Sir Simon de Canterville of Oscar Wilde's delightful story “The Canterville Ghost ” is a ghostly actor extraordinaire. He has a strong theatrical streak that makes him take great pleasure in scaring people, yet he must do so in exactly the right way for each circumstance. He dresses...
Sir Simon de Canterville of Oscar Wilde's delightful story “The Canterville Ghost” is a ghostly actor extraordinaire. He has a strong theatrical streak that makes him take great pleasure in scaring people, yet he must do so in exactly the right way for each circumstance. He dresses each part meticulously, whether he is “The Vampire Monk, or the Bloodless Benedictine,” “Jonas the Graveless, or the Corpse-Snatcher of Chertsey Barn,” or “Reckless Rupert, or the Headless Earl.” To him, the show is a success if his frightful tactics make someone's wig turn white or a woman faint in horror. Of course, sometimes Sir Simon's antics take a graver mien, and he has actually scared many people literally to death.
That said, however, Sir Simon is not especially malicious. He was wicked in life, to be sure, for he killed his own wife in 1575, an act that lead to his own death at the hands of her family in 1584. Admittedly, too, he does find his most frightful hauntings to be his greatest successes. Yet Sir Simon has a soft spot in his character, even a weakness, and this reveals itself when he cannot scare the Otis family. No matter how hard he tries (and he tries very hard), he always ends up looking ridiculous rather than frightening. What's more, the twins even manage to give him several frights that take the ghostly wind out of his sails and send him into a deep depression. What good is a ghost who cannot scare people?
This is the state in which Virginia finds Sir Simon in the Tapestry Chamber. He is forlorn and filled with melancholy, and even more, he longs for peace. Virginia is probably the first person who has been kind to him in over three hundred years, and he drinks in her kindness, admitting that he has been lonely, unhappy, and sleepless for so very long. He finds the humility to ask the sympathetic Virginia to help him find rest and to fulfill the old prophecy, and she agrees. Virginia performs her role with courage and love; Sir Simon finally finds his rest; and Virginia learns the truth about death, life, love, and ghosts.