Read The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde Free Online
Book Title: The Canterville Ghost|
The author of the book: Oscar Wilde
Edition: Project Gutenberg
Date of issue: December 30th 2004
Loaded: 1111 times
Reader ratings: 3.1
ISBN: No data
ISBN 13: No data
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 25.76 MB
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The original Wilde Thing does it again...
Seriously...how does one not love on Oscar Wilde when he's throwing down the snarky...in this case, and in proper British fashion, against cocky, adolescent-cultured Americans and their starched-lip, tradition-trapped English cousins?
A bounty of clever from start to finish, Wilde's tale is charming, engaging and pitch-perfect.
For a story less than 30 pages long, Wilde accomplishes so much, using scalpel-like precision in both his language and his plotting to tell a story with a little bit of everything. The funny is considerable, the sadness and softer emotions are amply represented, and the brilliance is ubiquitous throughout. My sole complaint is that I wish it were a bit longer, as I would have loved for Wilde to give himself more time with these people and this setting.
Briefly, since this is a short story…
A family of flag-flaunting United Staters acquire an historic English mansion from the thoroughly prim, thoroughly British Lord Canterville. Throw in a murderous, aesthetically-minded ghost with a penchant for high drama and theater, and you have a classic, joy-inducing tale of clashing cultures, progress vs. tradition, and Wilde’s self-mockery of his own philosophy of decadent aestheticism.
And….as an added bonus that few beyond Wilde could have accomplished in this setting, you also have subtler themes of a deeper nature running through the narrative, such as penance, forgiveness, and redemption.
I am a Wilde enthusiast, though my knowledge of his work is limited to this piece and The Picture of Dorian Gray, both of which I have loved. His prose speaks to me and I find his comedic orientation and verbal bitchiness to be hand in glove with my own sense of humor. His timing and delivery make me smile, whether he's commenting on his countrymen as having "really everything in common with America nowadays except, of course, language” to the reciting the casual arrogance of Mr. Otis’s response when Lord Canterville tries to dissuade him from acquiring the haunted estate: I will take the furniture and the ghost at a valuation. I have come from a modern country, where we have everything that money can buy; and with all our spry young fellows painting the Old World red, and carrying off your best actors and prima-donnas, I reckon that if there were such a thing as a ghost in Europe, we'd have it at home in a very short time in one of our public museums, or on the road as a show. Wilde’s humor is like a hammer wrapped in silk-covered down. It floats gracefully into your ear and then sucker punches you with its meaning.
Here, Wilde even aims his high powered criticism at himself, as the ghost, Sir Simon, is a thinly veiled reflection of the author. Initially, we see Sir Simon, this artisitc spook with flair and panache, as a victim of the boorish Yankees who have invaded his haunt, and who are totally unmoved by any of his scare tactics. They apply stain remover to the recurring blood stains, oil his chains to avoid excessively rattling, and medicate his evil laugh after mistaking it for coughing. For them, he is simply a problem to solve.
It seems our artist can't get a break, and Wilde has us sympathizing with the frustrated spectre.
But Wilde slowly starts to show us that the ghost is far from innocent. We learn of his previous murders and his complete amorailty and self-centeredness. Wilde slowly closes the trap and we begin to see the truth behind the ghost's genteel facade. One line, in particular, that struck me was when he casually admitted to killed his wife because she "was very plain, never had my ruffs properly starched, and knew nothing about cookery.” It’s almost a throwaway line, but it really drove home for me the character of Sir Simon.
Now don’t go thinking based on the above that this is really a serious tale. The humor is steady throughout and I was pretty much smiling from beginning to end reading Wilde's on target wit. ‘What a monstrous climate!’ said the American Minister, calmly, as he lit a long cheroot. ‘I guess the old country is so overpopulated that they have not enough decent weather for everybody.’ It’s just that Wilde adds enough little splashes of depth, of emotion, to make the entire story more resonant and, ultimately, more enjoyable. ‘Yes, death. Death must be so beautiful. To lie in the soft brown earth, with the grasses waving above one's head, and listen to silence. To have no yesterday, and no to-morrow. To forget time, to forget life, to be at peace.’ You can't ask for better than that.
I want to make one final comment about Wilde’s skill as it relates to his creative use of the setting. As you read the description of Canterville Chase, you see a litany of characteristics that paint it as the quintessential gothic mansion. Stone gargoyles, secret passageways, paintings of the previous Canterville residents, and even the stereotypical suit of armor as décor-enhancer. Throw in some dark wood and stained glass windows and you have a haunted house cliché that should be gloomy and positively oozing dread.
But is it? Of course not…Wilde simply uses this benckmark so he can quickly and effectively turn it on its head.
So…I loved this and I thought how Wilde took what started as a satire on the uncouthness of Americans and the stale traditionalism of the English, and turned it into something uplifting by marrying the best attributes of both was inspired.
I just wish it had been longer and the story had had a little more time to breathe. I can’t wait to read more of his work.
4.5 stars. HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION.
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Read information about the authorOscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde was an Irish playwright, poet and author of numerous short stories and one novel. Known for his biting wit, and a plentitude of aphorisms, he became one of the most successful playwrights of the late Victorian era in London, and one of the greatest celebrities of his day. Several of his plays continue to be widely performed, especially The Importance of Being Earnest.
As the result of a widely covered series of trials, Wilde suffered a dramatic downfall and was imprisoned for two years hard labour after being convicted of "gross indecency" with other men. After Wilde was released from prison he set sail for Dieppe by the night ferry. He never returned to Ireland or Britain, and died in poverty.
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