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 October 24, 2006

The paragraph that follows was written as a personal response to the story, "The Possibility of Evil," during a class exercise on Shirley Jackson's award-winning short story. A suggested theme is included in the body of the paragraph (one of many possibilities, of course!).


Evil: A Real Possibility

     Shirley Jackson is a favourite of mine, so pardon my bias, but she was a most wonderful observer of the everyday facts of life who never shied away from what makes us what we are, warts and all. A character like Miss Strangeworth represents the kind of thinking that goes a long way towards explaining why humanity has such difficulty getting along. She worries that there is “so much evil in people,” but fails to see the evil right there inside herself. Miss Strangeworth finds “an intense happiness” in cruelty, imagining the effect of her crudely written letters on the poor townspeople. What else can you expect from someone who “found herself thinking that the town belongs to her”? It is true that we get locked up in our own thinking and imagine that other people should behave as we do. One possible theme I see in the story: some people like to feel themselves superior to others morally and from that superior feeling can come to do deeply evil acts. Knowing Jackson’s biography, I can tell you that she was often the victim of this kind of thinking. “The Possibility of Evil,” her last published story, is a wonderfully observed slice of life and one that I will always remember.—Brad Hyde; first draft on October 18, 2006; 213 words