The story begins when Hiram B. Otis and his family move into Canterville Chase, despite warnings from Lord Canterville that the castle is haunted. The Otis family includes Mr. and Mrs. Otis, their son Washington, their daughter Virginia, and twin boys. At the onset of the tale, not one member of the Otis family believes in ghosts, but shortly after they move in none of them can deny the presence of Sir Simon. The family hears clanking chains, they witness reappearing bloodstains on the carpet, and they see strange apparitions in various forms. But none of these scares the Otises in the least. In fact, upon hearing the clanking noises in the hallway, Mr. Otis promptly gets out of bed and gives the ghost Tammany Rising Sun Lubricator to oil his chains.
Despite Sir Simon's attempts to appear in the most gruesome disguises, the family refuses to be frightened, and Sir Simon feels increasingly helpless and humiliated. When Mrs. Otis notices a mysterious red mark on the carpet, she simply replies that she does "not at all care for blood stains in the sitting room." When Mrs. Umney, the housekeeper, informs Mrs. Otis that the blood stain is indeed evidence of the ghost and cannot be removed, Washington Otis, the oldest son, suggests that the stain be removed with Pinkerton's Champion Stain Remover and Paragon Detergent: a quick fix, like the Tammany Rising Sun Lubricator, and a practical way of dealing with the problem. The Otises, like stereotypical Americans, seek instant gratification, and they expect to find an explanation and a solution for everything in existence. In setting the Otises against Sir Simon, a symbol of English tradition, Wilde craftily portrays both Hiram and Mrs. Otis as "ugly Americans," that is to say, as uncultured, unimpressed by British culture, and incapable of being moved by anything out of the ordinary.
Wilde describes Mrs. Otis as "a very handsome middle-aged woman" who has been "a celebrated New York belle." She is obviously considered refined in the American way of thinking but, like her husband, Mrs. Otis is materialistic and has a blatant disregard for British tradition and history. Her lack of culture surfaces...
(The entire section is 884 words.)