`In the short story “The Possibility of Evil” by Shirley Jackson, the readers are reminded through Miss Strangeworth’s character that even though one’s intentions may be to help another person, their advice is not always appreciated. Miss Strangeworth is a very well-respected person in the small town she lives in. She is always happy and willing to talk to everyone. Throughout the short story, she sends anonymous letters to people with advice in the hope to make the town a peaceful place. One of the letters is sent to Mr. Lewis, claiming that his grandson is stealing money from the family-run store register. Her intention is to help Mr. Lewis realize that someone might be taking money from the store’s register and she simply wants to make him aware of the theft taking place in the store. She is trying to diminish the evil in the town by offering her advice and knowledge to Mr. Lewis about things that might be going on in the store; she has a positive intention to help the people in her town. She also writes a letter to Linda Stewart’s parents telling them about Linda’s possible relationship with Harris. Her intention is to get Linda’s parents aware of what is going on in Linda’s life and how Harris may not be a good influence in their daughter’s life, her purpose for sending these letters is good.
Another letter in which she is trying to be helpful is sent to Helen Crane, telling her how there might be something wrong with her child. Again, Miss Strangworth is just trying to be helpful by offering advice to a worried mother who is concerned about her child. This again proves that Miss Strangworth has good intentions behind her letters because she is trying to solve all the problems which exist in the town. She does not think about the problems which she may create because of the letters she sends. Even though Miss Strangeworth is giving advice to the people in her town, her advice is more harmful than helpful, which shows that sometimes, advice is better kept to oneself. The letter she sends to Mr. Lewis about his grandson stealing from his store is meant to help him but it does the opposite, it makes him very upset and stressed.
Miss Strangeworth has good intentions for sending the letter to Mr. Lewis, she wants to tell him about the possibility of theft in his store, but the letter just gets Mr. Lewis stressed and it gets him worried about something he may have never given a second thought before. Her letter to Linda’s parents about Harris also causes more harm than good. Linda’s parents never thought about her relationship with Harris and everything was normal before they received the letter, however, a lot of problems arose after they saw Miss Strangworth’s letter. Linda’s parents, Linda and Harris, all get very upset over the letter and over her father’s decisions about restricting her from seeing Harris. She creates a vast problem in their family by interfering with issues that did not concern her at all by trying to help them.
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Lastly, her letter to Helen Crane about her child also creates unnecessary stress in Helen’s life. Miss Strangworth tries to offer her advice about how her child may not be normal. All the letters she sends are based completely on her own assumption and she possesses no facts to prove what she writes in her letters. Therefore, she is creating unnecessary drama by interfering in people’s lives and getting them worried about things that could have been avoided. Thus, her advice is not helping the people in the town like it’s meant to, but it is in fact creating more harm to the people. It is ironic how she is trying to solve all the evil in the town by sending letters to people offering them advice, but those letters are what is creating most of the evil in the town. Miss Strangeworth’s actions and people’s reactions regarding the letters prove that advice does not always help people and it is possible that it can do the opposite of what it is meant to.
on The Possibility of Evil: Advice Is Not Always Helpful
In the same letter that he wrote about avoiding evil, Paul wrote, "Just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts" ( 1 Thessalonians 2:4 ). Our goal is to live righteously before God, not to comply with others’ arbitrary standards of conduct.
The title of the story "The Possibility of Evil" is a double entendre. Miss Strangeworth is obsessed with the possibility of evil in the citizens of "her town." Yet she doesn't realize that she has
One problem with emphasizing the appearance of evil is that it can make us slaves to the perceptions of others. There will always be someone who thinks that something you are doing is wrong, or that it looks wrong to him.
The conflict in Shirley Jackson's 1965 short story "The Possibility of Evil" is found within Miss Adela Strangeworth, who believes that the small town where she has resided her whole life "belonged
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