The Canterville Ghost Questions and Answers
by Oscar Wilde

The Canterville Ghost book cover
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What is the end of the story?

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First, I'd like to highly recommend you read the ending of the story yourself—it's a charming work, and the best of Oscar Wilde is on display in its pages.

At the end of "The Canterville Ghost," Virginia meets the ghost as he gazes absently out a window in an empty room. They talk together and banter as only Wild's characters can, but eventually the truth comes out: the ghost longs for death, and, as per an inscription on the library window, only Virginia can give it to him. He takes her away with him through the walls. When it becomes apparent that she is missing, her family goes into a panic and searches for her across town. They question the train stationmasters, a band of gypsies traveling through town, and the neighbors. When Mr. Otis and the young Duke of Cheshire, who is courting Virginia, finally arrive back home late at night after their long search, they decide to wire Scotland Yard in the morning—then Virginia at last appears out of a secret passage on the staircase, holding a small casket (wooden box) full of jewels. She declares that the ghost is finally dead and leads the family to a secret room where a skeleton is chained to the wall, reaching for a pitcher and table that were placed just out of reach. He had been starved to death by his brothers-in-law, as he confessed to Virginia before she disappeared.

The family and the Cantervilles have a lovely, somber funeral for Sir Simon (the ghost), and when the Duke of Cheshire finally comes of age, he marries Virginia. The story ends with him and Virginia visiting the ghost's grave and sitting to rest in the ruins of an old abbey. Virginia says that she can never tell anyone of what happened between her and the ghost while she was away but that "he made me see what Life is, and what Death signifies, and why Love is stronger than both." The husband then brings up children, at the mention of which, in the last line, "Virginia blushed."

There is a marked tonal shift at the end of the story. During the haunting, the tone is primarily comic and pokes fun at some of the most striking tropes of the horror genre; after Virginia and the ghost banter a bit, though, the tone sobers and the narrative turns serious. The story ends in a wedding, a mark of a traditional dramatic comedy, but this is only after the ghost has confessed that he has been unable to rest for 300 years. Wilde offers his sad situation the respect it deserves.

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