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The Possibility of Evil
“The Possibility of Evil” (Shirley Jackson) Response Package
1. Describe the setting.
In a town on main street, with soda shops, post office, many houses, during the summer. It probably took place in the 50s.
2. Describe/discuss the character of Miss Adela Strangeworth.
Adela Strangeworth is an old lady in this story that is self centered. She is proud of herself because of her families history. She thinks that it is her responsibility to make the town a better place. With the mails she sent, she caused many people problems, when she was trying to help them.
3. How long has Miss Strangeworth lived in her town? Discuss her ties to the town and infer how this makes her feel about her position there.
Miss Strangeworth, aged 71 has lived in her town for 71 years, while her family has been there for over 100 years. She feels that she controls this town occasionally and that it is hers. Everyone in the town admires her because she always seems like a very nice lady.
4. Discuss how the town’s visitors respond to Miss Strangeworth’s roses. Explain how she responds.
Because of the prettiness, and legacy of the roses, the visitors always tend to want to take one of the roses. Miss Strangeworth responds by not giving any of them away.
5. Explain how the people in town react and respond to Miss Strangeworth. What do you think their impression of her is?
The people in the town are very nice to Miss Strangeworth. Strangeworth knew everyone in the town, and people often greet her while she wanders the streets. Everyone thinks that she is a nice, and wonderful old lady that can be a role model to the town.
6. Discuss the relationship between Tommy Lewis and Miss Strangeworth and explain how that relationship has changed over the years. Infer what might have been the basis of the relationship. Then explain how and why it changed.
Both of there families have been in town for a very long time. They grew up together, and when Lewis left high school, Strangeworth stopped calling him Tommy, and started calling him Mr. Lewis. They were very good friends that went on dances, basketball games, and picnics together but this changed because of Mr. Lewis decision to work in a grocery store after high school, and Strangeworth living alone in a house on Pleasant Street.
7. Describe Ms. Harper as she reaches for her pocketbook. Explain what Mrs. Strangeworth thinks about Martha’s behavior.
Mrs. Harper's hand was shaking when she was reaching for her pocketbook. She reached for it right after she ran out of sugar for cake frosting. Her hand was probably shaking because she has not enough money to buy more, and Miss Strangeworth thought that Mrs. Harper has not been taken proper care of herself, and could use a strong tonic.
8. Mrs. Strangeworth meets Helen Crane, the mother of a six month old infant, and Miss Chandler, the librarian. Discuss her interactions with them and her observations about them.
Adela Strangeworth thought that the baby is going to grow up expecting luxery in her whole life. Adela thought that the baby will have a lot of problems. Helen Crane thought that the baby was developing slow, when Strangeworth said that all babies grow at different rates, when she really thinks that the baby is dumb. When she met the librarian, she did not like her because she didn't tidy up her hair a lot, and she hated sloppiness.
9. There is a revealing statement (p. 215) about how the town views Miss Strangeworth. Explain what that is and why.
The statement on page 215 that says "But the town was proud of Miss Strangeworth and her roses and her house" revealed how the town viewed her. This was because she kept her family history running, with her old house and roses. Many people has grown up together with Adela Strangeworth.
10. Explain the difference between the papers Miss Strangeworth uses to write letters. discuss the other ways in which these letters differ.
The differences in the papers of Miss Strangeworth was that they were all different colors. Adela Strangeworth printed her letters in a childish block print. These letters were different from other letters because they end up causing problems for the people that receive them.
11. Discuss the purpose of Miss Strangeworth’s letters.
The purpose of the letters were to try to fix peoples problems in the town. The letters sent were all on what Miss Strangeworth believes is good.
12. Why does Miss Strangeworth lie about the goings on in her town?
Miss Strangeworth lies about the goings in her town because she wanted to make her town better by telling people lies.
13. Explain what Miss Strangeworth sees as her role in the community.
Miss Strangeworth thinks that she is the "Watcher" of the community. This means that she is the one that fixes problems, and try to improve something.
14. After finishing the letters, Miss Strangeworth sets down to tea. discuss the irony of her thoughts after writing the letters. Explain Miss Strangeworth’s idea of “liv(ing) graciously” (218). Then, prove that she is not.
Miss Strangeworth thought that the letters she sent were going to help people, but ended up causing all the problems. Strangeworths idea of living graciously was that everything had to be perfect, live in luxery, and live in peace. She is not living graciously because she causes many problems for the people she sent mail to. She also had problems with her own, being a bit too obsessed with her family history, and being self centered.
15. Explain why Miss Strangeworth never suspects the children of laughing or mocking. What does this prove about her opinion of herself.
Miss Strangeworth never suspects the children laughing about her because everyone is very respective, and kind to her when they see her walk down the streets. This proves that she is too narcissistic.
16. Miss Strangeworth overhears a conversation between Dave Harris and Linda Stewart. Discuss the content of the conversation and explain Miss Strangeworth’s role in it.
Miss Strangeworth overhears a conversation between Dave Harris, and Linda which seems to her that Dave has done something terribly bad to Linda, and could not go near her house anymore. Miss Strangeworth quickly wrote a letter to try to fix the problem.
17. Miss Strangeworth thinks that there is “so much evil in people. Even in a charming little town like this one” (220). Explain what the evil is.
The evil was the bad thoughts the people in the town had. Strangeworth overhearing the conversation between Linda, and Dave Harris made her think that Dave Harris was thinking of bad thoughts, and has done something very wrong.
18. Explain how the townspeople discover Miss Strangeworth’s role in the letters being sent to citizens. How do they get Miss Strangeworth back?
The townspeople discovered that Miss Strangeworth was the one that sent the evil letters because of Dave Harris, and Linda Stewart watching Miss Strangeworth accidently drop a letter to Don Crane. They helped her deliver it, and they would tell Don Crane that the letter was from Miss Strangeworth. The townspeople get Miss Strangeworth back from destroying her roses.
19. Examine the last sentence of the story. How does Miss Strangeworth view her punishment? How does she view what she has done? Explain the irony of this.
Miss Strangeworth viewed her punishment as too much, and still thinks that everyone in the world was evil. She views what she has done as right, but thinks that the world is against her. The irony in this is that she actually is very wrong and the letters were causing all the problems.
20. Draw a detailed map, from an overhead perspective, of the town illustrated in the story.
The name of the town.
Main Street - the main street
The Grocery on main street
Miss Strangeworth’s House- on pleasant st
Shanties on the low road- shacks where poor people live in
Park- in front of post office
Library- down main street
The Stewart House
The Police Station
The Fire Hall
The map needs to make sense according to the description given in the story.
The map should be neat with all the landmarks clearly labeled.
The map should be visually interesting.
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