Since it is Friday, I figure today, of all days, should contain only casual writing. Accordingly, there will be no deep philosophical questions, but only reviews and recommendations of things I enjoyed and why I enjoyed them, and since today was the first of these “Casual Fridays,” I figured I’d write two of them.
“The Canterville Ghost” (available through Goodreads, Google books, Project Gutenberg, and likely any other eBook purveyor), is not an ordinary ghost story. If it was, I probably would not have enjoyed it. I tend to prefer fantasy that steers clear of the creepy and gory; like Samwise Gamgee in “The Return of the King,” I like to be able to look up and see hints of a realm where “Shadow [is] only a small and passing thing:” where there is “light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”
However, this ghost story is delightful. The ghost has a family of Americans move into his house, and he finds he cannot scare them. The eldest son keeps using a stain remover to take out the blood stain which marks where he killed his wife, and when he visits the father, he’s offered the use of a lubricating oil for his chains so they will no longer clank. The twin boys throw pillows at him, and their mother, feeling that he isn’t well, offers him a cure for indigestion.
The ghost finds that, while they take him seriously, they have no appreciation for his dignity, and he is completely at a loss as to how to proceed. ( I won’t give away all the counteroffensives he mounts against his new tenants but they are immensely amusing.)
What I liked best, though, was how the daughter of the family interacts with the ghost. She pities him, and, in the end, she helps save him from his fate, praying for his soul. Even though he was a murderer, she asks that the Angel of Death have mercy on him so that “the powers of Hell cannot prevail.” I have never heard of a ghost’s redemption before, where he is restored and allowed to rest in peace, not through an act of vengeance, but through prayer, and I found it very poignant.
I also enjoyed the witticisms, for which Wilde is famous. I particularly liked his comment that the coronet “is the reward of all good little American girls,” since he wrote during the time when many American heiresses were marrying into the financially distressed British Peerage and thus receiving coronets, the privileges of duchesses, countesses, and other titled ladies of the realm.
© 2014 Andrea Lundgren
2 thoughts on “Review of “The Canterville Ghost” by Oscar Wilde”
Yes, this is definitely “not an ordinary ghost story”. In modern terms, it is a black comedy. I wrote an essay on the short story called “How a Murderer Gains our Sympathy.” If you would like to read it, here is the link: https://christopherjohnlindsay.wordpress.com/2014/08/10/the-canterville-ghost/