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The Canterville Ghost: Book Review

The Canterville Ghost
Priyanshi Mehta
15, Oct 2023

Hello there, and a very happy October to you! Hope you’ve all been well. Now, and this goes without saying, but October is my favourite month of the year. Something about the air outside that just makes it so beautiful. Not to mention the line of festivals that follow- Navratri, Halloween (sure I go trick or treating with my friends), Dussehra, Diwali, Christmas, and finally the New Year. The month is filled with beauty and excitement as we prepare for the colder months.

The perfect atmosphere is created outside with the days getting shorter and the nights longer, chillier for a spooky adventure. However, hardly a few of us are in a Goosebumps book and unfortunately, I am not one of them (and as far as I recollect, none of my friends either; one of them is Batman though). So we can only hope to read or watch something that brings us one step closer and helps us get lost in such a world (and if you look at it, it’s not half as bad, since we know for sure we aren’t gonna die/be sacrificed/sold to a devil/be stuck here for eternity). And what I DO have is just another great book for this Halloween. I am sure you are going to love this little delight that is as good as any other Halloween candy. So grab your favourite drink and dive in with me as I talk about another jewel of a book!

Also check out:

The Canterville Ghost

Author: Oscar Wilde

Pages: 85 (Lexicon Publishers)

Genres: Romantic and Gothic Victorian Horror, Dark Romanticism, Supernatural, Parody, Comedy, Bildungsroman

The book ‘The Canterville Ghost’ is a witty and humorous tale about the ghost of Canterville Chase, Sir Simon, who miserably tries to haunt the Otis  family, who has just moved into his house from America, much to his annoyance. Canterville Chase has all the accoutrements of a conventional haunted house- a traditional mansion, haunted attics, cobwebs, grumpy ceilings, blood stains, etc. 

However, the Otis family comes in with a very sceptical, modern set of beliefs and their rejection of anything supernatural irritates the ghost, who then tries numerous tactics to scare them away. However, everything he does always backfires, with instances like the family suggesting the ghost to oil his shackles, bleaching away his blood stains, playing practical jokes on him, etc and the ghost suffers at the hands of the family. Only the fifteen-year-old Virginia secretly sympathises with him. After she listens to his tale by the ghost himself, she feels pity, and decides to rid him of his misery, by putting him to an eternal slumber.

Wilde takes an American family, places them in a British setting and skilfully uses the clash of cultures: increasingly pragmatic American values and British pompous aristocracy and comes up with a brilliant satire on both – the firm beliefs in traditional values and the problems arising due to unchecked modernism. 

Through this book, Wilde takes the readers into a totally different realm, exploring darker themes like death, and in a very subtle yet poetic way, simplifies it for us. It also provides readers a thought provoking exploration of cultural clashes and the fugitive nature of traditions and superstitions. The beauty of this book is that despite all its reflective themes, it still serves as a humorous delight and a light-hearted getaway. 

This book is a must-read for all book lovers. Since it is such a short one, it is also a great book for people trying to get into reading. Thus, with its blend of satire, the supernatural and Wilde’s signature style, this book remains an epic and timeless literary gem. 

Here are some of my favourite quotes from the book, a few witty, a few enchanting, a few contemplative, all that just left me wanting for more:

  • “It was his solemn duty to appear in the corridor once a week, and to gibber from the large oriel window on the first and third Wednesdays in every month, and he did not see how he could honourably escape from his obligations. It is quite true that his life had been very evil, but, upon the other hand, he was most conscientious in all things connected with the supernatural.” 
  • “That’s quite absurd! You have merely to go to bed and blow out the candle. It is very difficult sometimes to keep awake, especially at church, but there is no difficulty at all about sleeping. Why, even babies know how to do that, and they are not very clever.”
  • I come from a modern country, where we have everything that money can buy; and with all our spry young fellows painting the Old World red, and carrying off your best actors and prima-donnas, I reckon that if there were such a thing as a ghost in Europe, we’d have it at home in a very short time in one of our public museums, or on the road as a show.
  • “Once in New York, you are sure to be a great success. I know lots of people here who would give a hundred thousand dollars to have a grandfather, and much more than that to have a family ghost.”
  • “On reaching a small secret chamber in the left wing, he leaned up against a moonbeam to recover his breath, and began to try and realise his position. Never, in a brilliant and uninterrupted career of three hundred years, had he been so grossly insulted.”
  • “Far away beyond the pine-woods, there is a little garden. There the grass grows long and deep, there are the great white stars of the hemlock flower, there the nightingale sings all night long. All night long he sings, and the cold crystal moon looks down, and the yew-tree spreads out its giant arms over the sleepers”. – “You mean the Garden of Death”.
  • “Yes, death. Death must be so beautiful. To lie in the soft brown earth, with the grasses waving above one’s head, and listen to silence. To have no yesterday, and no to-morrow. To forget time, to forget life, to be at peace. You can help me. You can open for me the portals of death’s house, for love is always with you, and love is stronger than death is.”
  •  “When a golden girl can win

 Prayer from out the lips of sin,

 When the barren almond bears, 

And a little child gives away its tears, 

Then shall all the house be still

 And peace comes to Canterville.”

  • ‘They mean,’ he said sadly, ′ that you must weep with me for my sins, because I have no tears, and pray with me for my soul, because I have no faith, and then, if you have always been sweet, and good, and gentle, the angel of death will have mercy on me.′ ”
  • As the coffin was being lowered into the grave, Virginia stepped forward, and laid on it a large cross made of white and pink almond-blossoms. As she did so, the moon came out from behind a cloud, and flooded with its silent silver the little churchyard, and from the distant copse a nightingale began to sing.”
  • “He made me see what Life is, and what Death signifies, and why Love is stronger than both.”

Other works by Oscar Wilde – “The Picture of Dorian Gray”, “The Importance of Being Earnest”, “The Ballad of Reading Gaol” etc. 

Pick this book up and get immersed in the brilliant world of Wilde! Do let me know how you find it in the comments below, or DM me anytime on instagram @priyanshimehta13. 

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