Review: The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde

The Canterville Ghost is a ghost story with a difference. It takes place in an English country house, Canterville Chase, which for centuries has been said to be haunted. When a rich American called Mr Otis moves into the house with his wife and children, Lord Canterville feels he should warn them about Sir Simon, the resident ghost. However, the Otis family aren’t afraid of ghosts and no matter how hard Sir Simon tries, they simply refuse to be frightened!

For anyone reading this review and thinking this book is not for you because you’re scared of ghost stories, I can promise you that it’s really not scary at all – I would describe it as more of a comedy and a clever satire. Wilde juxtaposes an atmospheric gothic setting, the typical British ‘haunted house’, with a practical American family who have an amusing way of reacting to the appearance of Sir Simon.

Right in front of him he saw, in the wan moonlight, an old man of terrible aspect. His eyes were as red burning coals; long grey hair fell over his shoulders in matted coils; his garments, which were of antique cut, were soiled and ragged, and from his wrists and ankles hung heavy manacles and rusty gyves.

“My dear sir,” said Mr. Otis, “I really must insist on your oiling those chains, and have brought you for that purpose a small bottle of the Tammany Rising Sun Lubricator.”

Wilde is clearly having fun creating British and American stereotypes and using them to explore cultural differences, though he does it in a witty and inoffensive way. Another thing I liked is that some of the story is told from the ghost’s perspective, so that our sympathy is with him rather than the Otis family.

Although the ending is a bit too sweet and sentimental, I really enjoyed this unusual little book! It’s funny, imaginative, and so easy to read it’s suitable for younger readers as well as adults.

(As a side note, I read this book on Saturday 16th October, which happened to be Oscar Wilde’s 156th birthday. I had no idea of this until after I’d finished the book, turned on my laptop and saw that Google were honouring the occasion with a Google Doodle. Very appropriate!)

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47 comments

  1. I think this is just the book for me. I would definitely give this a try. What a great coincidence to read it on Wilde’s b’day.

  2. i really liked it but it was given as a home work to us and after reading this novel i came to know about the fact that we should not afraid of ghost .Have some pity on them and always remember that how they feel…………………….

  3. firstly i think it just like a simple novel but i think that why should don’t i give this a chance then i came to 9 about this wonder ful, heart hacker novel . i read it again & again…& enjoy a lotttt
    thanks OSCAR WILDE TO give it to us ….

  4. once my frnd recommended me to read this novel
    by hearing the name i thought that it would be scary but when i read the story, i found it to be interesting and not at all scary infact it is a comical type novel
    at the same time in the ending I was full of sympathy for the poor old ghost Sr.Simon
    the best characters of the novel are Sr. Simon and Virginia Otis

  5. I think this is an interesting story with some super natural features.It is also a funny story as in this story GHOST is afraid of people in the chase.

  6. this novel is very funny and imaginative…. i really enjoyed reading this book ……….. and i like the twins characters………

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