Why does Miss Strangeworth take time to greet people?

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Miss Strangeworth has lived in this town all her life. She knows everybody in the town, and she also knows a lot about everybody in the town. One of her reasons for greeting people is to pick up tidbits of information about them or about others they know. She also feels responsible for the behavior of everybody in the town. She feels it is her duty to write anonymous letters warning townspeople of the "possibility" of something evil going on in their private lives. The information she picks up from talking to everybody she meets gives her the inspiration to write many of her letters.

She had been writing her letters--sometimes two or three a day, sometimes no more than one in a month--for the past year. She never got any answers, of course, because she never signed her name. 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.

Miss Strangeworth has nothing else to do with her time. We can see that she makes a big production out of buying a veal chop, a box of strawberries, a can of cat food, one tomato, and a quarter-pound of tea from Mr. Lewis. She buys so little because this will give her a reason for coming back again tomorrow. So she spends her time prying into other people's affairs and keeping a watch over the town which she considers her domain. Her unlimited free time and her curiosity about other people's behavior explain why she takes the time to greet other people. She is a bit like Miss Marple, the heroine of many of Agatha Christie's mystery novels. There are many old women like Miss Strangeworth in the world. The one thing they have in common is their intense curiosity about other people's private business--including yours and mine. It is hard to get away from them. They leave you feeling drained, as if you have been under the bright lights at a police grilling. Most of them, however, do not make a secret hobby out of writing poison-pen letters--we hope! 

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