The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde is a short story . Like many works of literature, the story first appeared in a magazine, The Court and Society Review in February 1887. The Canterville Ghost is a story of contrast – American vs. British Society.
When the story starts, the American minister, Mr Hiram B. Otis has purchased Canterville Chase, an English country house. Otis is warned by Lord Canterville that the house is haunted, but he doesn’t believe in ghosts.
This is not a typical ghost story. I found it quite funny, laughing a lot while reading the book.
What is The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde About?
The Otis family consists of husband and wife, their eldest son, Washington, daughter Virginia and twin sons. Shortly after the Otis family arrives at their new country estate, they notice a spot on the floor in the library. Their housekeeper informs them that Lady Eleanore de Canterville was murdered at that exact spot by her husband, Sir Simon de Canterville, who survived her by nine years. His body was never discovered, however, his spirit haunts the place.
After the blood stain reappears the first time, the Otis family concludes that there must be a ghost. Mrs Otis is a modern day woman and declares that she is going to join the Psychical Society. Washington decides to write to Messrs Myers and Podmore, “on the subject of the Permanence of Sanguineous Stains when connected with crime.”
To get the most from this SummaReview of The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde, after you have read it, answer the following questions:
- Is this a book I’d like to read for myself? Why? Why not?
- What has made an impression on me in this reading?
- Were there any kernels of wisdom in this reading?
- Is there a framework that you can use in your life and work?
- What are five takeaways from the SummaReview?
The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde is told through the eyes of the very theatrical ghost, Sir Simon, who appears in many different costumes and personas – Red Reuben, Strangled Babe, Dumb Daniel, Suicide’s Skeleton, Martin the Maniac, Masked Mystery, Reckless Rupert, Headless Earl and so on. The first night, Sir Simon decides to haunt the Americans, Mr Otis greets him with a container of Rising Sun Lubricator for him to oil his manacled chains so he doesn’t make so much noise and disturb the family’s sleep. The twin boys also throw a pillow at him.
The ghost quickly retreats to his hiding place and is feeling quite insulted. Never in his three hundred years of haunting people at Canterville Chase has he ever received that kind of reception. The tables have been turned on the ghost, and instead of terrifying the residents, they instead “terrify” him. The twins use their pea shooters and discharge pellets at Sir Simon. One night after he attempts to frighten the family with one of his terrible laughs, Mrs. Otis lets him know that he sounds quite terrible and offers him a bottle of Doctor Dobell’s tincture.
Sir Simon suffers great indignities at the hand of the American family, who are not afraid of him. He enters the twins’ room to scare them and a large jug of water falls on him, which just about does him in. He has a grand plot to exact revenge against Washington whom he bears a special grudge for removing the blood stain with Pinkerton’s Paragon Detergent. But once again, the joke is on Sir Simon, when he encounters, what he perceives as another.
The ghost has never seen another ghost and is quite terrified, and flees to his room. When he regains his composure and courage, Sir Simon seeks out the ghost to form some sort of alliance. He discovers to his chagrin, that the ghost wasn’t a real ghost. In another instance, Washington and the twins force him into the great iron oven, which luckily wasn’t lit at the time, forcing Sir Simon to escape through chimneys
Sir Simon’s nerves begin to unravel because nothing is working and he is becoming quite weak. He even decides not to bother with replacing the stain on the floor in the library. He doesn’t think very highly of the Otis family
“They were evidently people on a low, material plane of existence, and quite incapable of appreciating the symbolic value of sensuous phenomena. The question of phantasmic apparitions, and the development of astral bodies, was of course quite a different matter, and not really under his control…”