person's head surrounded by envelopes connected by a rose vine that spirals into the person's brain and at the other end blooms into a rose surrounded by lost petals

The Possibility of Evil

by Shirley Jackson

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What are Miss Strangeworth's feelings about her family's contribution to the town in "The Possibility of Evil"?

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In Shirley Jackson's "The Possibility of Evil," the main character, Miss Adela Strangeworth, believes her family has contributed a great amount to the town in which she lives. Her familiar pride runs so deep that "She sometimes found herself thinking that the town belonged to her" (Jackson 1). Additionally, Miss Strangeworth is quick to share with tourists of the town that her grandfather "built the first house on Pleasant Street" and her family "had lived here for a better part of a hundred years."

To examine this further, it is clear Miss Strangeworth believes she has some sort of obligation to the town, because she writes anonymous letters to try and correct behaviors she finds to be evil. Evil existing in "her" town is unacceptable, and the letters she writes are her way of attempting to eradicate that evil. These letters are as important to her as the fact that her family has resided on Pleasant Street for over 100 years. These letters symbolize Miss Strangeworth's perceived responsibility to the town, adding to the long line of contributions her family has already made.

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In "The Possibility of Evil," Miss Adela Strangeworth takes great pride in the contributions made to the town by her family. We see this most clearly in the second and third paragraphs when the narrator discusses her family background. Her grandfather, for instance, built the first house on Pleasant Street. When Miss Strangeworth shares this fact with tourists, she says it with a look of "wonder," which implies a deep sense of pride. 

Moreover, the roses in her garden are a sort of family heirloom: they were planted and tended by her grandmother, by her mother and are now under her care. The roses function as a symbol of her family affection and, again, of her pride towards their contributions.

As a result of these contributions, Miss Strangeworth has developed a sense of ownership towards the town:

She sometimes found herself thinking that the town belonged to her.

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