The Canterville Ghost Questions and Answers
by Oscar Wilde

The Canterville Ghost book cover
Start Your Free Trial

Why did the American ambassador Mr. Otis purchase the Canterville Castle, although people told him it was haunted?

Expert Answers info

D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2016

write11,292 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

Mr. Otis, because he is American, simply does not believe in ghosts. He also is not afraid of ghosts, even if they do exist. Being a can-do American, he believes he will quickly have any ghost subdued and mastered. Therefore, he has no fear of Canterville Castle. As he tells Lord Canterville:

I reckon that if there were such a thing as a ghost in Europe, we'd have it at home in a very short time in one of our public museums, or on the road as a show.

Lord Canterville, nevertheless, insists that the ghost of Canterville Hall is quite real. He says the ghost has been haunting the family for three centuries, since 1584. Mr. Otis remains skeptical. He informs Lord Canterville that even the British aristocracy can't suspend the laws of nature, a concept Lord Canterville comically can't comprehend.

Thus, from the start, the story sets up a comic opposition between the British, with their respect for the past and faith in tradition, and the very pragmatic Americans, who have to see a ghost to believe it. The Otises do end up accepting the reality of the Canterville ghost, but they never let it intimidate them.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Olen Bruce eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2016

write4,269 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

Mr. Otis, an American ambassador, purchases Canterville Castle, even though everyone tells him that it is haunted. His reasoning is that the United States has everything that money can buy, and if there really were ghosts in Europe, there would surely be one in a museum in America. The family takes a very commonsensical approach to the presence of a ghost. When Mrs. Otis finds a blood stain in her living room, the housekeeper tells her it's the blood of Lady Eleanore de Canterville, whose husband, Sir Simon de Canterville, killed his wife in 1575. The eldest son, Washington, immediately applies stain remover to the spot, but when the blood stain disappears, there is a flash of lightning and a clap of thunder. The next night, Mr. Otis sees the ghost and offers it some lubricator to make its chains less noisy.

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial