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Archived Group Reads 2015 > LASC - The Canterville Ghost

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message 1: by Pip (last edited Apr 28, 2015 04:03AM) (new)

Pip | 814 comments Here we go with one of Wilde's most famous tales, and containing one of his most famous quotes:

“We have really everything in common with America nowadays, except, of course, language.”

There are obvious digs at the Americans throughout the story, which hopefully will be taken in the playful spirit (haha!) in which Wilde, I believe, intended. And to be honest, the Brits don't get away entirely Scot free (hahaha!!) either.

This is the one story I HAD read before, and it was a pleasure to revisit it. I first came across it via a televised adaptation when I was quite young, and remember being terrified by the first apparition of Sir Simon at Mr Otis' bedroom door. These days, it seems the comedy is played up more than the fright factor.

What impression did you get? Do you think Wilde intended to scare his readers? Did you get shivers down your spine at any point, or was the experience pure comedy for you?


message 2: by Pip (new)

Pip | 814 comments PS - And sincere apologies for posting this a day late.


message 3: by Deborah (new)

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 922 comments Being American, I got quite a kick out of this story. It made me smile quite often. Only "ugly" Americans could pooh pooh a ghost, according to Wilde. I had laugh out loud moments when various commercial products were offered to the ghost. American consumerism at its best :)

I also really enjoyed the pluckiness if the twins - so willing to tease a ghost. The role reversals of fright was fun and unexpected.

It was a fun and charming story. I'm typically not a short story reader as I feel like I just get started, and the story is over. These have felt very complete to me, and have been a joy to read.


message 4: by Peter (new)

Peter There is so much that seems to be going on in this short story. The ways the American family confronted the ghost by various means, including pillows and a bucket of water, were wonderful. I cannot recall in my reading as much dialogue between humans and spirits as was found in TCG and it was delightful. The scene where the ghost was buried by the families was unique to be sure.

I confess to be somewhat confused and unsure about the ending of the story. I think I am missing something. When the Duke at the very end of the story says "You can have your secret as long as I have your heart" and Virginia replys "You have always had that, Cecil" and then Cecil follows up with "And you will tell our children some day, won't you?" I do a complete stumble with the last sentence of the story. Wilde writes "Virginia blushed."

Well, my mind and interpretations of what those last words mean, what truly did or did not happen between the ghost and Virginia, why the memory of the ghost made Virginia blush and yes, even if her name Virginia is significant make for, I think, wonderful speculation.


message 5: by Pip (new)

Pip | 814 comments Yes, I think it was the mention of children and therefore doing "it" that made the aptly-named Virginia blush!


message 6: by Deborah (new)

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 922 comments Pip wrote: "Yes, I think it was the mention of children and therefore doing "it" that made the aptly-named Virginia blush!"

That was my take too.


message 7: by Diane (new)

Diane | 152 comments Peter wrote: "I do a complete stumble with the last sentence of the story. Wilde writes "Virginia blushed."

How funny. That went completely over my head. Oh no, what else have I missed? It's short and a re-reading will be fun.
This was a thoroughly enjoyable tale.


message 8: by [deleted user] (last edited Apr 30, 2015 06:25AM) (new)

I enjoyed The Canterville Ghost as a comedy. At first, I thought it was going to be a traditional ghost story, but when it began to poke fun at certain conventions (like the sky suddenly becoming overcast as they reached the house), I realized what kind of story it was going to be.

The only time I felt some apprehension was during the last two chapters, both when Virginia was gone, and when her husband questioned her about what happened. I thought some twist would reveal itself, like the ghost and Virginia had switched places, or the ghost never really left. I didn't know whether to trust the ghost or not.


message 9: by Renee, Moderator (new)

Renee M | 1933 comments Mod
Diane wrote: "Peter wrote: "I do a complete stumble with the last sentence of the story. Wilde writes "Virginia blushed."

How funny. That went completely over my head. Oh no, what else have I missed? It's short..."


I missed it as well. Perhaps it was my translation. (Heheheh.)


message 10: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2507 comments Pip wrote: "What impression did you get? Do you think Wilde intended to scare his readers? Did you get shivers down your spine at any point, or was the experience pure comedy for you?
"


No scare, no shivers. But ghost stories normally don't give me the scare, since I had friend growing up whose father loved telling them, and I basically got inoculated. (Now if I ran across one in real life, that might be a different story.)

I got quite fond of the ghost as the story went on. Poor guy, thwarted at every turn. Those twins sounded like real monsters, just plain mean (I hope their parents slipped on the buttered hallway and got injured -- it would serve them right for raising such nasty creatures.)


message 11: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2507 comments Deborah wrote: "I also really enjoyed the pluckiness if the twins - so willing to tease a ghost."

I saw them exactly the opposite way. Spreading butter on the hallway to injure the ghost, stretching strings across the corridor, those aren't teases but downright cruelty (suppose that had been done to "get" the family dog -- would you still consider it mere teasing?)


message 12: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2507 comments Peter wrote: " I do a complete stumble with the last sentence of the story. Wilde writes "Virginia blushed."

Well, my mind and interpretations of what those last words mean, what truly did or did not happen between the ghost and Virginia, why the memory of the ghost made Virginia blush and yes, even if her name Virginia is significant make for, I think, wonderful speculation. "


I certainly hope that something happened there that Virginia might not want to tell her husband, or even her children. Or course she would remain virginal, as she should to do justice to her husband, but I like to think that there was a bit of canoodling of sufficient pleasure to justify her blush.


message 13: by Peter (new)

Peter Everyman wrote: "Peter wrote: " I do a complete stumble with the last sentence of the story. Wilde writes "Virginia blushed."

Well, my mind and interpretations of what those last words mean, what truly did or did ..."


And then, of course, she does get the family jewels ...


message 14: by Helen_in_the_uk (new)

Helen_in_the_uk | 109 comments Pip wrote: "Yes, I think it was the mention of children and therefore doing "it" that made the aptly-named Virginia blush!"

That was totally my take on the last couple of lines. We are, of course, dealing with a well brought young lady in the Victorian era. She felt a great deal of sympathy for poor Sir Simon (as did I by the end) and had the courage to help him find peace in his final resting place. Good on her. What a fun story :)


message 15: by Pip (last edited May 01, 2015 06:39PM) (new)

Pip | 814 comments I loved the penny dreadful-type roles that Sir Simon created for himself:

"With the enthusiastic egotism of the true artist, he went over his most celebrated performances, and smiled bitterly to himself as he recalled to mind his last appearance as "Red Reuben, or the Strangled Babe," his début as "Guant Gibeon, the Blood-sucker of Bexley Moor";

Also "Black Isaac, or the Huntsman of Hogley Woods", and "Reckless Rupert, or the Headless Earl."

All of these bring to mind literary characters such as Varney the Vampire and Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street (both written in the 1840s) and of course the real-life Jack the Ripper, who was to terrorise the East End of London just a year after The Canterville Ghost was written.


message 16: by Renee, Moderator (new)

Renee M | 1933 comments Mod
And, of course, the ghosts of Hogwarts. Who bear a striking resemblance to several of the incarnations mentioned.


message 17: by Pip (last edited May 02, 2015 05:13AM) (new)

Pip | 814 comments Renee wrote: "And, of course, the ghosts of Hogwarts. Who bear a striking resemblance to several of the incarnations mentioned."

Ahhh... There I cannot claim expertise as I'm not very well-read Potter-wise. Is that a bad thing? It's probably far finer literature than trashy Gothic potboilers!


message 18: by Renee, Moderator (new)

Renee M | 1933 comments Mod
They're really quite wonderful and entirely deserving of their enormous popularity. (Which, given what else enjoys popularity, might be the truly surprising element.)


message 19: by [deleted user] (new)

Renee wrote: "And, of course, the ghosts of Hogwarts. Who bear a striking resemblance to several of the incarnations mentioned."

Oh wow, that didn't occur to me until now! Sir Simon's incarnations are very similar to the Hogwarts ghosts.


message 20: by Peter (new)

Peter Jaq-Lin wrote: "Renee wrote: "And, of course, the ghosts of Hogwarts. Who bear a striking resemblance to several of the incarnations mentioned."

Oh wow, that didn't occur to me until now! Sir Simon's incarnations..."


Nice, Renee. I wonder, as Jaq-Lin does, if Rawlings has ever commented on your point.


message 21: by Vanessa (new)

Vanessa Winn | 61 comments Peter wrote: "And then, of course, she does get the family jewels ..."

A pun?! I missed that one. I get the feeling there are more references I'm missing in this funny story, with its ambiguous ending. But it leaves me with the impression that Sir Simon has found a way to reverse his reduction in his own ancestral home. Perhaps even a weird, supernatural twist/reversal on the old cuckolding story. (The hunters in the tapestry warning Virginia bring this to mind.) The ghost views the young Duke as an ancestral challenge, and he's an oddly physical ghost. When Virginia receives his jewels inheritance, and the almond tree flowers, I do wonder what else she might have received.

I also don't know what to make of the early references to her passing a statue of Achilles when she beats the old lord in a race, delighting the young Duke. In the end, the old man (300 years older!) gets there first...?


message 22: by Frances (new)

Frances (francesab) | 313 comments I didn't get the sense of anything untoward happening when Virginia accompanies the ghost-particularly as she is referred to several times as a little girl or small child (despite being 15-perhaps girls matured later then). Certainly there was no pregnancy (and technically no cuckolding involved) as there was some delay to their marriage as they had to wait for the Duke to come of age.

I was disappointed the mystery of Sir Simon's disappearance 9 years after his wife's death was never explained-it appears he was chained up in that tiny room and left to die-by whom?-and that perhaps it was his need for prayers from a golden girl/tears from a little child, and a proper burial of his bones to be able to rest in peace.

I also enjoyed the digs at the modern Americans, including the suggestion that the ghost should emigrate to America where he would be a great success.


message 23: by Deborah (new)

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 922 comments Frances wrote: "I didn't get the sense of anything untoward happening when Virginia accompanies the ghost-particularly as she is referred to several times as a little girl or small child (despite being 15-perhaps ..."

My understanding was the same as yours. There is one point in the story (I don't remember which chapter) were the ghost says he was starved to death by his relatives.


message 24: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2507 comments I felt a twinge of regret for the poor ghost when he finally had to give up the ghost. I quite liked him, and active disliked the Otises.


message 25: by Peter (new)

Peter Vanessa wrote: "Peter wrote: "And then, of course, she does get the family jewels ..."

A pun?! I missed that one. I get the feeling there are more references I'm missing in this funny story, with its ambiguous ..."


I go along with the concept of some form of cuckholding. Your points of the tapestry, the flowering almond tree, the "physicality" of the ghost's actions and Virginia's tears all tilt the story towards, at the least, the possibility that the ghost still has relatives living on the estate.


message 26: by Vanessa (new)

Vanessa Winn | 61 comments Frances wrote: "I didn't get the sense of anything untoward happening when Virginia accompanies the ghost-particularly as she is referred to several times as a little girl or small child (despite being 15-perhaps ..."

Not technically, no :) But perhaps in some other, spiritual dimension. It's interesting that although the Otis family makes him impotent as a ghost, eventually Virginia makes a change possible, one that empowers both of them. Not necessarily untoward, but something profound that she can't share with her husband.

The ghost revealed to Virginia that his wife's brothers starved him, to revenge her murder. I also found their conversation funny (emigrating, etc.), with each calling the other absurd and ridiculous, while suspending the absurdity of the situation itself.


message 27: by Vanessa (new)

Vanessa Winn | 61 comments Peter wrote: "Vanessa wrote: "Peter wrote: "And then, of course, she does get the family jewels ..."

A pun?! I missed that one. I get the feeling there are more references I'm missing in this funny story, wit..."


It's interesting Wilde leaves the possibility open, with the blush prompted by mentioning children. I just noticed that the ghost, in justifying murdering his wife, mentions killing a buck. I think stags are also symbolic of cuckolding...


message 28: by Renee, Moderator (last edited May 03, 2015 01:09AM) (new)

Renee M | 1933 comments Mod
I just don't think it fits with Virginia's character and the blush was meant for her impending human condition, and perhaps what's involved in bringing that about. I think we might have to agree to disagree on the ghost- boinking. Some of us see it there and others don't.


message 29: by [deleted user] (new)

It's interesting Wilde leaves the possibility open, with the blush prompted by mentioning children. I just noticed that the ghost, in justifying murdering his wife, mentions killing a buck. I think stags are also symbolic of cuckolding...

Yeah, I like how Wilde left it open to interpretation. When I read about the blush, the first thing that jumped to mind was that something untoward happened. Suspicious factors are in place (it's a secret that Virginia wants to keep from her husband, the ghost had showed her why love is so strong, and not to mention the symbols of cuckolding that people are picking up on).

But in the end, I think it's more likely that something happened on a "spiritual dimension" as Vanessa said. Something that gave Virginia a sense of understanding and sexual maturity, without going through the act itself. What exactly that would be I have no idea, but it's meant to be mysterious :)


message 30: by Deborah (new)

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 922 comments Renee wrote: "I just don't think it fits with Virginia's character and the blush was meant for her impending human condition, and perhaps what's involved in bringing that about. I think we might have to agree to..."

I agree with Renee on this one.


message 31: by Pip (new)

Pip | 814 comments Putting aside the "did they or didn't they?" question for a moment, and now that we have read two of the stories, I was wondering if anyone else had noticed the recurring theme of private vs public persona? The wearing of masks and the playing of roles? We met it in LASC with Lady Windermere's guests, none of whom were what they seemed, and now with Sir Simon and his pantomime freak shows which contrast so strongly with his true inner turmoil.

Another contrast, I felt, is with how Wilde deals (or fails to deal) with the subject of crime, retribution, punishment and atonement. Whereas it was entirely lacking in the case of Lord Arthur, here we have a very clear sense of purgatory, of time done and ultimately forgiveness and peace.


message 32: by Peter (new)

Peter Yes Pip. I too find the recurring theme of private vs public persona to be strong. I wonder to what extent this theme is, in part, due to the historical/biographical world in which Wilde himself lived? Certainly Dorian Gray gives us that focus. I believe there is much more to Wilde's writing than his clever turns of phrases.


message 33: by Pip (new)

Pip | 814 comments Peter wrote: "Yes Pip. I too find the recurring theme of private vs public persona to be strong. I wonder to what extent this theme is, in part, due to the historical/biographical world in which Wilde himself ..."

I think there is a lot to explore there, although I know that not everybody here (*cough,Everyman,cough*) is into analysing literature from the point of view of the author's background.

However, Wilde had such a short an intense life that I would personally enjoy dissecting it with the group. Maybe towards the end of May when we've read all five stories? We've got plenty of time.


message 34: by Frances (new)

Frances (francesab) | 313 comments Renee wrote: "I think we might have to agree to disagree on the ghost- boinking. Some of us see it there and others don't. "

Ghost-boinking? Perhaps a new literary sub-genre to follow the Romantic Vampire and the BDSM/erotica genres we've seen lately.


message 35: by Frances (new)

Frances (francesab) | 313 comments Pip wrote: "However, Wilde had such a short an intense life that I would personally enjoy dissecting it with the group. Maybe towards the end of May when we've read all five stories? We've got plenty of time."

I would be very interested in this-does anyone have a good biography in mind-was that what you're proposing?


message 36: by Frances (new)

Frances (francesab) | 313 comments Peter wrote: "Yes Pip. I too find the recurring theme of private vs public persona to be strong. I wonder to what extent this theme is, in part, due to the historical/biographical world in which Wilde himself ..."

Also, in both stories one spouse is left keeping a secret from the other, although clearly very much in love with their spouse. Very much a parallel to Wilde's marital situation, I believe.


message 37: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2507 comments Pip wrote: "(*cough,Everyman,cough*) "

I'm sorry you're not feeling well. May I send you some Ricola cherry-honey throat drops? I find them quite efficacious.


message 38: by Diane (new)

Diane | 152 comments Renee wrote: "I just don't think it fits with Virginia's character and the blush was meant for her impending human condition, and perhaps what's involved in bringing that about. I think we might have to agreeto disagree on the ghost- boinking."

I can't really see it either and I think the story is probably just a light hearted fun twist on the usual ghost stories.


message 39: by Vanessa (new)

Vanessa Winn | 61 comments Pip wrote: "Another contrast, I felt, is with how Wilde deals (or fails to deal) with the subject of crime, retribution, punishment and atonement. Whereas it was entirely lacking in the case of Lord Arthur, here we have a very clear sense of purgatory, of time done and ultimately forgiveness and peace. "

That's an interesting contrast. While I agree that Lord Arthur is lacking, I'm not sure these issues are very clear with the Canterville Ghost. In 3 centuries he doesn't seem to have had any remorse for murder ("I hate the cheap severity of abstract ethics!"), and instead has been proud to have scared a few more to death or injury. He doesn't appear to attach his suffering to his crime; Virginia does that for him, and purifies his sins.


message 40: by Pip (new)

Pip | 814 comments Everyman wrote: "Pip wrote: "(*cough,Everyman,cough*) "

I'm sorry you're not feeling well. May I send you some Ricola cherry-honey throat drops? I find them quite efficacious."


Delicious, thank you! Am quite restored.


message 41: by Pip (new)

Pip | 814 comments Frances wrote: "I would be very interested in this-does anyone have a good biography in mind-was that what you're proposing? "

I wasn't originally proposing reading a biography, but the thought is very appealing now that you mention it. I had thought more about using the Background Info thread to maybe post some links to biographical information / links to documentaries about Wilde's life, and hopefully prompting discussion from there. But I'm open to suggestions!

Has anyone else come across - or better still read and can recommend - a good biography of Wilde?


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