The Canterville Ghost

Tuesday, January 26th, 2009

Check this video for the audio of chapter 1 as well as this one which is a modern version of this short story…you’ll find the other links on YouTube. You can write an account of the differences with the text you’re reading.

Summaries of each chapter are to be found at Ego4U

Answer questions on each chapter also to make sure you understand the story correctly


1) satire: Oscar Wilde writes here one of his funniest and most fantastic short story. He’s making fun of superstitions and of romantic horror stories…

2) Spiritism: People who believe or not in the existence of ghosts

3) the old and new worlds: British Aristocracy vs. American Elite

4) Nature vs culture: p. 20: « I guess the laws of Nature are not going to be suspended for the British Aristocracy » (chap.1) « You are certainly feeling most natural in America »

5) American pragmaticism (rationalism) vs. English Romantism

p. 20: « Many American Ladies are leaving….error »


At the beginning of this short story, all main characters are introduced:

Mr. Otis, the main character purchases a Chase from Lord Canterville; He’s an American Minister, very pragmatic.

Lord Canterville: A member of the British Aristocracy. A very honest man. He tells the history of Canterville including the fact that the Chase has a ghost.

Situate the passage (what happens before, right after)

Give a brief summary of your passage

Provide description of the characters in this passage.

Réalisation de la tache (avez-vous répondu à la question précisément?)

Impression générale de la structure de votre exposé

Vocabulaire (exactitude et étendue)

Grammaire (complexité et contrôle)


The Canterville Ghost: A hylo-idealistic Romance

Hylo-idealism is a philosophical theory according to which the reality lies in the fact that we believe in it.

P. 16

  1. The short story starts like a tale.
  2. It opens right away with the reminder that the « place » is haunted.(p.1 l.7)
  3. Notion of honor and duty (Lord Canterville warning about the Ghost)

p. 18

  1. It’s the first account of the ghost’s « crimes »…or theatrical appearances.
  2. Theater is a recurring element throughout the story.
  3. l.10 beginning of a long list of name dropping.
  4. US pragmaticism (Otis is down to earth), business oriented vs. the hylo-idealism of Lord C.
  5. At the end of this passage (l. 27-30): Humor, irony and a bit of UK (British) superiority over the US (American) mentality
  6. impresarios: reference to the Broadway shows. Show business is depicted with irony by Lord C.

p. 20

Can you explain the reference to Mrs. Otis’ constitution?

  1. Lord C is explaining how the ghosts shows up at regular times
  2. The minister arrives at Canterville Manor
  3. American ladies coming to Europe start pretending to have health problems…but not Mrs. Otis.
  4. Around these pages, it’s the introduction of the main characters of the short story, such is the case for Mrs. Otis in this very passage.
  5. Irony of Otis who is making fun of the UK belief in ghosts while he is a very down to earth pragmatist.
  6. Irony of Canterville who is making fun of the US belief in nature and physical, tangible explanations.
  7. Statement: « There is no such thing as a Ghost ».
  8. Throughout the book we will see how the Minister and his family shift from non-believers to believers of spiritual life….

p. 22

  1. Humor (the diplomacy of dancing, p. 9)
  2. Nature vs culture
  3. 1st appearance of Virginia
  4. Virginia refers to the Virgin Queen Elisabeth…UK
  5. Washington and the Stars and Stripes is very US patriotic
  6. Note: the twins are never named, they are almost a devilish entity….

p. 24

….contrary to their description l.1 (« delightful boys »)

  1. stage setting: a lovely countrysite scene, alliterations in s
  2. Apparition of the Ghost’s favourite and long time victim, Mrs. Umney

p. 26

Description of the old manor

  1. 1st apparition of the Ghost in the form of his blood stain
  2. Humor l. 27 « much admired »

p. 28

  1. US pragmaticism
  2. the early days of advertising
  3. humor of master and servant games about Ms. Umney’s wages l. 15-20

p. 30

The fight is on….against the unbelievers (remember the title of the short story…)

  1. Washington accepts the reality of the ghost l. 23

l.23: states a mere fact.

32: Mr. Otis admits the existence of the ghost.

US pragmatism and joining Clubs (an English invention but a very american occupation…)

Enlightened intellectual of the turn of the century.

34: UK and Europe vs new founding societies /US
Second allusion to the ghost
36: US pragmatism.
Twist in the story: it’s the ghost who is surprised.
Twins in action.

38: Ghost’s feelings and introspection.

40: ghost’s achievement and furious reaction.

42: the fight goes on.
change of colour is significant.
Otis sorry that remedy isn’t accepted. State of fact and pragmatism.

44: Virginia isn’t happy for a reason explained later (ghost uses her colours). The Otis prepare a trap.

46: the ghost strikes back and recalls his past theatrical success but in the end, the twins win!

48: parallel Virgin Queen and Virginia

50: the plan of action

52: Rehearsal, then background set for “Grand Finale”

…now you got the general idea, so fill the rest the same way. We’ll correct it together!

4 thoughts on “The Canterville Ghost

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s