I am writing a paper comparing the themes of Wilde's The Canterville Ghost to Cather's O Pioneers! What are some themes that are present in each story?

Expert Answers
jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Wilde's satirical ghost story, "The Canterville Ghost," and Cather's novel of the West, O Pioneers!, are quite different. Wilde's story is a funny tale of Americans who live in England and defeat a ghost who is haunting their house. O Pioneers! is about the quest of the western woman Alexandra Bergson to make her family's farmland profitable.

One theme that unites them, however, is the characters' particularly American breed of determination and confidence. Hiram B. Otis, an American minister who buys a haunted English manor, is informed that a ghost inhabits the house. He responds, never faltering in his confidence, "But there is no such thing, sir, as a ghost, and I guess the laws of Nature are not going to be suspended for the British aristocracy." Otis and his family doubt the traditions of the British, and with their particularly American brand of know-how, they defeat the ghost. For example, they use newfangled products such as Pinkerton's Champion Stain Remover to remove the bloodstain the ghost has left on the floor.

Similarly, Alexandra in O Pioneers! is full of American confidence. When her father dies, she tells her brother about their land,

You poor boy, you won't have to work it. The men in town who are buying up other people's land don't try to farm it. They are the men to watch, in a new country (page 27).

Like the Otis family, Alexandra has an American kind of faith in new forms of agricultural technology, and she eventually makes her land prosperous. The themes that unite both books are American confidence and reliance on technology.

Unlock This Answer Now