Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery

Shirley Jackson’s 1948 short story ‘The Lottery’ is an exploration of what it means to belong, or not belong, to a culture and set of traditions. Jackson sets the scene comfortably, describing a traditional little village from the 1920s to the 1940s, where everyone knows everyone, children play together, women and men talk in a naturally segregated manner due to the differences in their daily lives. Men, in this traditional world, hold political power. It may not be ideal for a modern reader like you or me; still, to the average reader in the late 1940s and early 1950s, fresh out of two world wars and presented with a steadily stabilizing economy, this peaceful little conservative village would be considered idyllic. And that was the point of it. Although Shirley Jackson outlines what for many of her readers would have been a perfect life, she uses it to draw sharp contrasts between our apparent civility and the barbarism of unquestioned cultural traditions.

The culture after WWII was one that Americans were proud of. We today see ourselves as a society that has surpassed racial segregation, the oppression of women and the criminalization of homosexuality. And we are proud of ourselves for this: we have achieved much and can look back and see progress. Likewise, people who lived in the aftermath of two world wars saw themselves as the proud victors against injustice. Rather than accept the new steps they had taken and look for more ways to improve, many people assumed they had achieved just the right amount of justice and power. Shirley Jackson calls this into question by designing a beautiful little village, what we now consider the 1950s ideal, where the residents believe they have achieved the ideal measure of progress, despite engaging in a tradition which would be seen as barbaric by most of Jackson’s audience. She describes natural life bursting forth from the ground on the “morning of June 27th”, “the fresh warmth of a full-summer day” in the air and flowers “blossoming profusely”. She goes on to describe people gathering in the square, in much the same way some people gather for religious celebrations or for political processes. They are quiet, maybe a little nervous, but enjoying the weather and each other’s company. A true sense of community is built in a few paragraphs before the lottery begins to take place.

The lottery itself is ambiguous; however, it inspires a sensation of wariness, of dread in most readers. This is mostly because a modern reader is aware of this horror technique. We are very familiar with the “too good to be true” trope used, where sweet little children are really horrific monsters and the nicest person is the killer. To the target audience in 1948, this story may have been a little unsettling, due to its portrayal of a custom they did not understand. However they would have been far less likely to see where the story would end up than we are today. Instead, the unease is created by xenophobia, a questioning of foreign cultures — which is exactly what Jackson intended. By making the readers consider why they are not comfortable with the town’s traditions, Jackson begins to open them up to evaluate their own customs. This is further enhanced by the dissenting voices in the audience. Throughout the story the townsfolk express wariness about the tradition, with some wondering why it ought to be done and others mentioning that many towns have stopped drawing their lotteries. And just as with any tradition, several voices uphold it. Old Man Warner rejects any questioning and dismissively says that “[p]eople ain’t the way they used to be” when he hears the village wishing that the victim of the lottery would not be a young girl.

The only character to remain strongly, actively against the lottery is Tess Hutchinson. Not only does she arrive late as she “clean forgot what day it was”, but as she sees that her family has been narrowed down by the lottery, she turns against local concepts of justice, declaring the lottery is “not fair”. Although it is easy to see that her complaints come from a perspective of preserving herself and her children, rather than from a place of true justice, it is worth noting that nobody who has not been affected opposes the lottery. In that town everyone is selfishly and blindly adhering to the tradition. Yet Tess’s selfishness does not change the fact that the lottery is, to most people’s eyes, unfair. The random selection and killing of an innocent townsperson, for whatever reason given, offended people in 1948 as much as it offends us today. But the same defenses used to support modern traditions can easily be used to support the lottery tradition as well: they have always done it, it has significance, it only affects a few people, it’s all down to luck, nobody is targeted.

In the end the reader is presented with the scene of Tess Hutchinson’s death, with is a stark reminder of what could happen if we were to always leave our traditions unquestioned. ‘The Lottery’ and its message are as pertinent today as they were in 1948. Every generation of our society believes it has overthrown the worst generation before it and that its traditions and concepts of justice and fairness are the right ones. ‘The Lottery’ shows us that no matter who we are or what we have overcome in our pasts, there may always be room for improvement. We should not leave our traditions unquestioned just because they do not hurt us personally.

Prominent Themes in The Lottery

Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery is an alarming parable that explores the concept of senseless violence whilst featuring many other prominent themes. The short story revolves around an annual lottery that a village holds to ensure that “lottery in June, corn be heavy soon” (6). Appallingly, the winner of the lottery proceeds to be stoned to death by their friends and family. The foremost theme in The Lottery is tradition, stressing the need to question senseless rituals instead of blindly following them. Jackson also uses the “scapegoat” archetype as a theme when Terri Hutchinson is sacrificed to erase the rest of the villages’ sins. A similar archetypal situation of death and rebirth is also illustrated in the short story. Lastly, the subject of violence and the human capacity for evil is exposed as The Lottery questions the villagers inherent need to collectively murder someone each year. Jackson uses a variety of literary elements such as symbolism and archetype to express these themes, creating an exceptionally compelling story. The theme of tradition in The Lottery explores why practices such as the stoning ritual of the lottery are accepted by the village simply because “there’s always been a lottery” (6). Amy A. Griffin describes the evolution of the inhumane ritual, explaining: “At one point in the village’s history, the lottery represented a grave experience, and all who participated understood the profound meaning of the tradition. But as time passed, the villagers began to take the ritual lightly. They endure it almost as automatons – “actors” anxious to return to their mundane, workaday lives… But why do villagers cling to tradition when they no longer find meaning in the ritual? Carl Jung posits that even if one does not understand the meaning, the experience provides the “individual a place and a meaning the life of the generations” (188). The villagers therefore feel compelled to continue this horrifying tradition (44). The black box used in the lottery is a significant symbol of tradition in the short story. Each head of the household draws a slip of paper from the ancient box, which epitomizes all of the evil and cruel actions that have taken place, as well as the killings that will continue until the tradition is stopped. The fact that the community refused to do something as simple as creating a new box because, “No one liked to upset even as much tradition as was represented by the black box” (2) exemplifies the villagers fear of breaking traditions. Old Man Warner, the oldest man in the town also symbolizes the tradition that is present in the short story. He has seen seventy-seven lotteries that were upheld ceremoniously and is outraged about talks of ending the ritual – “Nothing but trouble in that… pack of young fools” (6). Similar to the other three hundred members of the village, Old Man Warner only reason for murdering someone once a year is because it has always taken place. Jackson uses a variety of symbols to express the dangers of following rituals blindly, illustrating how evil practices or ideas are accepted without rationale simply because they are considered tradition.In The Lottery, Jackson utilizes archetypes to build on themes such as the scapegoating that takes place when Tessi Hutchinson is stoned to death. Carl Jung describes archetypes as “complexes of experience that come upon us like fate” (30), and this can be experienced through rituals such as the annual lottery, which was conducted like a square dance or club meeting. The archetype of “life-death cycle” also supports the theme because the village kills someone so their crops will grow healthy. As Griffin states in her critical essay, “the picnic-like atmosphere betrays the serious consequence of the lottery, for like the seed, a sacrificial person must also be buried to bring forth life” (44). In The Lottery, this sacrificial person is Tessi Hutchinson, a woman who was living sinful and not surprisingly had the fate as the village’s scapegoat. Tessi Hutchinson arrived late to the lottery and sarcastically tells the village “Wouldn’t have me leave m’dishes in the sink, now, would you?”(4) The villagers feel justified in killing their scapegoat; by stoning one sinful person each year, they are able to cleanse themselves and have good crops. When all the men open their slips of paper the women begin guessing who will be sacrificed, “‘Is it the Dunbars?’ ‘Is it the Watsons?’ (7). Their speculations demonstrate that they believe the people living in sin will be selected – Clyde Dunbar’s wife had to draw for him, and the Watson family had no father to draw for them. Jackson reflects upon society’s need for a scapegoat – by sacrificing someone like Tessi Hutchinson, the villagers see it as a deserving punishment, justifying murder.The theme with the strongest presence in The Lottery is society’s tendency toward violence. Even though the stoning is a brutal act, what makes it so horrifying is the fact that the village is portrayed is very peaceful and civilized right until Tessi Hutchinson is stoned to death by friends and family. During the lottery the children “broke into boisterous play” (1), while the men were “speaking of planting and rain, tractors and taxes” (2) and the women “exchanged bits of gossip” (2). Jackson makes it evident that the villagers are desensitized to the violence of their ritual. “The whole lottery took less than two hours, so it could begin at ten o’clock in the morning and still be through in time to allow the villagers to get home for noon dinner” (1). Individuals in the community are afraid to go against the lottery and instead participate in gruesome killings of innocent members of their village before going home to eat lunch, feeling more relief than remorse. Griffin states, “the base actions exhibited in groups (such as the stoning of Mrs. Hutchinson) do not take place on the individual level, for here such action would be deemed murder. On the group level people classify their heinous acts simply as ritual” (45). Even though the ritual has become meaningless to the villagers, the violence is still the only thing they can remember for certain. “Although the villagers had forgotten the ritual and lost the original black box, they still remembered to use stones” (9). “The Lottery” powerfully examines the capability of violence in human beings. Mrs. Delacroix and Mrs. Hutchinson seem to be very good friends, nevertheless when Tessi Hutchinson was brutally being stoned “Mrs. Delacroix selected a stone so large she had to pick it up with both hands” (9) to help kill her friend. Another example of this is Mrs. Hutchinson’s son Davy being given a few pebbles and expected to help murder his mother. Furthermore, it is only when Tessi Hutchinson becomes a victim of the violence that she starts to oppose it, yelling “It isn’t fair, it isn’t right” (9). Jackson conveys a shocking picture of senseless violence in humanity and instills the idea that society is accepting of violence until it becomes personal. The Lottery explores numerous universal themes such as the destructive nature of following traditions, scapegoating, and the acceptance violence through a variety of literary elements such as symbolism and archetypes, consequently creating an exceptionally compelling story. It stresses the importance of questioning the motives for doing something as opposed to blindly conforming. The Lottery also openly explores the innate need to hold onto traditions and society’s need for “civilized rituals”. It demonstrates not only why society has always required a scapegoat, but also how human beings are able to justify almost anything in order to feel no remorse. The short story raises many questions regarding destructive rituals of mankind, and the acceptance of violence in everyday life. The themes that are present in The Lottery are exceptionally thought-provoking and will remain relevant and universal forever.Works CitedGriffin, Amy A. Jackson’s The Lottery (Critical Essay). The Explicator, 1999.Jackson, Shirley. The Lottery, The New Yorker, 1948.Jung, Carl G. The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious. Princeton UP, 1968 Kosenko, Peter. A Reading of Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery. New Orleans Review, 1985http://www.netwood.net/~kosenko/jackson.html Nebeker, Helen E. The Lottery: Symbolic Tour de Force. American Literature, 1974

The Concept of ‘The Greater Good’ in “The Lottery” and “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”

Written during separate times of war, Shirley Jackson’s 1948 short story “The Lottery” and Ursula Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” written in 1974, both chillingly demonstrate the concept of the scapegoat. By definition, the scapegoat often represents a person or object who is subjected to carry unwarranted blame or irrational hostility, usually to the benefit of others. The meaning of this symbol, as depicted by the two towns in these stories, lies in the belief that they must choose one person to suffer for the greater good of the people. Seeing as how Jackson wrote her story in the aftermath of World War II and Le Guin wrote hers during the final years of the Vietnam War, we can understand how this idea of conflict and suffering in a society and need to displace it has permeated into their works. In “The Lottery,” Jackson presents a town that commits a ritualistic human sacrifice every year under the tradition of “Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon,”—meaning the death of a townsperson is necessary for the success of their harvest (Jackson). “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas,” however, presents a more hypothetical town which forces one child to live in suffering so that the rest of the people can live in harmony and bliss. While both stories make provocative commentaries on society’s need for a scapegoat to preserve the ‘greater good’, they also seem to present these concepts in two very distinctive and separate ways that make the reader question the worth of the lives of many over the life of one.Shirley Jackson’s famous gothic short story “The Lottery” begins in a surprisingly realistic and simple way. The narrator describes a small town of “only about three hundred people” who gather on a sunny June morning to engage in what seems like an annual festival-type of activity (Jackson). The narrator in this story goes into great length to describe the townsfolk and the idea that this tradition had been conducted for many years. We get a notion of the relative age of this event when Old Man Warner refers to this lottery as the “Seventy-seventh year [he’s] been in the lottery” (Jackson). The fact that this event has been going on for so long gives us the impression that the town seems to value more conservative beliefs of tradition and ritual. We see also how calculated the actual lottery process is as the story goes into heavy detail of how the townsfolk plan for the event, such as preparing the names of the townspeople and even where they store the lottery box. All these details seem to function as a way to make this town more realistic and support the idea that this event could really happen. In fact, when this story was first published, Jackson received letters from people who “thought that the fiction was based on fact and wanted to know the details of where, when, and to whom the events described had happened” (Bogert 45). After the lottery commences and we find out the winner, the reader is led away from realism and into a more symbolic and shocking conclusion. The conventional idea of winning the lottery is turned on its head as the chosen person, in this case Mrs. Hutchinson, is stoned to death by her friends and family. In this case, “there is only one loser, everyone else wins” (Beauchamp 201).As Jackson’s story is presented in such a realistic manner, it truly raises the question of morality. The townspeople all seem to know and care about each other and in fact seem to have their misgivings about the lottery, as is implied by rumors of giving the ritual up and the anxiousness of the crowd “wishing they’d hurry” (Jackson). Yet they still engage in this barbaric and primitive ritual. This could be explained in a Paganistic sense where sacrifices to nature are made to keep a healthy harvest. Evidence of this in the text lies in the fact that the lottery occurs in June. As the tradition says “Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon” and seeing as how this is during the summer solstice, it would naturally be a concern of the town to be preparing for the upcoming harvest (Jackson). In this sense, we could see the town’s need for a scapegoat as a literal need for survival and success. However, the primitive violence of the stoning in the ritual suggests that the scapegoat is more about releasing frustrations and finding someone to blame. The town seems to be engaging in the lottery simply for the sake of tradition, leaving their participation in the event mindless and involuntary. Some critics attribute Jackson’s motives as a way to comment on such historical atrocities as the Holocaust, McCarthyism, Japanese internment camps and even racism. Edna Bogert examines “The Lottery” in this light and suggests that “a group of ordinary of people has the ability to commit extraordinarily horrible deeds, if people in the group are unable or unwilling to think for themselves” (Bogert 47). So it seems that Jackson’s use of the scapegoat in “The Lottery” is more of a way to question the morality behind tradition and whether or not it is truly worthwhile to punish one person for the benefit of the rest.“The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” presents the same concept of the scapegoat but in a much more hypothetical way. This short story is written in the style of a psycho-myth which often takes place in a realistic setting that is out of any particular set time. In this theoretical town, the narrator urges the reader to participate in the story, saying the details of this town are “As you like it” and entirely up to the preferences of the reader (Le Guin). This not only forces the reader to internalize the situation and make their own choices for the details but also feel a sense of responsibility for the town’s actions. While both short stories begin with immense details regarding the town, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” actually asks the reader to question the reality of this town. At one point, the perfect bliss and delight of this town begins to seem questionable, and the narrator asks us “Do you believe? Do you accept the festival, the city, the joy? No?” and then decides to bring validity to the town by adding one more distinctive detail (Le Guin). In the basement of one of the buildings there is a child being held captive. He is known by all the inhabitants of Omelas, yet is left to live in filth and suffering. This is the catch—the reality of living in a utopia. All the pleasure and delight that the town experiences “depends wholly on this child’s abominable misery” (Le Guin).The fact that this scapegoat’s existence seems to authenticate the realism of the town certainly says something about our own society. Are our lives so tainted by underlying hatred and evil that a town without either could simply not exist? Le Guin is making the point that in the world we live in “Only pain is intellectual, only evil interesting” and “To embrace violence is to lose hold of everything else. We have almost lost hold; we can no longer describe a happy man” (Le Guin). This is why it is necessary in this hypothetical society to have at least one person suffer. If we know that there is some sort of hidden evil occurring under the surface, then society can revel in its own happiness and know that it is real. In this way, Le Guin’s commentary on the concept of evil for “the greater good” differs from Shirley Jackson’s. Furthermore, in this society, there are those that actually choose for themselves. There are the people who rationalize their actions as necessary for the sake of their survival or tradition, much like the town in “The Lottery.” However, there are others who see this poor child’s treatment as a question of morality. They decide whether or not to “renounce the exploitation of others” that “justifies their comfortable life” or to walk away from the town (“Ursula”). Those who choose to walk away, do so in darkness and risk living in an unknowing existence.The motif of the scapegoat is a very appropriate way to comment on our society. Gothic literature is always about revealing the dark motives hidden under the surface and reveals society’s truest faults. As human beings, we are always willing to allow another to take blame for our own sins. Often when it comes down to it, we would choose to have them suffer if it meant we could live in a delightful existence. Both Jackson’s “The Lottery” and Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” present this idea of the need for one person to suffer for the “greater good” of the town. In “The Lottery,” we see how this concept has been developed by tradition, and the town’s actions are those of mere followers. They act on this tradition simply for the sake of tradition, in a very mindless and terrifyingly realistic way. In “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas,” however, the town is willing to sacrifice the happiness of one person in order to maintain their own way of life. This is because they understand that happiness can not exist without suffering, and selfishly they prefer to let someone else be in pain. If we look at the world and the terrible actions of people, such as the Holocaust or slavery, we can see how humans have always been willing to let other suffer. Sadly, history has shown us that the scapegoat motif is not restricted to literature, and both Jackson and Le Guin’s works allow us to step outside of the story and reconsider our own sense of morality.

Social Stratifications and Racial Presumptions in “After You, My Dear Alphonse”

“Racism is not about how you look, it’s about how people assign meaning to how you look.” (Robin Kelley, an American History Professor at the University of California, Los Angeles)

People tend to judge each other based on social constructions that society has subconsciously implemented. Race itself is merely a concept, yet individuals in a society use stereotypes to isolate each other negatively based on the singular discrepancy of skin pigment. Racism has stemmed from generational long discriminations of others’ physical differences, until we as a society are able take away the labels we implement onto these visual barriers, prejudice will remain a problem. In the short story “After You, My Dear Alphonse” by Shirley Jackson, readers follow the story of a mother meeting her son’s friend for the first time. Upon finding that the boy’s ethnicity is African-American, the mother begins to negatively assume all the aspects of his life. She goes on to inquire about the child’s own personal lifestyle, displaying extreme condescensions that have negatively undermined outcomes for her own self betterment. Through Mrs.Wilson’s interrogation of Boyd, the author discusses racial conceptualizations and reveals presumed cultural distinctiveness in racial groups create barriers between positive communication.

Racism is not always violent, yet its subtle actional forms are just as distinctive. Apparent from when Mrs. Wilson first met Boyd, a sense of prudence was evident in her mannerisms. She would ask question after question about his own personal lifestyle, seeming to already have a negatively spiraled theory about what his life was like in her head. Jackson writes, “She [Mrs.Wilson] hesitated. ‘Does he [Boyd’s father]… work?’ ‘Sure.’ Johnny said. ‘Boyd’s father works in a factory.’ ‘There you see?’ Mrs.Wilson said. ‘And he certainly has to be strong to do that-all that lifting and carrying at a factory. ‘Boyd’s father doesn’t have to,’ Johnny said. ‘He’s a foreman.’ Mrs.Wilson felt defeated.” Mrs.Wilson had preliminary presumptions that Boyd’s father was unemployed, due to the historically wrong stereotype of black identifying people to be “inherently lazy”. Upon learning that his father does indeed work, and in fact that he works in the factory business, she then goes on to assume that his father is in the manual labor force. This, combined with her suggestively racist remarks about whether he was employed or not, indicated her beliefs that his family was in the lower class. Yet, Boyd states that his father had more of of a supervising job, rather than one of manual labor. In result, Mrs.Wilson takes this new information intimidating to herself personally. In an attempt to check off the low class stereotypes for his own family, she then proceeds to ask more rounds of wrongly discriminative questions about the way that he lives his life. As each question and answer goes by, Mrs.Wilson acquires a petty bitterness to the way that she talks to Boyd. The act of asking such closed minded questions about Boyd’s personal life signifies that racial discriminations are founded by underlying cruelness of character.

Charitable actions towards those of a lower class have givers with alternative motives. Mrs.Wilson displays extreme dissatisfaction when learning that Boyd’s family is as well-off financially as her own. Annoyed that she cannot show support for the boy money-wise, she offers him secondhand clothing, with the presumption that while his father may work, Boyd didn’t have all the clothes he needed. Boyd then, respectively, puts down the offer, stating that he has everything he needs, and is able to buy all else that he wants. Mrs.Wilson’s personality then turns sour with distaste. Jackson writes, “Mrs.Wilson lifted the plate of gingerbread off the table as Boyd was about to take another piece. ‘There are many little boys like you, Boyd, who would be very grateful for the clothes someone was nice enough to give them.’ … ‘Don’t think I’m angry, Boyd. I’m just disappointed in you, that’s all. Now let’s not say anymore about it.’” Mrs.Wilson’s change of demeanor turned frustrated, into a form of irritation against Boyd. Ostensibly, she tells Boyd that he has not angered him, yet this is exactly what he has done. Mrs.Wilson was looking to be the charitable upperclass woman to Boyd; often times, xenophobic, or racist people, believe that anything they do for another racially diverse person will positively benefit the individual, regardless if this is true or not. She wanted the boy to be that character, she deeply wanted to make herself feel superior to him by aiding him through his “apparent struggle in life”. Mrs.Wilson’s false charity highlights the racist stratifications that are placed towards those who are labeled as racially inferior.

Insinuations of racist beliefs cause harmful biases towards different racial groups than of personal experience. Throughout Mrs.Wilson’s interaction with the two boys, it is evident how racially sectarianism her beliefs are. Not only is does she feel personally obligated to make herself seem notably higher in social class and privilege, but she feels the necessity to be a charitable leader towards Boyd. In fact, the first clear sign of her racist beliefs were noticeable in the first interaction where she was in the visual vicinity of Boyd, even before their verbal exchanges. Jackson writes, “As she [Mrs.Wilson] turned to show Boyd where to sit, she saw he was a Negro boy … Mrs.Wilson turned to Johnny. ‘Johnny,’ she said, ‘what did you make Boyd do?” The short story’s sequence of events, directly after, begins to fall down a hole of contemptuousness. Mrs.Wilson is clearly one of racist beliefs. Her dislike of Boyd grows stronger and stronger, each question of hers that is answered adds to the fundamental grudge that she is building up. Soon every question she seemingly asks has multiple negative connotations behind them. The act of housing such strong racist beliefs illustrates how implicit racism is internecine.

Due to Mrs.Wilson’s interrogative behavior towards Boyd, the author discusses ethnical discrimination and reveals that atypical conceptions of what is normal in different ethnic groups creates impediments towards creating emotional connections. Through Mrs.Wilson’s constant racist remarks, one can establish that racial inequalities are due to a person’s wrongful perception of themselves being naturally superior to another individual.

The Daemon Lover: Shirley Jackson and the Articulation of Ambiguity

Shirley Jackson’s short story “The Daemon Lover” is nowhere near as omnipresent in the American zeitgeist as her cautionary tale about conformity taken to its ridiculous extreme, “The Lottery.” Nevertheless, in its own modest fashion, “The Daemon Lover” is the equal of its more famous sister story in terms of revealing how Shirley Jackson remains one of the foremost—and most prescient—critics of patriarchal victimization of the female in American society through her singularly impressive talent for articulating the potential for multiple truths to exist in the shadows of ambiguity.

The central female figure in “The Daemon Lover” is one instantly recognizable from a lifetime worth of watching American television; and not just watching the Lifetime Channel. She is in her early 30s, is not particularly beautiful or particularly unattractive and lives a life coincident with her looks: ordinary. Perfectly ordinary. Her nervous preparations for the day ahead in which a young man of interest is at the center is almost worn brittle with its very ordinariness: “Anxiously she pulled through the dress in the closet, and hesitated over a print she had worn the summer before; it was too young for her and it had a ruffled neck, and it was very early in the year for a print dress, but still…” This prosaic description of a woman defined by her mundane existence serves to intensify the unexpected quality of her tale when this typical American woman finds that a tall and handsome man has taken note of whatever extraordinary attributes she possesses that has gone unnoticed by the rest of the world. What does sound like a story that may be the first act of a Lifetime Channel movie appears to go according to a stock template even this young man’s shocking entry into her commonplace little life results in an equally surprising sudden exit. Even the woman’s reaction seems almost quaintly predictable as she sits in self-imposed solitary confinement wearing that questionably inappropriate print dress while “she was sitting by the window drinking another cup of coffee” while internal debates rages inside over the final fashion decision: “I could have taken more time over my dressing after all, she thought; but by now he was so late he might come any minute, and she did not dare try to repair anything without starting all over.” Eventually, rumination gives way to hysteria at the idea that with the loss of this dream man also comes the loss of all her most image-driven dreams of happily ever after.

And yet, Shirley Jackson is no hack TV writer and “The Daemon Lover” has much bigger fish to fry than what can be easily digested in a soap opera presentation. Keep in mind that this man whom the heroine does admittedly go mental over is basically a phantom. Precious little information is known about him even by the end of the story other than the most elemental of essentials: “He’s rather tall, and fair. He wears a blue suit very often. He’s a writer.” The narrative constituent that allows “The Daemon Lover” to transcend its seeming mundane melodramatic narrative is the reaction from those she turns toward for answers and the universal emotional response they display toward her predicament which sows the seeds of ambiguity rather than any absolute truth.

“You got the wrong house, lady, or the wrong guy,”

“Now how many men in blue suits go past here every day, lady? You think I got nothing to do but—“

“Madam. Really, you must realize that unless I have something to go on. I simply can’t.”

And that’s how it goes with each person she reaches out to for help in tracking down the elusive tall writer in the blue suit. “Going on up the street she thought, Everyone thinks it’s so funny: and she pulled her coat tighter around her, so that only the ruffle around the bottom of the print dress was showing.” Yes, truly, everyone’s reaction is slightly off so that not it is not just a question of thinking the whole situation is funny funny, but also funny sad or funny tragic or funny crazy. She must be crazy somehow and, more likely than not, this Jamie Harris she is desperately looking for never existed except in her imagination.

The levels at which Jackson is working her literary magic goes deep. On one level, she has created a very strange and maddening version of Frankenstein: Jamie Harris is very much a creature fashioned from the mind of her protagonist since she appears to be the only one whose description of Jamie fits her description of Jamie. On another level, Jackson has created a sublime and acutely subtle portrayal of repressed sexuality breaking from its chains in the woman’s subconscious and clawing its way into not only her own consciousness, but the consciousness of those around her. Still another way of interpreting what Jackson might be after here takes the idea of repression into another dimension entirely: on the verge of actually getting to live out the happily ever after, it is the bride who has taken a powder, not the groom. Only in her case, her disappearance is from reality, not the physical manifestations of reality one refers to as their life.

The real mystery awaiting the reader at the conclusion of “The Daemon Lover” is not just whether Jamie Harris is the one making noises inside that apartment, but whether Jamie Harris ever existed at all. What elevates Jackson’s story to the sphere of art is that answering the questions it leaves open is utterly beside the point. Is the woman insane? Is Jamie Harris a demonically cruel lover? Is he in the apartment or has she gone bats in the belfry? Any and all of these things may be true or not, but Jackson clearly had no interest in providing any tangible clues to guide the reader one way or the other.

The bigger fish that Jackson has to fry deal with the nature of ambiguity in fiction and in life. If a reader chooses to close the story on the firm belief that the woman has been made totally bonkers by a real man without much more character than his description, that is a perfectly reasonable interpretation. If a reader wants to assume that this woman was nuts from the start and this is the reason she can offer no better description of him than tall, handsome and wearing a blue suit, well, that seems perfectly reasonable as well.

Both are potentially cogent truths. Neither are absolute truths. The ambiguous nature of the tale is central to its form, structure and narrative. Jackson provides only enough information about the woman’s hysterical reaction to being jilted on her wedding day to make multiple interpretations logical and coherent. “The Daemon Lover” thus becomes a lesson in the art of articulating truth in fiction through ambiguity. The low voices and laughter that the woman swears she hears in the apartment as the story draws to a close suggests that Jackson’s interest in creating a masterpiece of ambiguity may have more than a little to do with her own corrosive critique of a society too eager to view women as hysterical simply for demanding a reasonable explanation.

The Significance of Fate in Different Genres of Literature

There are many overarching themes that can be applied to the different genres of literature. People can relate to these themes, and they can be applied to short fiction, poetry and drama. The theme of fate is something that can be applied to all of these forms of literature. Fate is defined as the development of events beyond a character’s control, as determined by an unseen force. The short story “The Lottery” written by Shirley Jackson, the poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” written by T.S. Eliot, and the play “Oedipus the King” written by Sophocles, are all works of literature that explore the theme of fate. “The Lottery” deals with the societal acceptance of fate, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” deals with internal acceptance of fate, and Oedipus the King deals with the fact that people cannot escape their fate. Fate is something that people have no control over, both in real life and in works of literature. Short stories are able to develop characters and conflict in just a few pages.

In the short story “The Lottery”, society’s acceptance of fate is the conflict being explored. This story describes a tradition within a society in which a lottery is conducted once a year. Everyone in the town gathers in the town square and a name is drawn to see who the big winner is. At the beginning, and throughout much of the exposition of this story, it seems that this lottery is a happy occasion. However, there are some small hints throughout that also suggest that this occasion may not be quite what it seems. With the young boys stuffing their pockets full of stones, the conductors of the lottery acting nervous around one another, and Old Man Warner talking about “nothing but trouble” in discontinuing the tradition of the lottery. However the reader does not truly figure out what is happening until the very end of the story. Toward the end of “The Lottery”, the winning family’s name is drawn and each member of that family then must draw a slip of paper. The mother, Tessie Hutchinson, begins to get visibly and audibly upset, and the reader figures out that this story is bound to have a less than optimal ending. She begs the directors of the lottery to allow other members of their family to be included into the drawing as well, and when they deny her, she gets even more upset: “‘It wasn’t fair,’ Tessie said” (314). This is a display of Tessie trying to escape her fate, even though everyone around her has already accepted that there is nothing that can be done, including Tessie’s own husband. After each member of the family makes their drawing, and it is discovered that Tessie is the “winner”, the entire demeanor of the town changes, and Tessie becomes even more panicked than before. Everyone else in town ceremoniously picks up their rocks and stands around Tessie. She is begging for her life and they cannot do anything, because they must go along with tradition. They realize that this is Tessie’s fate, and that she was meant to live and die in this way. No matter how much she begs and pleads, everyone else, including her husband and children, realizes that she has no choice: “‘It isn’t fair, it isn’t right,’ Mrs. Hutchinson screamed, and then they were upon her” (316). Although Tessie has a hard time accepting her fate, everyone around her has already accepted it for her. Because it has been ingrained in each member of this society from the time the were born, and they do not know any other way. Even when one individual does not want to accept their fate, sometimes that does not matter, as societal acceptance from those around them is all it takes to have that fate carried out. While some characters in different genres of literature have trouble accepting their fates, there are others who are coping with their internal acceptance of fate.

In “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, the man mentioned in the title is dealing with the way that his life has turned out. He is reminiscing on his life and the decisions that he has made during his time on Earth. He reflects on all the times in his life that he has missed out on opportunities because he was a man that was unable to commit to anything. When the speaker says “in the room the women come and go, talking of Michelangelo”, he is insinuating that he is a shallow man who dates the same type of women all the time (926). When the speaker repeats this same thing later on in the poem, it reinforces this idea. This quote suggests that the speaker dates women who are all the same, and who will never truly interest him. He realizes, after all of his years of reckless dating, that he has grown old and less attractive than he once was: “Time to turn back and descend the stair, with a bald spot in the middle of my hair” (926). He knows he is getting old and that he has missed out on a lot of opportunities due to how shallow he was in his youth. He realizes that the cruel tricks of time have cheated him out of what he really wants, and quite possibly what he once had: “and I have known the arms already…Is it perfume from a dress that makes me so digress?” (927). The speaker quite possibly had the perfect person for him once before in his life, but he let them go because of his tendency to act shallow and full of himself. The speaker in “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” is reflecting on his life choices, and realizes that time dictated his future, and that opportunities are limited. He realized that people have only so much time to be alive, but he realized this far too late. He also realized that the nature of his personality caused him to miss out on opportunities that came with a shelf life. Now, he must come to terms with the fact that he was meant to end up like this. Although he felt that he had a choice, and felt like he could have perhaps done something to prevent his life from going this way, there really was nothing that he could have done. Some unseen force played a role in the speaker’s life ending up the way that it did. It was his fate to become a lonely, shell of a man, sitting around wishing that he had done things differently in his life: “I grow old…Do I dare eat a peach?…I shall wear white flannel trousers and walk upon the beach. I Have heard the mermaids singing, each to each. I do not think that they will sing to me” (929). The speaker realizes that he has grown old, and that he has run out of opportunities. His fate has determined that he was never the type of man to take a wife. He was to be the type of man who dated around throughout his life, and ended up wishing he had done things differently when it was all too late in his old age. He is finally able to accept this at the end of the poem, when he realizes that people thinking that they can choose their future is all just a facade, and that the ugly truth of it all is that fate determines everything. All people can do is just sit back and wait for their fate to catch up with them.However fruitless their efforts may be, there will always be those who try to escape their fate.

In the play Oedipus the King written by Sophocles, there is a classic case of a character attempting to escape his fate, and failing, despite his best efforts. Every person during Sophocles’ day knew the story of Oedipus, so there was plenty of dramatic irony to be experienced for audiences during his time. Even today, this story is fairly well known, and not much of the irony is lost in the translations of both languages and time. The story of Oedipus is a tragic one, in which he is cursed by fate from the very beginning of his life. When he was born, a prophet told Oedipus’ parents that he would sleep with his mother and murder his father. Oedipus’ parents were the first to try and escape Oedipus’ fate by casting him out of their home in order to save themselves. During the play, as the plot progresses, the audience realizes that Oedipus has already fulfilled the prophecy. He is the one who has caused the trouble in Thebes, therefore they know he is the one who must be banished. The audience is aware of the fact that Oedipus has no control over his fate, and that he will ultimately have to face the consequences of the fate that was chosen for him. When Oedipus calls on the prophet Tiresias to help him find the person who has cursed Thebes, he is met with information that he does not want to hear. Tiresias tells him that the person who has cursed the land is Oedipus himself, and Oedipus becomes angry with Tiresias, not wanting to believe him. He begins hurling insults at Tiresias about his blindness, to which Tiresias responds: “those jeers you hurl at me before long all these men will hurl at you” (1601). Tiresias knows everything about Oedipus’ fate, and that is why he was reluctant to tell him the truth about it. However, Oedipus’ prodding caused him to tell him the truth anyway, and Oedipus still has some idea in his mind that he has done no wrong. When he and his wife and mother, Jocasta, finally figure out that Tiresias was right all along, both of them break completely. Jocasta hangs herself at the atrocity of it all, and Oedipus stabs his eyes out with pins. There was no way for Oedipus to escape his fate. Despite the valiant effort from his parents to avoid the prophecy told at Oedipus’ birth, they should have known better. It was Oedipus’ fate to murder his father and to sleep with his mother. Although both Oedipus and his parents tried to hide from who Oedipus truly was, there was no escaping it. No matter how hard one tries, they cannot escape their fate.

In the short story “The Lottery”, the poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” and the play Oedipus the King, different aspects of dealing with fate were explored. “The Lottery” dealt with the societal acceptance of fate. Even if one person does not accept their fate, if the society that they live in already has, this fate will most definitely be carried out. “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” dealt with the internal acceptance of fate, realizing that there are limited opportunities in life, and sometimes we just are not cut out for the things we assume that we would be. Finally, Oedipus the King dealt with the fact that no matter how valiant one’s efforts are, they cannot escape their fate. Fate is something that is predetermined by an unseen force, and there is nothing that can be done about it.

Works Cited

Kirszner, Laurie G., and Stephen R. Mandell, eds. Literature: Reading, Reacting, Writing. 3rd ed.Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace, 1997.

Eliot, T.S. “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”. Kirszner and Mandell. 925-29.

Jackson, Shirley. “The Lottery”. Kirszner and Mandell. 309-16.Sophocles. “Oedipus the King”. Kirszner and Mandell. 1590-1632.

Anyone Can Be A Monster

Primo Levi, an Italian Jewish chemist, writer, and Holocaust survivor, once said that “Monsters exist, but they are far too few in number to be truly dangerous. More dangerous are the common men, the functionaries ready to believe and to act without asking questions.” When people think of evil people or monsters, we typically think of the main figure of a movement or group. The most evil person people think of is Hitler or Stalin. It is easy to blame the main figure solely, but by doing this we fail to remember the ordinary people who are involved in letting horrendous acts occur. These people did not work alone. It is everyday people who have the power to control what will happen. It is through civilian opinions and actions that evil acts can occur. Hitler had millions of followers and supporters that did not question what he was doing to Jews. They and many other countries failed to realize by following blindly without questioning, they were condemning a group of people to death. Monsters do not have to be a completely evil being. Many people do not realize that all monsters are just ordinary people. In her short story, “The Lottery”, Shirley Jackson is able to express the chilling horror of blind obedience. Jackson is able to show that any ordinary person is capable of horrific acts by conforming mindlessly to a person’s surroundings. Although people are have the ability to cause change and do good, Shirley Jackson is able to convey in her story “The Lottery” that the normalization of events, fear and tradition, and selfishness are the roots of blind obedience and cause everyday people to become monsters.

To begin, Shirley Jackson shows that heinous deeds can become normal over time. The most sinister aspect of “The Lottery” is the normalization of the killing of a neighbor. Every single person in the town is not bothered by the lottery. The townspeople schedule the lottery to happen around 10, so that it will be over in time for them to have lunch. The people of the town have no issue with continuing their day after killing someone that was apart of their community. It is through normalization that bad things can occur. The Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim civil rights and advocacy group, points out that the killing of Jews was not the first step in the Holocaust. In 1930s Germany there was a lot anti-Jew propaganda. Jews were often an object people could blame for their problems. They complained that Jews were taking jobs away from Germans; which is much like some Americans views on immigrants. Through the constant blame of Jews and propaganda against them in the media, the Nazis were able to normalize the hatred of Jews. By blindly listening to the media and bias, the people in 1930s Germany became just as bad as Nazis. The townspeople in “The Lottery” do the exact same thing. The children are playing with the rocks that will kill a person that they know and interact with constantly; they fill their pockets full of stones. Children should be questioning whether it is right to be killing a person, but they conform to what others do around them. No one questions the lottery. The townspeople gossip and joke before the lottery begins. They just think of the lottery as a mundane activity that they are forced to do. The lottery is just another part of their day they have to get thorough. If someone were to question the lottery, than people wouldn’t have to die. In addition, once Tessie is chosen to be stoned and begins to panic, the townspeople tell her to “be a good sport”. These people don’t even think about her or her situation. They blindly stone this lady without thinking of her family or why they are really doing it. The act of killing someone has become so normal to this town that they just want it to be over with quickly. Jackson warns that if heinous acts are normalized then the true horrors of a situation are hidden, making ordinary people monsters by blind obedience.

Furthermore, the blind obedience found in “The Lottery” is even more intensified by fear and tradition. Fear is one of the best motivators; anyone can control another person through fear. Fear and tradition in “The Lottery” go hand in hand. There is a fear that if the sacrifice from the lottery is stopped, than the crops won’t flourish; the lottery has worked for the townspeople for centuries, so they don’t consider stopping the tradition. They repeatedly conform to the same pattern every year of bringing out the old box and killing someone. This is all they have ever know; lotteries are conducted in villages in all of the surrounding areas around the townspeople. The oldest man in town, Old Man Warner, has been apart of over 70 lotteries. No one in town has ever not been apart of the lottery. It has always happened and the crops always grow. The townspeople are like drones that carry out orders without thinking or realizing how pointless the lottery really is. They are afraid to speak up about the lottery because of what might happen to them. It is just a small town of just 300 people; no one talks about the lottery because they are afraid of judgment by the town, and they are afraid to alter the lottery for what might happen to their crops. The black box used for the lottery is old and shabby. There is always talk about making a new box, but no one wants to mess with the tradition that is represented by the black box. Jackson is able to demonstrate how strong of a hold tradition and fear have on people. Tradition makes it easy to blindly follow a routine, and fear is used a deterrent to stop an sort of questioning toward the lottery.

In addition, selfishness is a further exemplifies blind obedience. We as people tend to not question anything until we personally are involved. The townspeople do not care about the families of the people who are sacrificed at the lottery; they only care about themselves. Even Tessie, the woman who gets stoned, jokes around during the lottery until she is chosen to be killed. We only care about ourselves and our safety. Tessie even tries to bring some of her married children in the lottery draw for her family to increase her odds of living. She would rather one of her own child die in her place than her. Nobody questions anything until they are apart of it. In present day, many people do not sympathize with the suffering and discrimination of minority groups because it does not affect them personally. They cannot see the pain of others because it does not affect them. Once the Hutchinson’s have been chosen for the lottery, some of Nancy Hutchinson’s school friends hope that it isn’t her. Nancy’s friends do not care about Nancy’s family. They only think about themselves and what they would do without Nancy. They don’t think of Nancy’s suffering or how the lottery will affect her and her family. Thomas Du Bose believes that Jackson is suggesting “that people are not concerned about injustice and kindness unless these problems touch them personally.” The townspeople are able to blindly obedient because the lottery doesn’t concern them or their families. Once they open their piece of paper and don’t see a black dot, they are relaxed; it’s not them. They just want the stoning to end quickly so they can go to lunch. Selfishness and not being able to put yourself in someone else’s place causes people to be apart to horrific deeds.

Any person can become a monster. It is not just figureheads who are evil, it is also ordinary people. Shirley Jackson is warning us that by being blindly obedient that we can create terror and suffering. Jackson is urging us to look for signs of normalization of awful things. She is telling us to question everything even if it is tradition, or is it scary to oppose. Jackson is telling us to look beyond ourselves and to not conform to awful practices. “The Lottery” is a call to action to be more aware of our surroundings and what we do. We need to be more self aware and see what we can do to help and change other people.

Works Cited

Du Bose, Thomas. “The Lottery.” Masterplots, Fourth Edition, November 2010, pp. 1-3. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx direct=true&db=lkh&AN=103331MP421429820000662&site=lrc-plus.

Green, Jordan. “CAIR Executive Director Decries ‘normalization of Hate’.” The NC Triad’s Altweekly. Triad City Beat, 31 Mar. 2017. Web. 7 Apr. 2017.

“Quotes About Monsters (389 quotes).” (389 quotes). N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Apr. 2017.

The Significance of Symbols in Literary Works by Jackson and Behr

A symbol in the story is like a souvenir from a travel destination. It holds meaning beyond what is actually being seen. Every author has their own deft way to instill thematic meaning into a seemingly inanimate object, which then grows to become a powerful symbol. In horrific stories about reality such as The Lottery, Jackson uses the black box as a strong representation of tradition, whereas in books inspired by sociocultural situations such as The Smell of Apples, Behr successfully uses apples and whales to portray child-like innocence. The more we start comparing and contrasting these works to one another, the more interesting and real the conclusions we derive become.

To begin, Jackson’s Box symbolizes the fear of change. We read that the box is so broken and worn out that it had to be reconstructed into a newer one by its old parts. Still, the villagers have been using it since decades even though its opening rituals have been forgotten due to the increase in population with every passing generation. This fact clearly states that the most prominent elements of the past, according to the villagers, must be preserved as much as possible despite of the dark, ugly and defective aspects. Evidently, the Box plays quite a significant role in maintaining the traditions of the village.

Similarly, Behr uses apples as a symbolic means to remember the heroic past. The apples were brought to South Africa by the Afrikaaners hundreds of years ago when they invaded the country into pieces in order to rebuild it, with their own systems and set of rules for everyone to blindly obey. Over the years, it became a typical symbol of their accomplishments and dominance over the native land. However, the the same apples, which present-day Afrikaaners are so proud of, get a stain of Afrikaaner brutality when Johan Erasmus’ semen is transferred onto their skin via Frikkie. As one of the most militarily important people in the government, Johan serves as a reflection of white supremacist thought prevailing within the Afrikaaner community as a whole. By raping an innocent child, he tarnishes that heroic historical image for the readers. Thus, apples illustrate how contaminated Afrikaaners are, and were when they set foot on South Africa to victimize the innocent citizens.

Unlike the apples, the black box is only showcased to the public for two hours every year. During these hours, all villagers try their best to keep their distance from it because they are- like normal humans- afraid of death. This clearly foreshadows the future conflict. Yet, certain aged villagers like Mr. Summers confidently take the responsibility of keeping the special box with them for the rest of the year. It is soon realized that the old men play the biggest role in controlling and implementing such a tradition. They take advantage of the fact that this tradition leaves most villagers unscathed, In order to make it last. This points to the power of tradition as it is perpetuated by those in charge.

In contrast to how the box is cherished by the powerful, the whales in the smell of apples characterizes weak victims dwelling fearfully in Cape Town’s apartheid era. The whales are being caught and killed in massive numbers annually for no fair reason. This is analogous to the conflict regarding an end to social righteousness. For instance, the discrimination against the the Coloreds by the whites. Furthermore, it emphasizes the growth of unjust power in the hands of cruel people.

Nevertheless, Behr introduces a Christian symbol of knowledge and maturity, that juxtaposes this concept of innocence, in the previously-discussed apples. Frikkie examines them and becomes curious about their smell. He unknowingly uses a euphemism for Johan’s inhumanity: rotten apples. Although he never discloses the abuse to Marnus, Marnus ultimately figures out where the smell originated from; and this origin becomes painfully clear to the reader himself. Therefore, it is the apples that symbolize realization and coming-of-age of both the readers and the characters by the end of the novel.

In conclusion, Jackson cleverly chooses her box to evince the the invariable sense of power and fear throughout her short story whilst Behr develops his symbols to characterize tarnished naivety. However, both taint their symbols to criticize the influence of tradition. The indirect messages conveyed by both is unfortunately very relevant and relatable, not only to the present world but also to international relations, childhood and human nature.

Beyond the Layer: The Truth of Miss Strangeworth in “The Possibility of Evil”

Miss Adela Strangeworth, from the short story “The Possibility of Evil” by Shirley Jackson, is a 71-year old pensioner who lives in Pleasant Street. She takes pride in her home, the people’s respect for her, and especially her roses. To most people who are oblivious of the letters that she has been writing, she is considerate, proper and polite because she had to stop every minute to say good morning to someone or ask for someone’s health but to the one person who had discovered her secret, she is pretentious and a “chismosa”.

The narrator had mentioned that Miss Strangeworth “had to stop every minute or so to say good morning to someone or to ask after someone’s health” which shows her first important trait. She is considerate, proper and polite. This trait of hers is also apparent when she noticed that Mr. Lewis “looked worried,” and when Mrs. Harper’s hand “shook slightly as she opened her pocketbook,” and Ms. Strangeworth thought that she “could use a good, strong tonic.” It is also showing that Ms. Strangeworth is indeed proper when she encountered the librarian, Ms. Chandler, and she noticed that Ms. Chandler “had not taken much trouble with her hair this morning” and the narrator had claimed that Ms. Strangeworth “hated sloppiness.” Aside from the fact that she is a known elder in the town, this is the characteristics got the people to respect Ms. Strangeworth. An English idiom “Don’t judge a book by its covers” is a metaphorical phrase that reminds us not to prejudge the value of someone or something by their appearance.

As discussed previously, Ms. Strangeworth is an ordinary 71-year-old woman and lives in Pleasant Street, someone who is considerate and polite. However, the way she thinks and her actions when no one is watching is a complete opposite. It also shows when she talked to Don and Helen Crane about their baby, and she advised an anxious Helen about how she thinks her baby is growing too slow. Ms. Strangeworth said “..All babies are different. Some of them develop much more quickly than others,” but then wrote a letter to Don stating “Didn’t you ever see an idiot child before? Some people shouldn’t have children, should they?” As she was walking down the street, she stopped “once to ask little Billy Moore why he wasn’t out riding in his daddy’s shiny new car,” acting as though she was genuinely interested in the child’s whereabouts. But it was later revealed that she “had thought of writing one more letter to the head of the school board, asking how a chemistry teacher like Billy Moore’s father afford a new convertible.” Lastly, she had shown concern to Mrs. Harper when she had encountered her in the grocery store but was shown to be sending letters with news coming only from her observation.

Leonardo da Vinci once said, “The only deception men suffer their own opinion.” This quote embodies Ms. Strangeworth ’s unnoticed characteristic. She is what you can call a “chismosa.” As the story progresses, the narrator had stated that miss Strangeworth “never concerns herself with facts; her letters all dealt with the more negotiable stuff of suspicion.” This shows us that even though she posts like a normal senior woman that cares for everyone in her town, she is a woman that creates tattletales according to only on her observation and opinions. While she is writing her letters, she took a blue sheet and wrote “You never know about doctors. Remember they’re only human and need money like the rest of us. Suppose the knife slipped accidentally. Would Doctor Burns get his fee and a little extra from that nephew of yours?” to a woman having an operation next month, Mrs. Foster. In this letter, she implied that the nephew might plot murder and pay the doctor to slip the knife “accidentally” because as she had said, doctors are “only human and need money like the rest of us.” On her way to the post office to mail her letters, she heard Linda Stewart crying, and “Miss Strangeworth listened carefully.” This habit of Ms. Strangeworth. She is listening, observing and drawing conclusions without investigating and collecting facts.

The story “The Possibility of Evil” is a story that shows us not everything is what it seems. Ms. Adela Strangeworth symbolizes this theme. Even though the town sees her as a respectable elderly who is considerate, proper and polite, underneath the surface and all the lies she is pretentious and tells tattletales. She shows that evil is indeed lurking everywhere.