illustration of a ghost standing behid an iron fence with its arm raised against a large mansion

The Canterville Ghost

by Oscar Wilde

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In "The Canterville Ghost," why isn't the Otis family afraid of the ghost?

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The ghost of Sir Simon was not scary to the Otis family in the slightest.  The first indication that readers have of the Otis family's disregard for the ghost is the fact that they bought the property in the first place.  They were told that a ghost inhabited the property, but the fact didn't phase Mr. Otis at all.  

"You are certainly very natural in America," answered Lord Canterville, who did not quite understand Mr. Otis's last observation, "and if you don't mind a ghost in the house, it is all right. Only you must remember I warned you."

Mr. Otis's fearlessness is in part because he doesn't believe the ghost exists, but even when he comes face to face with the ghost, Mr. Otis is not scared at all.  Sir Simon shows up with burning red eyes and looking overall quite scary.  

His eyes were as red burning coals; long grey hair fell over his shoulders in matted coils; his garments, which were of antique cut, were soiled and ragged, and from his wrists and ankles hung heavy manacles and rusty gyves.

Mr. Otis isn't phased in the slightest.  In fact, Mr. Otis calmly hands the ghost a bottle of oil and tells Sir Simon to use it on his chains in order to stop making so much noise.  

The Otis twins are equally unafraid of the ghost.  In fact, they make it their mission to antagonize and instill fear in the ghost.  They do this by playing every summer camp prank in the book on Sir Simon.  The shoot him with pea shooters.  They set up buckets of water to dump on him when he comes through a door.  They install trip wires in the halls, and they even lube up the floors with melted butter.  

Finally, Virginia Otis is equally unafraid of the ghost; however, she shows her fearlessness differently than the rest of her family.  Virginia shows her fearlessness of the ghost by showing him empathy and by working to help him achieve eternal rest.  

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