The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde is a hilarious and playful look at the spirit world. It takes place in an 1800 British Castle, known as Canterville Chase. Residents in the area think a ghost haunts the castle. The story has an unexpected ending as Mr. Simon's ghost eventually befriends Virginia, the daughter of the owners of Canterville Chase.
An American minister and his family live at the castle. These people especially the father, Mr. Otis, do not believe in ghosts. The twins play all kinds of funny pranks on the ghost, Mr. Simon, humiliating him to the extent that he almost had a nervous breakdown. One of the main settings is a room where Mr. Simon, as a human, killed his wife because she was plain-looking and lacked culinary skills. On this spot, he leaves a pool of blood that reappears every day, despite being removed with stain remover by Washington. Readers later learn, this is with paint stolen from Virginia.
The ghost calls the family's tricks - insults. The belittlement began with Mr. Otis offering oil to the ghost to put on his chains. The twins throw pillows at the ghost when he wakes them in the middle of the night and block any of the scary tactics that the he thinks up. They even go so far as to construct a fake ghost which scares Mr. Simon and sends him to his room for a week.
Virginia is very important to the story at the end. At the beginning of the story, she appears to be the only one in the house who is slightly bothered by the ghost's presence. On feeling pity for the ghost due to the shame he has suffered at the hands of the twins, Virginia expresses sympathy for him. The ghost befriends Virginia and confesses that he has stolen her paints. He also admits to be lonely and unhappy, and waiting for the sweet release of death. A prophecy hanging in the window of the castle talks of a child who can be the only one to make the angel of death have mercy on his soul.
Whan a golden girl can win
Prayer from out the lips of sin,
When the barren almond bears,
And a little child give away its tears,
Then shall all the house be still
And peace come to Canterville.
Mr. Simon asks Virginia to be the child that performs this service for him. She must go to the Garden of Death while opposing forces try to prevent her from entering the dark cavern where she would pray for his soul. Virginia agrees to pray for the ghost. She spends most of the afternoon and evening with him alone. When she fails to come to dinner at six o'clock, her family becomes very distressed and begins looking for her. They search all night but do not find her. Virginia returns to the castle the following morning and delivers a box of jewels that the ghost has given her out of gratitude. She leads the family to the dark cavern where they find his skeleton, and have a funeral for him later on. Her father tries to give the jewels to Lord Canterville, the previous owner of the castle but he refuses to take the box, saying that when he bought the castle everything including what the ghost owned belonged to him.
Years later when Virginia married her childhood beau - the Duke, he asks her about the time spent in the company of the ghost. She tells him that the ghost taught her that Love is stronger than Life or Death.
Themes of the Story -
1) Differentiating between American and British Culture
In "The Canterville Ghost", Oscar Wilde uses to satire to subtly criticize American Culture. Since the first chapter, he decries and compare it with British Culture. He shows that American people are more connected with progress, technology, the industry and they believe only in the values that this culture produces. They are pragmatic, rational, material and don't believe in ghosts or the occult. The only constant in their lives is a belief in the power of reason, and money. This can be observed throughout the book, particularly the first chapter when Mr. Otis buys Canterville Chase. Mr. Otis says, "I come...
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