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

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Chapter VII of Oscar Wilde's parodic ghost story resolves the conflicts of the English and the Americans, as it concludes with the marriage of the American Virginia Otis to the Duke of Cheshire, an English aristocrat.

Wilde's tale explores American and English stereotypes. One of these is Mr. Horace B. Otis, an American businessman who is convinced of the power of the American dollar and is unimpressed with the aristocracy of England, who simply inherit land and live on the wealth of their families. Virginia is another stereotype, as she represents the Puritanical values of a simplistic right and wrong. For instance, when she encounters the ghost, she tells him that if he would behave, he would have no problems with her brothers annoying him constantly. The ghost argues,

It is absurd asking me to behave myself. . . I must rattle my chains, and groan through keyholes, and walk about at night. It is my only reason for existing.

The undaunted Virginia argues against this English decadence:

It is no reason at all for existing, and you know you have been very nasty. Mrs Umney told us that you had killed your wife.

While generations of his relatives have tolerated the ghost for three hundred years, the Otis family -- who uses Puritanical common sense to remove the blood stains and oil the creaking chains -- is able to overcome the tradition of the terror created by the ghost. Further, Virginia assists the ghost in entering the Garden of Death when she agrees to weep and pray for him so he can pass through the wall and into the churchyard.

kmj23 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"The Canterville Ghost" ends with the marriage of Virginia Otis to Cecil, the Duke of Cheshire. After their honeymoon, the pair returns to Canterville Chase and Virginia has an inscription placed on the ghost's headstone.

In the garden, Cecil comments to Virginia that she has kept a secret from him regarding the events which occurred when she went through the wall of the chamber with the Canterville ghost (in Chapter Five). Virginia responds that she cannot tell Cecil what happened, but she does make an important conclusion:

He made me see what Life is, and what Death signifies, and why Love is stronger than both.

Virginia's comment may seem cryptic, but, in fact, it symbolises the story's most important message; namely, that love can overcome any obstacle in life. This idea is reinforced through the marriage of Virginia and Cecil. Their relationship demonstrates that love can overcome their cultural differences and create a future filled with unity and optimism.

 

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The Canterville Ghost

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