In "The Canterville Ghost," who is in the Otis family and what do you learn about them?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In "The Canterville Ghost," the Otis family consists of two adults and four children. First of all, there is Mr Hiram B. Otis, an American Minister, who has packed up his family and moved them to England. The new owner of Canterville Chase, Mr Otis has does not entertain the notion of a ghost and believes only in the laws of reason. In fact, he treats all supernatural occurrences with his Paragon Detergent and Pinkerton Stain Remover.

Similarly, his wife, Mrs Lucretia Tappan Otis, does not believe in ghosts. When she hears Sir Simon shriek on the stairs one evening, she offers him a tincture to help his throat. Lucretia is described in the text as a "celebrated New York belle." She is middle-aged and "very handsome" with "fine eyes" and a "superb profile." She is extremely healthy and has a strong constitution, unlike many American woman who emigrate to Europe.

Hiram and Lucretia's son eldest son is Washington Otis whose first name is derived from "a moment of patriotism." Physically, he is a "fair-haired" and "good looking" young man. Outgoing and sociable, Washington enjoys the casino and is well-known in London as an excellent dancer. He is also a non-believer when it comes to ghosts and takes it upon himself to clean the blood stain in the library with Pinkerton Stain Remover every morning. 

Nicknamed "The Stars and Stripes" are the twins, the youngest members of the Otis family. They are mischievous and seek delight in terrorising the ghost. They attack him with pea-shooters and, with Washington's help, create their own pretend ghost with which to scare Sir Simon. 

Finally, there is Virginia Washington, the only daughter of the Otis family. Aged fifteen, she is described as "lithe and lovely as a fawn." She is a very capable horse rider and is the favourite of the Duke of Cheshire. In fact, the pair become engaged and get married at the end of the story. But Virginia is also instrumental in helping the ghost to overcome the terrors enforced on him by the rest of her family. After learning that he has not slept for 300 years, Virginia follows the Sir Simon through the tapestry door and prays with him so that he might be forgiven for his sons. She is successful in her mission and brings about his peaceful end in the Garden of Death. 



Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

Posted on

Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

Already a member? Log in here.

Are you a teacher? Sign up now