essay on The Canterville Ghost, by Oscar Wilde

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic
essay or summary of the short story The Canterville Ghost, by Oscar Wilde, a parody on the British and American aristocracies around 1900's.

Submitted: June 02, 2008

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Submitted: June 02, 2008



The Canterville Ghost is not just a short story about a haunted mansion with a ghost; it is also a comedy and a parody of British aristocracy. In this story, the author makes fun of American pride and love of wealth by having the Minister who buys the mansion say: “I will take the furniture and the ghost at a valuation. I have come from a modern country, where we have everything that money can buy; and with all our spry young fellows painting the Old World red, and carrying off your best actors and prima-donnas, I reckon if there were such a thing as a ghost in Europe, we have it at home in a very short time in one of our public museums, or on the road as a show.”
The author, Wilde founded the avant garde movement of ‘Art for Art’s sake’ coined by Gautier. However, even fellow artists such as Gilbert and Sullivan harshly criticized his modern ideas in the United States. Instead, in England he became a permanent influence on the decorative arts. His masterpiece, The Picture of Dorian Gray, published in 1891, is also somewhat autobiographical. Due to his homosexuality, he was convicted of sodomy in 1895, and sentence to 2 years of hard labor in a London prison. Shortly thereafter in 1900, he died of meningitis caused by the syphilis he had been suffering since his youth.
Getting back to our story, the new owners of the Canterville Mansion or Chase, the Otis cannot believe in ghosts not even after he appears to them in chains. The Mansion bears a permanent bloodstain in the sitting room where the murder of Lady Eleanor occurred in 1575 by her husband. The Otis want the bloodstain to be removed and do not understand the housekeeper’s reasons that this would be impossible and also a great loss, because it is a tourist attraction. The owner’s wife removes it herself, and a flash of lightning lights up the room and the housekeeper faints. The owner’s wife then complains to her husband about the terrible weather and the fainting housekeeper, because she wants to get her fired. Unfortunately, the bloodstain comes back the next morning.
After trying to scare the Otis family several times and failing, the ghost becomes extremely sad and utterly depressed. His worst rival were the Otis’s children who first, dumped water down his head a gave him a cold, and then by putting strings in their bedroom caused him a tremendous fall.
At the end of Chapter 5, the Ghost tricks the young Virginia Otis and kidnaps her to the Valley of Death, because she is the only one who can understand him from the entire household. Virginia comes back to her family after they have been looking for her for a day, and brings them back to the Ghost to ask for their forgiveness. The Ghost is finally buried and his funeral is held in the following chapter. She wore the jewels left by the Ghost to Virginia later at her wedding.

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