The Possibility of Evil

The Possibility of Evil

"The Possibility of Evil" is a 1965 short story by Shirley Jackson. Published on December 18, 1965 in the "Saturday Evening Post",cite news|url=|title=Criminals At Large|last=Boucher|first=Anthony|date=1966-05-01|work=The New York Times|publisher=The New York Times Company|pages=p. 335|accessdate=2008-05-25] a few months after her death, it won the 1966 Edgar Allan Poe Award for best mystery short story.cite web|url=|title=Shirley Jackson: A Register of Her Papers in the Library of Congress|last=Batts|first=Grover|coauthors=McElderry, Michael; McLemee, Scott|date=1993|format=PDF|work=American Memory from the Library of Congress|publisher=Library of Congress|pages=p. 4|accessdate=2008-05-25] It has since been reprinted in the 1996 collection "Just an Ordinary Day".cite news|url=|title=Distress Signals|last=Oates|first=Joyce Carol|date=1996-12-29|work=The New York Times|publisher=The New York Times Company|accessdate=2008-05-25]

While not as well-known or read as her earlier classic, "The Lottery", it has become more appreciated as Jackson's talent and influence have become better appreciated outside the horror community since her death. It, too, is being assigned in high school English classes.


The story follows Ms. Strangeworth, a single elderly woman living in a small town. She is known among her townsfolk for the garden of beautiful roses she keeps in front of her house. She is also adored by many of the visitors to her small town because of her many years of residence there. They don't know, however, that she is the writer of anonymous, malicious notes to various people informing them of gossip and rumors about their friends and hated ones. The notes often insinuate or suggest family problems, such as the grocer's grandson stealing money from the grocery store, mocking the Crane baby, who has developed slower than other babies, or mention surreptitious love affairs, saying things like "Or is the wife really always the last to know? " She bases a lot of the information received in these notes on speculation rather than proof. The revelations in the notes she sends have caused rifts in more than one family and led to the ending of relationships. Due to some carelessness on Ms. Strangeworth's part (she dropped one of the three letters), two local teens (Linda and the Harris boy), both among her victims, deliver the letter to the recipient (the Cranes). The story ends with Ms. Strangeworth herself opening a note similar to the ones she has sent others, saying, "LOOK OUT AT WHAT USED TO BE YOUR ROSES"


Like "The Lottery", "The Possibility of Evil" concerns itself with the darkness that lies beneath the placid surface of an American small town named Lottery. The short story is often used to demonstrate the theme of morality. The main character uses her letters to ridicule all the differences the minor characters in the story have.


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Evil — • In a large sense, described as the sum of the opposition, which experience shows to exist in the universe, to the desires and needs of individuals; whence arises, among humans beings at least, the sufferings in which life abounds Catholic… …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • The Bible and homosexuality — is a contentious subject that influences how homosexuality and homosexual sex are regarded in societies where Christianity has made a strong impact. The Bible is generally considered by believers to be inspired by God or to record God s… …   Wikipedia

  • The Church —     The Church     † Catholic Encyclopedia ► The Church     The term church (Anglo Saxon, cirice, circe; Modern German, Kirche; Sw., Kyrka) is the name employed in the Teutonic languages to render the Greek ekklesia (ecclesia), the term by which… …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker — North American box art Developer(s) Nintendo EAD …   Wikipedia

  • The Three Mothers — Le Tre madri Zum Walfisch ( The Whale in German), a famous building in Freiburg, served as one of the witches homes in Suspiria. Directed by …   Wikipedia

  • The Mysterious Affair at Styles —   …   Wikipedia

  • The Genesis According to Spiritism — The Genesis, Miracles and Premonition According to Spiritism ( La Genése, les Miracles et les Preditions selon le Spiritisme in the original French) was the last book published (1868) by Allan Kardec, just before his death. It tries to reconcile… …   Wikipedia

  • The Singularity Is Near — The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology   …   Wikipedia

  • The Golden Compass (film) — The Golden Compass Theatrical release poster Directed by Chris Weitz Produced by …   Wikipedia

  • The X-Files: I Want to Believe — Theatrical release poster Directed by Chris Carter Produced by …   Wikipedia