What Is the Symbolism in the Short Story “The Possibility of Evil”?

The symbolism in the short story “The Possibility of Evil” lies in the roses that were meticulously cared for by the main protagonist, Ms. Strangeworth. The roses symbolize the public persona of Ms. Strangeworth as the matriarch of her town, who knows and appears to have genuine concern for her townspeople. After her secret deeds are laid bare, her prized roses are destroyed, which also symbolically represents the destruction of her public persona.

In the story, Ms. Strangeworth takes on the role as the matriarch of the town, going about her daily routine and visiting her neighbors. She secretly feels compelled to protect the town from evil and she does so by sending harsh anonymous letters to her neighbors. When her secret is revealed, she receives a similar letter telling her that her rose garden has been destroyed.

“The Possibility of Evil” was written by Shirley Jackson and was published in 1965.