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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Who is the intended audience of "The Possibility of Evil"?

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I tend to think that Jackson has aimed the story at the modern reader.  There is much in the story that coincides with the modern setting and modern audience that can connect.  On one hand, the advent of America suburbia, where cloistered confines are established to, in a sense, keep the outside world away is the same  condition in which Miss Strangeworth lives.  At the same time, there is a uniquely modern sentiment in which Miss Strangeworth seeks to know everything about everyone.  Miss Strangeworth has not grasped the element of boundaries that should prevent her from wishing to know and notify everyone of what she sees and perceives.  The modern audience can understand this, as there is someone in our lives that serves as the font of all gossip and innuendo, someone who wishes to know these things in order to establish their own sense of power and control or even mere importance in their own lives and in the lives of others.  In this, there is a modern connection to what is present.  At the same time, Jackson's lack of naming the setting is a way in which there can be a full understanding of how the intended audience is a modern one.  The audience of the story that can fully absorb it is one in which the same habits and behaviors of Miss Strangeworth can be understood to a point where the reader is able to say, "I can see this" or, more chillingly, "This is me."  In both conditions, the intended audience becomes the modern reader who realizes that what Jackson is describing are behaviors seen in their own world.

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