The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde

The Canterville Ghost book cover
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Topics for Further Study

(Short Stories for Students)

Investigate the Society for Psychical Research, founded in 1882. You may want to consult the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research; the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research; The Founders of Psychical Research, by A. Gauld (1968); or Psychical Research: A Guide to its History, Principles and Practices, edited by I. Grattan-Guinness (1982). Who were the "ghostbusters'' of the Victorian era? How widespread was the belief in ghosts? Compare real life attitudes to ghosts to the attitudes held by the characters in "The Canterville Ghost.’’

Research the Aesthetic Movement, also known as the Decadent Movement. You may want to consult literary anthologies as well as the following books: Elizabeth Aslin's The Aesthetic Movement: Prelude to Art Nouveau (Frederick A. Praeger, 1969); Aesthetes and Decadents of the 1890s: An Anthology of British Poetry and Prose (Vintage Books: 1966), edited by Karl Beckson; and The ‘‘Yellow Book’’: Quintessence of the Nineties (Anchor Books, 1964), edited by Stanley Weintraub. What were the goals of this movement? What did the artists and authors involved believe? How does ‘‘The Canterville Ghost'' fit into this movement?

The Otis family uses ‘‘Pinkerton's Champion Stain Remover and Paragon Detergent’’ to remove the Ghost's blood stains, and offers "Tammany Rising Sun Lubricator'' and "Dr. Dobell’ s Tincture’’ for the ghost's various ailments. How were such products marketed in the late nineteenth century? Consult sources such as newspapers from the 1890s, Sear's catalogs from that time, or books such as Selling Culture: Magazines, Markets, and Class at the Turn of the Century, by Richard Ohmann (1996); Soap, Sex, and Cigarettes: A Cultural History of American Advertising, by Juliann Sivulka (1997); or Early American Advertising by Bob Perlongo (1985). Compare advertisements for other nineteenth-century miracle medicines and cleansers to the Otis family's claims for their products' effectiveness.