What are the characteristics of Mrs Otis' son?

Expert Answers
kmj23 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Mrs Otis's son is called Washington, a name that he resents because it was inspired by patriotism. In the story, he is physically described as a "fair-haired" and "rather good-looking young man" (Chapter One). 

What is most striking about Washington is his complete denial of the supernatural. This is an attribute he shares in common with the rest of his family but one which he physically expresses through his treatment of the blood stain in the library. This begins in Chapter One when he uses Pinkerton's Stain Remover to its full effect. Once the stain has vanished, Washington is 'triumphant.' But when the stain reappears, the full extent of Washington's determination and perseverance becomes apparent. At the beginning of Chapter Two, for example, he treats the stain again, an action he also repeats the next morning. 

Washington also has a mischievious side to his character. In Chapter Three, the ghost scares Washington by blowing out his candle, prompting a retaliation in Chapter Four. In this scene, Washington makes his own version of the Canterville Ghost which he uses to frighten the real ghost. In another incident, Washington again scares the ghost by hemming him in to a fireplace with a "garden syringe."  

But Washington has a softer character attribute, too. When his sister goes missing in Chapter Six, for example, Washington jumps to action and joins the search to find her, staying out until darkness falls. When Virginia returns, Washington is the first behind her as they venture into the darkness beyond the Tapestry door, where the ghost has just died. 

teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Mr. and Mrs. Otis have three sons, and, in true American patriotic fashion, they have named the oldest Washington and have nicknamed the younger twin boys Stars and Stripes. All three are filled with American pragmatism and resourcefulness. Unlike the English, they all refuse to be intimidated by the Canterville ghost. When the ghost leaves bloodstains on the library floor, Washington simply scrubs them out using Pinkerton's stain remover. Rather than allow the ghost to frighten them, the twins play practical jokes on him.

In contrast to their sister, Virginia, the sons show a marked lack of compassion for the ghost. They dismiss him, try to erase him (through erasing his stain), and frighten and torment him with their pranks. They never stop to look at life from his point of view. Through them, Wilde shows both the good and the bad in the American spirit: a practical, can-do attitude but also a lack of sensitivity toward others coupled with a lack of respect for tradition.