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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Describe a past encounter that the ghost in "The Canterville Ghost" takes pride in.

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Oscar Wilde's "The Canterville Ghost" revolves around the sale of an old British estate known as Canterville Chase to an American minister who is marked by his skepticism. From the start, Horace B. Otis, the buyer, completely rejects the idea of any ghost as superstitious nonsense, despite the claim of Lord Canterville himself that a spirit had indeed haunted the house for nearly three centuries. Unperturbed by what he considers to be tall tales, Otis moves into the home and is almost humorously unmoved by any signs of the supernatural. After a brief fight with a ghostly bloodstain that simply keeps returning no matter how many times he cleans it, Otis encounters the ghost himself, who goes by the name of Sir Simon. However, instead of falling into madness from horror as the ghost expects, Otis kindly offers him some oil for Sir Simon's noisy chains and returns to bed.

Sir Simon is completely insulted at Otis's refusal to be frightened and here recounts some of his most impressive feats of horrifying residents that he had achieved in the past:

  • He had frightened a Duchess to the point of a fit while she observed herself in lace and jewelry in a mirror's reflection.
  • He grinned at a group of housemaids through a curtain, sending them into hysterics.
  • He had scarred the parish rector forever by blowing out his candle as he was returning from the library.
  • He had driven Madame de Tremouillac insane by appearing as a skeleton that was reading her diary.
  • He had forced Lord Canterville to swallow a playing card that he had used to cheat an opponent out of an enormous sum of money.

Sir Simon reflects on all of these achievements and decides that the injustice that he has suffered cannot stand.

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