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Essay - the canterville ghost

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Karolína Ryšavá 3. B In this essay, I would like to analyze a part of the novel “The Canterville Ghost” written and published by Oscar Wilde in 1887. Initially I chose to focus on and to analyze the figure of the ghost (Sir Simon de Canterville, as the ghost’s name goes, lived in the mansion where he murdered his wife, 9 years after the incident disappeared and his body was never found) itself. Only later I found out that the motive of the juxtaposition of the English – here represented by the Canterville ghost – and the American – represented by Otis family that moves from the US to an ancient mansion in countryside – is for me a lot more interesting. To start with, the primary, yet indirect contact between Otis family and the ghost (and I believe very important symbol) I found in the novel is reportedly irremovable blood stain in front of the fireplace in the living room of the mansion. Mr. Washington Otis [which is a very American name symbolizing that he would be a typical American man] orders to wash the stain: “Pinkerton’s Champion Stain Remover and Paragon Detergent will clean it up in no time” (Oscar Wilde, page 20), here author again used an obviously American sounding name with somehow modern feeling, which in my opinion should symbolize American progressivity. The stain keeps on reappearing every morning again and again even though the door to the living room was locked. Despite this obviously supernatural incident the Otis family still denies the existence of any magical forces. I believe that this should be a metaphor portraying Americans as purely rationally thinking human beings with a complete lack of imagination and romanticism. In the second place, author – being an Englishman himself – does not only criticize the American point of view but also the English one. It is my belief that the Ghost should be a metaphor resembling and showing some of the common English vices. In light of this, we could see the repetitive appearing of the blood stain as a strong English attachment to their traditions, which are sometimes old-fashioned and needless. To give another illustration of this: “Some time after, Mr. Otis was awakened by a curious noise in the corridor, outside his room. It sounded like the clank of metal, and seemed to be coming nearer every moment. He got up at once, struck a match, and looked at the time. It was exactly one o’clock” (Oscar Wilde, page 27/28), that should symbolize notorious English punctuality. In the third place, in the middle of the novel we see two fighting parties – on one hand, Otis family and on the other hand Sir Simon de Canterville, which is being broken down by Americans’ behavior. “On reaching his room he entirely broke down, and became a prey to the most violent agitation. The vulgarity of the twins and the gross materialism of Mr. Otis, were naturally annoying, but what distressed him most was that he had been unable to wear his suit of mail.” Here we can see that the ghost is running out of energy and force, which is caused by lack of concern from the side of Americans. This might symbolize how proud and sensitive English people are considering their traditions. To sum up, I think that Oscar Wilde chose those figures to satirically portray a certain level of competition between the two nations and to contrast them. Eventually, I am glad that I had to think about the text in a different way than I do normally and I think it uncovers the amazing depth of the book.

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