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Analysis: "The Possibility of Evil"

"The Possibility of Evil"
By Shirley Jackson


Summary Analysis:
    Ever since the small town was built, the beautiful Strangeworth house, with its blossoming roses and perfect presentation, resided on Pleasant Street.  Now, it was home to old Miss Adela Strangeworth, a sweet old lady who took much pride in her town and especially in her eye-catching gorgeous roses in her front lawn.  She felt she must protect her town from evil.  For without her family, the small, quaint town would not exist.  And so almost every night, she would write anonymous letters to the people within her community whom she believed needed guidance.  But her idea of guidance was insensitive and harsh.  Though she saw it as eye-opening. "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." (Jackson 179)  But while at the post office to deliver her letters, Miss Strangeworth accidently dropped one of her helpful notes.  Someone had seen her drop it.  After picking up the letter, he decided that he would aid Miss Strangeworth by delivering the letter personally to the person it was addressed to.  Miss Strangeworth found a familiar letter  on the hall of her frool the following morning.  "She began to cry silently for the wickedness of the world when she read the words: LOOK OUT AT WHAT USED TO BE YOUR ROSES." (Jackson 181)


Discussion Questions for Class:
1.  May someone please give a brief summary of the short story?
2.  What was the crisis? What conflict did it lead to?
3.  What was the climax and resolution to the story?  Explain.
4.  Did Miss Strangeworth change or grow as a character throughout the story?
5.  What was one of the main themes?
6.  From what point of view was this short story told?
7.  Did the author use direct or indirect characterization?  Why do you think this form of characterization was used?
8.  Do you believe in the possibility of evil as Miss Strangeworth does?  bonus question


My Answers to Discussion Questions
1.  May someone please give a brief summary of the short story?
        See above summary.
2.  What was the crisis? What conflict did it lead to?
        The crisis is that Miss Strangeworth believes that she is responsible of the town.  Therefor, the conflict is that she must correct
        any problems or evil that pose a threat within it.
3.  What was the climax and resolution to the story?  Explain.
        The climax was when the boy found Miss Strangewrth's letter and discovered its wickedness and cruelty.
4.  Did Miss Strangeworth change or grow as a character throughout the story?
        It ever really said.  But I do think that she felt the hate in the letter sent to her.  But I'm not quite sure why she cried.  Was it
        because of shame? or humility? or pain? or simply because her perfect roses were now ruined?
5.  What was one of the main themes?
        Possible themes: humility, shame, pride, truth, the impossible goal of perfection
6.  From what point of view was this short story told?
        3rd Person Limited
7.  Did the author use direct or indirect characterization?  Why do you think she used this form of characterization?
        Both indirect and direct.  I think the author did this to describe the charatacters as vividly as possible.
8.  Do you believe in the possibility of evil as Miss Strangeworth does? bonus question
        Yes, in some form I do believe in the possibility of evil.  But I also believe that no one is perfect and our very imperfection
        makes us perfect humans.  It shouldn't be fixed.


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