illustration of a ghost standing behid an iron fence with its arm raised against a large mansion

The Canterville Ghost

by Oscar Wilde

Start Free Trial

What is a character sketch of Virginia from "The Canterville Ghost"?

Expert Answers

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

Virginia in "The Canterville Ghost" is empathic, compassionate, active, courageous, gentle and pure. While her parents take a practical approach to the Ghost, scrubbing out the blood stains he leaves on the library floor with Pinkerton's Champion Stain Remover and Paragon Detergent, and while the Otis twins play mean jokes on the Ghost, Virginia shows her empathy by actually interacting with him. 

The Ghost notes "she had never insulted him in any way," and when she finds him in the Tapestry room, he looks so "forlorn" and "out of repair" that rather than run away, she is "filled with pity and determined to try and comfort him." She offers him a sandwich and when he tells her he has not slept in 300 years, "her little lips trembled like rose leaves." In this scene, she shows her empathy, not only pitying him but feeling his pain. She feels compassionate toward him as well, calling him "poor, poor Ghost."

She reveals her courage and compassion when she agrees to weep and pray for the Ghost to help him go to his final rest, even though it will mean seeing "fearful shapes in the darkness" and hearing "wicked voices." "I am not afraid," she says.

She shows she is active in two ways: first, she is an "Amazon" in the way she rides her horse around the Canterville grounds, but more importantly, she is willing to pray, weep and face demons to help the Ghost. As the saying goes, she "puts her money where her mouth is."

Finally, all through the story she is described as pure and gentle. Her name, Virginia, is both "all American" and contains "virgin," a word that connotes purity. It is her purity that makes it possible for her to intervene for the Ghost effectively. The Ghost calls her "gentle," and her actions in the story show a heart that wants to do the right thing with no thought of herself or of personal gain. She doesn't even want to keep the jewels the Ghost gives her, only the empty casket they came in. 

Virginia falls into the category of the Victorian "angel of the home," the pure female who can redeem the sins of others through her gentleness, faith and compassion. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team