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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What games and tricks did the twins play on the ghost in "The Canterville Ghost"?

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In "The Canterville Ghost," the twins delight in playing tricks on the ghost. In Chapter Three, for example, the twins set upon the ghost with their pea-shooters. They also help their brother to make a fake ghost, which they use to scare the Canterville ghost.

They continue to play tricks on the ghost in Chapter Four. First, they construct a "butter-slide" to trip up the ghost when he walks near the Tapestry Chamber. Later, they soak the ghost with a jug of water, which they hang above the door of the Blue Chamber.

It is both ironic and comical that the ghost is more afraid of the twins than they are of him. But, try as he might, the ghost is completely unable to frighten them and instead ends up the butt of the twins' jokes.  

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The high-spirited American twins play quite a few tricks on the poor Canterville ghost, who can't cope with the Yankee spirit of can-do practicality that invades his ancestral English home with the Otis family.

The twins shoot peas at the ghost with their pea shooters. They stretch strings across the hallway so he will trip in the dark, and once they melt butter to make a "butter slide" on the floor so that the ghost will slip and fall. They put a water jug on the top of a door so that when he opens the door he is drenched with water. Another time they hide in a dark corner and then run at him waving their arms and shouting "BOO!" They also hang up a white sheet, which the ghost mistakes for another ghost. The trick works: the frightened real ghost runs away in fear.

All of the twins' tricks are the standard fare of summer camp or boarding school pranks, showing that the twins don't take the ghost seriously as a threat and underscoring the comic way this story inverts the normal ghost tale. 

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What are the tricks played by the twin brothers in the novel The Canterville Ghost?

The Canterville Ghost was written in part to comment on the growing number of wealthy Americans coming to England in the late nineteenth century with practical know-how and a complete disregard for British traditions.

The Otises are such a family. They are not at all intimidated by the ancestral ghost who haunts Canterville Hall. Instead, they wash out the blood stain it leaves in the library with a brand new detergent, and the young twins, Stars and Stripes, play practical jokes on the hapless specter. These jokes include setting up a fake ghost to scare it, putting down butter slides so it will slip and fall, shooting at it with their pea guns, and setting up a pail of water on the top of a door to drench the poor ghost.

In a comic reversal of the typical ghost story, the humans terrorize the ghost rather than vice versa. But the young Virginia also helps send the ghost to his final rest, so the Americans do good deeds as well.

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What are the tricks played by the twin brothers in the novel The Canterville Ghost?

In The Canterville Ghost, the twins play a number of tricks on the ghost. Here are some examples:

  • In chapter 3, the twins attack the Canterville ghost with their pea shooters. Later in this chapter, the twins build a fake ghost, which they call the Ye Otis Ghoste, designed specifically to frighten the Canterville ghost (which it does).
  • In chapter 4, the Canterville ghost suffers a "severe fall" after treading on a butter slide that the twins construct between the Tapestry Chamber and the staircase. Later, the twins position a jug of water above the doorway of the Blue Bed Chamber, which succeeds in drenching the ghost with cold water. The twins also cover the ground of numerous passages with nutshells in the hope that the ghost will step on them and hurt his feet. It is only the ghost's refusal to appear that saves him from this additional injury.

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