Cheryl's Reviews > The Canterville Ghost

The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde
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Oct 18, 12

bookshelves: humor, gothic-fiction, short-story, supernatural
Read in October, 2012

THE CANTERVILLE GHOST was Oscar Wilde's first published story in 1887. Wilde cleverly places an American family with commercial and practical notions in an English Country House anchored with Gothic lore and traditions. He turns the macabre into humor by turning the tables on the haunting of Canterville Chase.

Mr. and Mrs. Otis have bought the centuries old home from Lord Canterville himself. He felt it his duty to mention the fact that the house was haunted. Mr. Otis replies, "My Lord, I will take the furniture and the ghost at a valuation. I come from a modern country, where we have everything that money can buy and if there was such a thing as a ghost in Europe, we'd have it at home in a very short while."

Everything else is there in the estate to warrant a supernatural presence. There is wainscotting, creaking floorboards, clanking chains, armor in the hallway, and a library paneled with black oak and a re-appearing blood stain on the floor by the fireplace. Oh, and there are apparitions in the darkest of night through the corridors. Some evenings the family sees a headless form, other moonless nights, the ghost appears to be strangled, covered with blood, or a skeleton.

So how will the modern American family, minus ancient prophecies, react to living with an unwanted being intent on their removal? The twin boys called Stars and Stripes place wire traps at the head of the stairs and plummet Sir Simon, the ghost, with peas shooters. He is drenched by the oldest boy named Washington (named in a fit of patriotism!) who riggs buckets of water to fall just as the ghost exits a doorway.

When confronted with the blood stain in the library, Washington responds with Pinkerton's Champion Stain Remover and Paragon Detergent. And the remedy for the clanking chains, Mr. Otis offers Tammany Rising Sun Lubricator to foster the family's peaceful sleep.

Only one of the Otis' takes Sir Simon seriously, and she is the lovely, sensitive, fifteen year old daughter, Virginia. Their recognition of eachother's caring self will finally enable Sir Simon to leave this dimension after three hundred years of sleepless nights and murderous regrets. She will accompany him to his rest in the Garden of Death and bid him farewell.

Virginia is well compensated for her attention to his suffering. Years later as a newlywed, she will tell her husband that Sir Simon taught her what Life is, what Death signifies, and why Love is stronger than both.

This is a surprising place that the reader finds herself in...laughing at the American's disregard for English tradition, embarrassed by the hubris of their spirit, and rooting for the protagonist who just happens to be a ghost. Highly Recommended!

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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Prashant Nice review Cheryl!
I guess a ghost running scared of humans and especially kids is always funny.


Cheryl Thanks, Prashant and you're right, the premise turns you on your head. You have to smile!


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