangerous. She may be suffering from senile psychosis. The "possibilities" of evil that she dreams up and suggests in her letters may be delusions. The interesting thing about this character is that she seems to be one kind of person--a sweet, harmless old lady--and is actually a secretive and sinister menace. She is a Jekyll and Hyde type of person. She has only found this new hobby of writing anonymous letters in the past year. No doubt she will get better--and worse. She will become more creative in her poison-pen writing and thereby do more and more harm.

The fact that someone destroyed her rose bushes will not prevent her from continuing to write her anonymous letters. She does not know who did the damage or that it was in any way connected with one of her own letters--the one she sent to Don Crane. He probably won't tell anyone about receiving her letter suggesting that his baby was an idiot, because he wouldn't want to be suspected of retaliating by chopping up her roses bushes.

Now as then, ‘tis simple truth--
Sweetest tongue has sharpest tooth!
Charles Perrault, "Little Red Riding Hood"

 

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