The Canterville Ghost: Important quotes with page
“I will take the furniture and the ghost at a valuation. I 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. ” (Chapter 1, p. 1)
Hiram says this to Lord Canterville when he decides to bring his family to Canterville Chase. Not only does it reflect a common attitude Americans had toward Europeans and traditional ways of thinking at this time, but it also reflects how Europeans thought of Americans. Money and entertainment are both highly valued by Americans. This quote also shows that Hiram is not afraid of Old World superstitions, such as ghosts. The line, “I will take the furniture and the ghost at a valuation,” becomes important at the end of the story when Lord Canterville insists that Hiram keep the jewels gifted to his daughter, Virginia. “But there is no such thing, sir, as a ghost, and I guess the laws of Nature are not going to be suspended for the British aristocracy. ” (Chapter 1, p. 2)
Hiram says this to Lord Canterville as well, and it further confirms his position on the existence of ghosts. It’s also a commentary on the British—and by extension, European—aristocracy. Hiram is saying here that not even the power of an aristocrat can rewrite the laws of Nature. “Many American ladies on leaving their native land adopt an appearance of chronic ill-health, under the impression that it is a form of European refinement, but Mrs. Otis had never fallen into this error. ” (Chapter 1, p. 2)
The narrator shows here how Lucretia Otis neither cares for what is considered fashionable by the upper class, nor is she delicate. In fact, she proves herself to be bold later in the story when she directly approaches the ghost. She doesn’t fall into any kind of illness until Chapter Six, when Virginia goes missing. “I guess the old country is so overpopulated that they have not enough decent weather for everybody. I have always been of the opinion that emigration is the only thing for England. ” (Chapter 1, p. 4)
Hiram makes a joke about the rainy weather in England in this facetious, satirical comment. The claim is ridiculous—that there should not be enough nice weather for everyone, and that weather should be the catalyst for so many people to uproot their lives. “I don’t think it can be the fault of the Paragon Detergent for I have tried it with everything. It must be the ghost. ” (Chapter 2, p. 6)
Washington declares this after he is unable to permanently remove the blood stain in the library with his patented detergent from America. He believes so strongly in the merit of this invention that he is willing to rewrite his non-belief in the ghost.
“The subjects discussed, as I have since learned from Mr. Otis, were merely such as form the ordinary conversation of cultured Americans of the better class, such as the immense superiority of Miss Fanny Davenport over Sarah Bernhardt as an actress; the difficulty of obtaining green corn, buckwheat cakes, and hominy, even in the best English houses; the importance of Boston in the development of the world-soul; the advantages of the baggage check system in railway travelling; and the sweetness of the New York accent as compared to the London drawl. ” (Chapter 2, p. 6)
Here, the narrator describes the personality of America and shows not only what Americans of the time valued, but also the differences between America and England, and their nationalism, particularly in comparing the New York and London accents. “My dear sir, I really must insist on your oiling those chains, and have brought you for that purpose a small bottle of the Tammany Rising Sun Lubricator. ” (Chapter 2, p. 7)
When Hiram first confronts the ghost of Sir Simon, he is not fearful. Rather, he’s annoyed that the spirit’s rattling chains have woken him and his family. Representing America, he offers Sir Simon a remedy—an invention that can silence the disrupting sounds of Old World superstition and tradition. “And after all this, some wretched modern Americans were to come and offer him the Rising Sun Lubricator, and throw pillows at his head! It was quite unbearable. Besides, no ghost in history had ever been treated in this manner. ” (Chapter 2, p. 9)
Sir Simon’s reactions to the Rising Sun Lubricator and having pillows thrown at his head are identical, showing that he equates both with insult. When he says, “Besides, no ghost in history had ever been treated in this manner,” he calls upon the past, upon tradition, to try to understand his interaction with the Otis family. “If he really declines to use the Rising Sun Lubricator, we shall have to take his chains from him. It would be quite impossible to sleep, with such a noise going on outside the bedrooms. ” (Chapter 3, p. 10)
When Hiram says this, he is showing American determination, and his continued stance of not fearing Sir Simon’s ghost. To be willing to take something from the ghost displays his courage. “These kaleidoscopic changes naturally amused the party very much, and bets on the subject were freely made every evening. ” (Chapter 3, p. 10)
The narrator’s description of the Otis family’s reaction to the daily reappearance— in an array of colors—of the blood stain shows that they continue to not fear Sir Simon. They make a game of it, by betting on which color the stain will be the next time it appears. “I am afraid you are far from well and have brought you a bottle of Dr. Dobell’s tincture. If it is indigestion, you will find it a most excellent remedy. ” (Chapter 3, p. 11)
Lucretia says this to Sir Simon after she hears him wailing. It angers him, but it also shows that she, like Hiram and Washington before her, embraces the novelty of new remedies and inventions, perpetuating the symbolism of the Otis family as America. “The vulgarity of the twins, and the gross materialism of Mrs. Otis, were naturally extremely annoying, but what really distressed him most was, that he had been unable to wear the suit of mail. ” (Chapter 3, p. 12)
The narrator speaks of Sir Simon’s inability to don his old suit of armor. The suit is a symbol of his pride and vitality, and in this moment, he realizes that both are slipping away. For him, that is far more odious than having to deal with what he considers materialism. “He now gave up all hope of ever frightening this rude American family, and contented himself, as a rule, with creeping about the passages in list slippers, with a thick red muffler round his throat for fear of draughts, and a small arquebuse, in case he should be attacked by the twins. ” (Chapter 4, p. 19)
The narrator tells the reader here how Sir Simon has adjusted to the Otis family being at Canterville Chase. Rather than instill fear, he is afraid, and goes out of his way to keep from being noticed by them. He no longer takes joy in his duties as a ghost, though he performs them anyway because despite this adaptation, he is still tied to tradition. “It was quite evident that his feelings were so wounded that he would not appear.
Mr. Otis consequently resumed his great work on the history of the Democratic Party, on which he had been engaged for some years; Mrs. Otis organized a wonderful clam-bake, which amazed the whole county; the boys took to lacrosse, euchre, poker, and other American national games; Virginia rode about the lanes on her pony, accompanied by the young Duke of Cheshire, who had come to pend the last week of his holidays at Canterville Chase. ” (Chapter 4, p. 20)
This passage, in the voice of the narrator, accomplishes three tasks. First, it informs the reader that Sir Simon is still too wounded to properly haunt the family, and second, it clues the reader into the characterization of the Otis family by providing their pursuits and hobbies. Third, some of these pursuits, such as clam- bakes and the games the boys play, are uniquely American traditions.
This shows not only that the Otis family does allow for tradition in their lives, but they are not ruled by it; rather, they want to assimilate those traditions into their current English lifestyle. This is demonstrated by Lucretia’s introducing the clam-bake to their neighbors. “At the last moment, however, his terror of the twins prevented his leaving his room, and the little Duke slept in peace under the great feathered canopy in the Royal Bedchamber, and dreamed of Virginia. ” (Chapter 4, p. 21)
When the narrator tells the reader this, it shows how Sir Simon continues to be paralyzed by his fear of Stars and Stripes. It also shows the Duke’s continuously growing affection for Virginia. The fact that Canterville Chase has a Royal Bedchamber speaks to the position of the Canterville and Otis families. To entertain royalty would require that the host family be honorable and high enough in society to merit visits from such supposedly illustrious guests. “Indeed, so forlorn, and so much out of repair did he look, that little Virginia, whose first idea had been to run away and lock herself in her room, was so filled with pity, and determined to try and comfort him.” (Chapter 5, p. 22)
When the narrator says this, the reader learns of Sir Simon’s mental state as well as Virginia’s character. Despite her fear, she is driven by her pity to offer Sir Simon solace. “’It is very wrong to kill any one,’ said Virginia, who at times had a sweet Puritan gravity, caught from some old New England ancestor. ” (Chapter 5, p. 23)
Not only does this quote from the narrator show Virginia’s values—that she believes that it’s wrong to kill and that those values are of a Puritan nature—but it creates a lineage of belief. Just as the aristocracy assessed blood lineage, so too is the origin of Virginia’s beliefs assessed. In a way, the two are the same, since a focus on ancestral tradition informs the beliefs of the Cantervilles and those Englishmen and Englishwomen around them. “As for colour, that is always a matter of taste: the Cantervilles have blue blood, for instance, the very bluest in England; but I know you Americans don’t care for things of this kind. ” (Chapter 5, p. 24)
When Sir Simon says this to Virginia, he is making an important statement about the differences in English and American culture. By saying that the Cantervilles “have the very bluest [blood] in England,” he is also attesting to the fact that the Cantervilles are close to royalty—that they possess a regal quality. “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 forgive life, to be at peace. You can help me. You can open for me the portals of Death’s house, for Love is always with you, and Love is stronger than Death is. ” (Chapter 5, p. 25)
Sir Simon’s views on death, life, and love are central to the story because they define his desires and drive his reason for haunting Canterville Chase. He’s also making an astute observation about Virginia’s character. Her love, her empathy, her purity—all of these traits allow her to conquer death for him and deliver him to the beauty of death at the same time. “The little Duke of Cheshire, who was perfectly frantic with anxiety, begged hard to be allowed to go too, but Mr. Otis would not allow him, as he was afraid there might be a scuffle. ” (Chapter 6, p. 27)
This quote, by the narrator, shows both Cecil’s determination to help in the efforts to find and recover Virginia as well as Hiram’s concern that there would be trouble with the gypsies. This represents Hiram’s fear of the Other, as well as the duty he feels in protecting the Duke, both because of his station and his youth. “I’m awfully sorry, Mr. Otis, but I can’t eat any dinner as long as Virginia is lost. Please, don’t be angry with me; if you had let us be engaged last year, there would never have been all this trouble. You won’t send me back, will you? I can’t go! I won’t go! ” (Chapter 6, p. 28)
When Cecil says this to Hiram, he shows his devotion to Virginia. He also shows that he blames Hiram in part for her disappearance. Cecil wants to look after Virginia; he wants to preserve her innocence. This reflects a traditional set of values in sexual politics as well as his love for her. “Indeed, they had been quite distressed at hearing of Virginia’s disappearance, as they were very grateful to Mr. Otis for having allowed them to camp in his park, and four of their number had stayed behind to help the search. ” (Chapter 6, p. 29)
The narrator’s summary of the gypsies’ reaction to Virginia’s disappearance calls out, with subtlety, Hiram’s fear of the Other. He initially trusted the gypsies enough to let them camp nearby, but as soon as his daughter goes missing, he readily blames the gypsies for her disappearance. He then presumes that confronting them will lead to violence, which is why he tells Cecil not to accompany him and Washington. However, they are severely distressed to learn Virginia is missing, and send four of their number to help with the search efforts.
Hiram’s fear of a nomadic tribe reflects a popular negative public opinion in America of those who are now known as First Nations people. “…as the coffin was being lowered into the grave, Virginia stepped forward, and laid on it a large cross made of white and pink almond-blossoms. ” (Chapter 7, p. 32)
This quote, by the narrator, conjures the symbolism of a cross made of almond- blossoms. The cross represents Christian values, purity, and the forgiveness that allowed Sir Simon to finally rest in peace. In Judeo-Christian tradition, the almond- blossom symbolizes old age and waiting.
Sir Simon was over three hundred years old, counting his time as a haunting spirit. He waited that long to be forgiven, and to die. “…all such vain gauds and toys, however suitable or necessary to the dignity of the British aristocracy, would be completely out of place among those who have been brought up on the severe, and I believe immortal, principles of Republican simplicity. ” (Chapter 7, p. 33)
At the end of the story, when Hiram says this to Lord Canterville, he is once more asserting his American, New World values. He is worried that in keeping the jewels given to her by Sir Simon, Virginia would only perpetuate those traditions that Hiram is ever eager to cast off. “He made me see what Life is, and what Death signifies, and why Love is stronger than both. ” (Chapter 7, p. 36)
Virginia’s last words in the story provide the main message that it carries. While there are many moments of humor throughout the seven chapters of this story, and there are other important themes, the fact that Virginia discovers the meaning of life from a 300-year-old specter is what Oscar Wilde leaves the reader with.