"With the enthusiastic egotism of a true artist, he went over his most celebrated performances." Explain this quotation with reference to Chapter Two of "The Canterville Ghost" by Oscar Wilde.  

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kmj23 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This quote appears in Chapter Two of "The Canterville Ghost," after the ghost has attempted to frighten the Otis family for the first time by rattling his chains along the corridor. The response to this act, however, is less than encouraging: instead of being scared, Mr Otis offers the ghost some Tammany Rising Sun Lubricator to oil his chains so that they make less noise. The ghost is dumbfounded by this response:

Never, in a brilliant and uninterrupted career of three hundred years, had he been so grossly insulted.

The ghost, therefore, is seeking a solution to overcome the scepticism of the Otis family. As he ponders this conundrum, he reflects on his past achievements. He is proud of his career thus far ("his most celebrated performances") and finds comfort in these memories. This is symbolic of the culture clash which exists between the two men: the ghost represents the traditional and sentimental British aristocracy while Mr Otis stands for the modern and rational American New World.

Furthermore, by referring to the ghost as a "true artist," Wilde makes an important reference to aestheticism, a nineteenth-century movement which emphasised "art for art's sake." In Wilde's eyes, the ghost is a "true artist" because he focuses only on the perfection of his performance, not about the moral consequences of scaring people who live in the house. 

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The Canterville Ghost

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