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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So you’re going to teach The Canterville Ghost. Whether it’s your first or hundredth time, Oscar Wilde’s novella has been a mainstay of English classrooms for generations. While it has its challenging spots, teaching this text to your class will be rewarding for you and your students. It will give them unique insight into satire and culture clash, as well as important themes surrounding the nature of forgiveness and atonement, aestheticism vs. materialism, and the redemptive power of love. This guide highlights the text's most salient aspects to keep in mind before you begin teaching.

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Facts at a Glance

  • Publication Date: 1887 
  • Flesch-Kincaid Reading Level: 10 
  • Approximate Word Count: 11, 300 
  • Author: Oscar Wilde 
  • Country of Origin: England 
  • Genre: Parody of Ghost Story, Fairy Tale 
  • Literary Period: Aesthetic Movement 
  • Conflict: Person vs. Society, Person vs. Supernatural 
  • Literary Devices: Satire 
  • Narration: First-Person Narrator with a British Point of View 
  • Setting: English Countryside, Late 19th Century 
  • Mood: Humorous, Mysterious, Ironic

Texts That Go Well With The Canterville Ghost

Blithe Spirit, by Noel Coward. The play was first staged in London’s West End in 1941. It concerns a novelist who seeks to research his next book, which he does in part by hiring the clairvoyant Madame Arcati to conduct a séance. In typical Noel Coward fashion, the plan backfires when the novelist is unexpectedly haunted by the ghost of his former wife. 

Dracula, by Bram Stoker. Published in 1897, the novel masterfully expresses many aesthetic values, including the living of one’s art, the exploration of one’s complexities and dualities, and the enjoyment of the sensual. 

Les Fleurs du mal, by Charles Baudelaire. In this 1857 collection of poetry, noted aesthete Charles Baudelaire covers virtually every tenet of the aesthetic movement: rejecting social conventions of Victorian times, criticizing organized religion and its inherent hypocrisies, and championing the life of sensuality and beauty. 

“The Scariest Story Ever Told,” by Colin Nissan. This parody of a ghost story has everything—a ghost, a psychotic killer, a mysterious box, and more. Published in The New Yorker in October 2015, it shows that the gothic genre is still entertaining. 

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson. First published in 1886, the novella explores the place of individual expression in Victorian society. As in The Canterville Ghost, supernatural elements are employed to explore questions about human nature. 

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Key Plot Points