In which ways is "The Canterville Ghost" a traditional ghost story, and in which ways is it unusual for a ghost story?

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sciftw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Oscar Wilde's "The Canterville Ghost" is a traditional ghost story for a few reasons.  First, the story has a ghost, and he does try to do some haunting.  Traditionally, the ghost is not completely silent.  It usually makes some kind of rattling noise.  Sir Simon does this on the very first night.  

Some time after, Mr. Otis was awakened by a curious noise in the corridor, outside his room. It sounded like the clank of metal, and seemed to be coming nearer every moment.

Probably the most famous chain rattling ghost is Jacob Marley from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.  

Another standard ghost appearance motif is that the ghost will typically appear at night.  That is also true of Sir Simon's appearances.   Additionally, the haunting usually occurs within a fairly large, empty house.  The property that the Otis family purchased is a big, British estate.  Probably the best known modern example of that last motif is Stephen King's The Shining.  The ghosts haunt an entire hotel.  

The story is unusual though because it is quite comedic.  The Otis family is not scared at all of Sir Simon.  On his first appearance, Sir Simon shows up with rattling chains, ragged clothing, and burning red eyes.  Mr. Otis should be terrified.  But instead he hands the ghost some oil and tells him to not make so much noise.  

"I really must insist on your oiling those chains, and have brought you for that purpose a small bottle of the Tammany Rising Sun Lubricator."

Probably the most unusual aspect of this story as a ghost story is the fact that the living people do more of the haunting than the ghost.  Sir Simon is genuinely scared of the twins by the end of the story, and the twins love tormenting the ghost of Sir Simon.  

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The Canterville Ghost

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