"The Possibility of Evil" by Shirley Jackson

Essay by TheEnglishClawHigh School, 10th grade March 2007

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Possibility of Evil

Envy, greed, lust - all examples of "evil" things done by us all; nevertheless, what is evil? Can we stop it, and if so, are we obligated to? Before we speak about the obligation of the normal person to stop evil, we have to understand what evil is. Evil is what a person accepts it as true; this can be seen in the story inside Miss Strangeworth. She does not believe her letters create problems rather than solve them. And that in another person's eyes, she can be perceived as evil. The other big question was, is she obliged to stop the evil that is happening in the community, and how is she suppose to go about "helping" the people out?

Before we can discuss a person's obligation to stop evil, we must first determine what evil is. Evil is described by most as "morally wrong'; however, how do we judge when someone is evil, or has done an evil deed? Evil is in the eye of the beholder; what someone believes to be truthful and correct may be seen in the eyes of others as disrespectful and malicious.

The largest example in the story is Miss Strangeworth's letters "The town where she lived had to be kept clean and sweet; people everywhere were evil and needed to be watched" (226). Miss Strangeworth did not bother to think that to others her honorable work was perceived as evil, nor did she take the time to investigate the gossip which was the inspiration for her wicked letters "Miss Strangeworth never bothered about facts; her letters all dealt with suspicion." (226). In every day life, much like in the book, evil is judged on action, and it is judged differently by others; nonetheless, society came to...