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

The Canterville Ghost

by Oscar Wilde

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What happens at the end of the story "The Canterville Ghost?"  

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"The Canterville Ghost" ends with a conversation between Virginia Otis and her new husband, the Duke. The Duke laments to Virginia that she has been keeping a secret from him. Virginia has never explained to him what happened between her and Sir Simon's ghost when she went missing. Virginia responds by telling him that she has never told any person about what happened.

"Virginia, a wife should have no secrets from her husband."

"Dear Cecil! I have no secrets from you."

"Yes, you have," he answered, smiling, "you have never told me what happened to you when you were locked up with the ghost."

"I have never told any one, Cecil," said Virginia gravely.

The Duke presses Virginia for a moment longer; however, Virginia begs that he leave the matter alone. She claims that she owes Sir Simon a great deal, and that is why she doesn't want to talk about what happened. Virginia then stresses that her time with Sir Simon taught her the importance and value of love. The Duke seems happy with her answer and relents. He says that as long as he has her love, he can be content, and Virginia assures him that he has always had her love.

The Duke rose and kissed his wife lovingly.

"You can have your secret as long as I have your heart," he murmured.

"You have always had that, Cecil."

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At the end of "The Canterville Ghost," Virginia intercedes with prayers the ghost can't pray and tears he can't shed so that he can finally die in peace and no longer have to haunt Canterville Hall. As a reward, Virginia gets the ancestral Canterville family jewels, which neither she nor her all-American family wants, but which the present Lord Canterville insists that she keep. Virginia then marries the Duke of Cheshire and is presented at the royal court wearing her jewels. Everybody insists she looks lovely in them. At the very end, she tells her husband that she owes the ghost a great debt for he taught her the meaning of life and death, and why love is stronger than either one.

The story parodies the "invasion" or rich Americans coming to England to buy ancestral estates and find aristocratic husbands for their daughters, but it also communicates the importance of treating the "other," even if it is a ghost, with compassion. 


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