This is a review of a novel “the Canterville ghost”
written by Oscar Wilde. It is a horror story but with a
difference which is why I thought of writing a review.
I went through the book and found it interesting. I
have tried to inform my readers about the book as well
as possible have discussed the general plot, the
characters as well as the summary in details. I have
honestly given my opinions about the plus points and
negative ones. I hope my readers find this review
helpful in deciding whether to read the book or not. I
thank everyone from whom I have received help in any
way while writing this review.
• The story is about a ghost which lives in a house. The ghost
tries to scare everybody who live in the house. He loves doing
what he had done before to all who live in the house. But
everything is changes when a family from America decided
to live in the house. The family already knows that there is
a ghost in the house, but they do not believe in ghost. The
family consist the parents and their four children. The head
of the family is Mr. Hiram B. Otis. He is an American
ambassador. The ghost plays many tricks to scare the
family but they do not work. The ghost does the same thing
that he had done to all families that lived in the house
before. He thinks the family will get scared of him and will
move out from the house. All the tricks played by the ghost
to scare the family does not work, but the family plays the
same game and the ghost is scared by them. The only
daughter in the family, Virginia is a kind-hearted girl. She
becomes a friend to the ghost. One day, the ghost says that
he wants to 'sleep„ because he has not taken rest for three
hundred years. He considers death to be very peaceful. He
takes Virginia along with him to the Garden of Death.
• Finally, the family finds the skeleton in a room. It
belonged to Sir Simon. The skeleton was finally
buried in peace. As asked by the ghost, Virginia
always visited the ghost's grave and prayed for him.
• The Canterville Ghost is a ghost story. Ghost stories
belong to the genre called horror literature, whose
purpose is to scare the reader with situations that
cause horror or fear. The most common technique is
suspense, the slow insinuation of a doubt or of a
frightening revelation, which keeps the reader
• This story can be defined as an inverted ghost
story, because a lot of elements are different from the
traditional ones. The main difference is the fact that
Mr Otis is not scared by the ghost, while usually
people should be. Moreover, the Ghost itself is
frightened by the Otis twins.
• There is also comic relief bordering on farce,
including buckets of water balanced on half-open
doors. But the story has a dark centre. The crime and
retribution which led to the haunting is ghastly, and
this is really not a comedy at all, but a tale of
redemption through the power of love. The innocent
girl of the family, appropriately called Virginia,
prays for the ghost and endures terrifying if
unnamed experiences to release the ghost.
• Also, The Canterville Ghost is both a parody of the
traditional ghost story and a satire of the American
way of life. Wilde obviously intends to satirize
American materialism, but he pokes fun at English
traditional culture as well.
• The ghost: he is the ghost of Canterville Chase. He was
Sir Simon de Canterville and died in 1584, his spirit
still haunts the Chase. His aspect is very terrible
• Mr. Otis: The head of the Otis family and father. He
is a middle-aged American ambassador; he is
determinate, inflexible, rational, practical and
pragmatic, in conclusion a true American.
• Virginia: The daughter is the only one in the family
who is scared by the ghost. She never speaks except to
the ghost, at the end of the story. She is fifteen years
old and very kind-hearted.
• Washington: the Otises' oldest son
• The twins: These children always play tricks on the
ghost and make him depressed and desperate. All
along the story, they imagine jokes and even dress up
• Mrs Otis: The mother isn't scared of the ghost and
even asks him if he wants a remedy for his stomach.
“She is a very handsome middle-aged woman with
fine eyes and a superb profile. She has a magnificent
constitution and a wonderful amount of animal
• Duke of Chesire: He is a duke desperately in love with
the fifteen-year old Virginia Otis. However, his
guardians pack him off to Eton, and he must wait to
marry. When Virginia vanishes, he insists on being
part of the search party. As soon as she reappears, he
smothers her with kisses. His devotion is rewarded,
and Virginia consents to become the Duchess of
• Lord Canterville: He is a respectable descendent of the
Canterville family, that was the owner of the
• Mrs.Umney: She is the old house-keeper of Canterville
Chase who is very terrified by the ghost and tries to
warn the family.
• 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.
• Washington applies some strong stain remover –
Pinkerton‟s Champion Stain Remover and Paragon
Detergent – to the blood stain, which disappears
temporarily and reappears the next day. As soon as
they remove the stain it reappears the following day –
bright red, dull red, purple and even bright emerald
• After the blood stain reappears the first time, the Otis
family conclude 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.”
• The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde is mostly 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
• The ghost quickly retreats to his hiding place and feels
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 him 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 phantasmal apparitions,
and the development of astral bodies, was of course
quite a different matter, and not really under his
• The ghost resigns to the fact that he will not be able to
frighten the “rude” American family. The twins lay
in wait for Sir Simon on several occasions laying
traps for him but he never appears. The family
concludes that the ghost has left Canterville Chase.
All during this time, Virginia was the only one in the
family that did not play a trick on, or even approach
• One day while out riding, Virginia tears her riding
habit quite badly and decides to enter Canterville
Chase through a back door. She is surprised to
discover the Canterville Ghost sitting by a window.
His disposition is that of someone suffering from
depression and she feels sorry for him. An interesting
dialogue takes place between them and during that
time, he admits that he killed his why and why, and
Virginia tells him that it is wrong to kill. She is also
upset because he stole her paint to replace the blood
stain and hence the mystery of the different colours
of “blood” is solved.
• Virginia tries to convince Sir Simon to go to America
because they would appreciate a ghost there, but he
doesn‟t want to go to America. Sir Simon is weary
because he hasn‟t slept in over three hundred years. He
wants rest, but is terrified of the Garden of Death. He
believes that through Virginia he will receive
forgiveness and allowed to rest. He believes that
through the purity of a child, hell cannot prevail.
• She takes him through the portal, and doesn‟t tell her
parents, so when they cannot find her they panic. But
no one even thinks about Sir Simon, because they
believed he had left. Virginia appears the next day
after her family had searched for her everywhere and
couldn‟t find her. She relates what happens and shows
them the gift of jewels she received from Sir Simon.
Mr Otis tries to return the jewels to Lord Canterville
who refuses them and is convinced that should he take
them, Sir Simon would return.
• The story ends when Virginia is married a few years
later, and the reader gets the sense that something
profound took place with her encounter with Sir
Simon that she has never revealed.
This story is quite funny and humorous. But when
one stops to think, this is a story of contrasts. When
one thinks about it he can observe, an American
family immigrates to England and buys a very
English country home. Though they are warned that
the house is haunted, they initially do not believe.
However, when they realize that the house is indeed
haunted, they do not respond in a “British” way by
being scared, they turn things around on the ghost
baffling him. One can see the ghost going through a
range of emotions until he is a broken man. It‟s a
story of role reversals, instead of the ghost terrorizing
the residents of Canterville Chase, they terrorize him
Q. Discuss „The Canterville Ghost‟ as a ghost story.
Ans: Ghost stories belong to genre of horror or fear. The
main themes are death, evil and ancient prophecies.
They generally have a terrifying effect on the readers.
But the Canterville Ghost is not a typical ghost story.
It has all the elements of a ghost story. But all the
time the ghost is terrorized by the people instead of the
ghost haunting them. Canterville Ghost presents a
miserable, bedraggled picture instead of a scary one.
When he laughs demonically, he is offered tincture.
When he rattles his chains he is offered lubricator. His
victims gain in strength in the ghost fall s weak and
gradually turns invalid. The ghost has a gory past
behind him, his skeleton lies awaiting release, yet he
has to trod on till Virginia offers a ray of hope. The
Ghost story is told from Sir Simon‟s perspective.
Q. Discuss the use of Supernatural elements in the story
by giving evidence from the text.
Ans-„The Canterville Ghost‟ has all the elements of a
horror story – a haunted, a ghost, Gothic elements,
murder, vengeance, spooky atmosphere. There is
liberal use of elements that defy the physical laws.
The ghost is the main protagonist. He haunts
corridors, clans chains, vanishes through
wainscoting, utters demonic laugh, has paralyzed,
drowned and killed many victims. The blood stain
persistently reminds of a murder that has been
The atmosphere turns ugly as the family reaches the
villa and “a curious stillness seems to hold the
atmosphere”. The stage is set for the terror to follow.
There is a reappearing blood stain, lightning and
thunder, etc. The ghost is portrayed with blood shot
eyes, he vanishes into fourth dimension of space, he
becomes phosphorescent, makes a deep churchyard
grin, he can frighten.
Q. What is the dramatic significance of the blood stain
that proves persistent?
Ans-When the story begins, Lord Canterville warns Mr.
Otis that the presence of a ghost has made Canterville
chase uninhabitable. Mr. Otis, however remains
sceptic. When the Otis family enters, the blood stain
is the first important piece of physical evidence to
prove that a murder has been committed and the
mansion is haunted.
Any attempt to wipe it away leads to a threatening
and strange peal of thunder and the fainting of Mrs.
Umney. Yet the Otis family sticks to the belief that
there is no ghost. But the reappearance of the ghost is
the cause why the Otis family cannot deny the
presence of ghost.
The author has used this event quite cleverly in
setting the stage for the appearance of the ghost.
Q. The most interesting part of the story is the reversal of
the expected situation when the Otis family terrorize
the ghost instead of the ghost terrorizing them. Bring
out the truth In the above statement by quoting from
Ans-The author cunningly pairs the reversal of situation
with reversal of perspective. The story is told from the
view of the ghost and not from that of the Otis
When the ghost rattles his chains while moving in the
corridor, he is offered lubricator. He is offered tincture
and accused of indigestion when he laughs
demonically. The twins throw pillows at him, shoot at
him, drench him with water and the poor ghost gets
an inferiority complex. He considers himself invalid.
He wears an armor, only to be injured by it himself.
He is ridiculed , thrown off the staircase and relegated
back to the chamber.