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» The Supernatural. Answers from Beyond Reality from The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde

The Supernatural. Answers from Beyond Reality from The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde

The Supernatural. Answers  from Beyond Reality from The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde

The day had been warm and sunny; and, in the cool of the evening, the whole family went out to drive. They did not return home till nine o'clock, when they had a light supper. The conversation in no way turned upon ghosts, so there were not even those primary conditions of receptive expectation which so often precede the presentation of psychical phenomena. [.] No mention at all was made of the supernatural, nor was Sir Simon de Canterville alluded to in any way. At eleven o'clock the family retired, and by half-past all the lights were out. Some time after, Mr. Otis was awakened by a curious noise in the corridor, outside his room. It sounded like the clank of metal, and seemed to be coming nearer every moment. [.] He put on his slippers, took a small oblong phial out of his dressing-case, and opened the door. Right in front of him he saw, in the wan moonlight, an old man of terrible aspect. His eyes were as red burning coals; long grey hair fell over his shoulders in matted coils; his garments, which were of antique cut, were soiled and ragged, and from his wrists and ankles hung heavy manacles and rusty gyves. 'My dear sir,' said Mr. Otis, '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. [.] I shall leave it here for you by the bedroom candles, and will be happy to supply you with more should you require it.' With these words the United States Minister laid the bottle down on a marble table, and, closing his door, retired to rest.

For a moment the Canterville ghost stood quite motionless in natural indignation; then, dashing the bottle violently upon the polished floor, he fled down the corridor, uttering hollow groans, and emitting a ghastly green light. Just, however, as he reached the top of the great oak staircase, a door was flung open, two little white-robed figures appeared, and a large pillow whizzed past his head! There was evidently no time to be lost, so, hastily adopting the Fourth Dimension of Space as a means of escape, he vanished through the wainscoting, and the house became quite quiet.

On reaching a small secret chamber in the left wing, he leaned up against a moonbeam to recover his breath, and began to try and realise his position. Never, in a brilliant and uninterrupted career of three hundred years, had he been so grossly insulted. [.] All his great achievements came back to him again, from the butler who had shot himself in the pantry because he had seen a green hand tapping at the window pane, to the beautiful Lady Stutfield, who was always obliged to wear a black velvet band round her throat to hide the mark of five fingers burnt upon her white skin, and who drowned herself at last in the carp pond at the end of the King's Walk. [.] 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. Accordingly, he determined to have vengeance, and remained till daylight in an attitude of deep thought.

The next morning, when the Otis family met at breakfast, they discussed the ghost at some length. The United States Minister was naturally a little annoyed to find that his present had not been accepted. 'I have no wish,' he said, 'to do the ghost any personal injury, and I must say that, considering the length of time he has been in the house, I don't think it is at all polite to throw pillows at him' - a very just remark, at which, I am sorry to say, the twins burst into shouts of laughter. 'Upon the other hand,' he continued, '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.' For the rest of the week, however, they were undisturbed, the only thing that excited any attention being the continual renewal of the blood-stain on the library floor. This certainly was very strange, as the door was always locked at night by Mr. Otis, and the windows kept closely barred. The chameleon-like colour, also, of the stain excited a good deal of comment. Some mornings it was a dull (almost Indian) red, then it would be vermilion, then a rich purple, and once when they came down for family prayers, according to the simple rites of the Free American Reformed Episcopalian Church, they found it a bright emerald-green. These kaleidoscopic changes naturally amused the party very much, and bets on the subject were freely made every evening. The only person who did not enter into the joke was little Virginia, who, for some unexplained reason, was always a good deal distressed at the sight of the blood-stain, and very nearly cried the morning it was emerald-green.

The second appearance of the ghost was on Sunday night. Shortly after they had gone to bed they were suddenly alarmed by a fearful crash in the hall. Rushing downstairs, they found that a large suit of old armour had become detached from its stand, and had fallen on the stone floor, while, seated in a high-backed chair, was the Canterville ghost, rubbing his knees with an expression of acute agony on his face. The twins, having brought their pea-shooters with them, at once discharged two pellets on him, with that accuracy of aim which can only be attained by long and careful practice on a writing-master, while the United States Minister covered him with his revolver, and called upon him, in accordance with Californian etiquette, to hold up his hands! The ghost started up with a wild shriek of rage, and swept through them like a mist, extinguishing Washington Otis' candle as he passed, and so leaving them all in total darkness. On reaching the top of the staircase he recovered himself, and determined to give his celebrated peal of demoniac laughter. This he had on more than one occasion found extremely useful. It was said to have turned Lord Raker's wig grey in a single night, and had certainly made three of Lady Canterville's French governesses give warning before their month was up. He accordingly laughed his most horrible laugh, till the old vaulted roof rang and rang again, but hardly had the fearful echo died away when a door opened, and Mrs. Otis came out in a light blue dressing-gown. 'I am afraid you are far from well,' she said, 'and have brought you a bottle of Dr. Dobell's tincture. If it is indigestion, you will find it a most excellent remedy.' The ghost glared at her in fury. [.] The sound of approaching footsteps, however, made him hesitate in his fell purpose, so he contented himself with becoming faintly phosphorescent, and vanished with a deep churchyard groan, just as the twins had come up to him.

On reaching his room he entirely broke down, and became a prey to the most violent agitation. 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. He had hoped that even modern Americans would be thrilled by the sight of a Spectre In Armour, if for no more sensible reason, at least out of respect for their national poet Longfellow over whose graceful and attractive poetry he himself had whiled away many a weary hour when the Cantervilles were up in town. [.]

For some days after this he was extremely ill, and hardly stirred out of his room at all, except to keep the blood-stain in proper repair. [.] The terrible excitement of the last four weeks was beginning to have its effect. His nerves were completely shattered, and he started at the slightest noise. For five days he kept his room, and at last made up his mind to give up the point of the blood-stain on the library floor. If the Otis family did not want it, they clearly did not deserve it. They were evidently people on a low, material plane of existence, and quite incapable of appreciating the symbolic value of sensuous phenomena. The question of phantasmic apparitions, and the development of astral bodies, was of course quite a different matter, and really not under his control. It was his solemn duty to appear in the corridor once a week, and to gibber from the large oriel window on the first and third Wednesdays in every month, and he did not see how he could honourably escape from his obligations. It is quite true that his life had been very evil, but, upon the other hand, he was most conscientious in all things connected with the supernatural.

For the next three Saturdays, accordingly, he traversed the corridor as usual between midnight and three o'clock, taking every possible precaution against being either heard or seen. He removed his boots, trod as lightly as possible on the old worm-eaten boards, wore a large black velvet cloak, and was careful to use the Rising Sun Lubricator for oiling his chains. I am bound to acknowledge that it was with a good deal of difficulty that he brought himself to adopt this last mode of protection. However, one night, while the family were at dinner, he slipped into Mr. Otis's bedroom and carried off the bottle. He felt a little humiliated at first, but afterwards was sensible enough to see that there was a great deal to be said for the invention, and, to a certain degree, it served his purpose. Still, in spite of everything, he was not left unmolested. Strings were continually being stretched across the corridor, over which he tripped in the dark, and on one occasion [.] he met with a severe fall, through treading on a butter-slide, which the twins had constructed from the entrance of the Tapestry Chamber to the top of the oak staircase. [.]

A few days after [.], as she was running past the Tapestry Chamber, the door of which happened to be open, Virginia fancied she saw some one inside, and thinking it was her mother's maid, who sometimes used to bring her work there, looked in to ask her to mend her habit. To her immense surprise, however, it was the Canterville Ghost himself! He was sitting by the window, watching the ruined gold of the yellowing trees fly through the air, and the red leaves dancing madly down the long avenue. His head was leaning on his hand, and his whole attitude was one of extreme depression. 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 filled with pity, and determined to try and comfort him. [.]

'I am so sorry for you,' she said, 'but my brothers are going back to Eton to-morrow, and

then, if you behave yourself, no one will annoy you.'

'It is absurd asking me to behave myself,' he answered, looking round in astonishment at the pretty little girl who had ventured to address him, 'quite absurd. I must rattle my chains, and groan through keyholes, and walk about at night, if that is what you mean. It is my only reason for existing.'

'It is no reason at all for existing, and you know you have been very wicked. Mrs. Umney told us, the first day we arrived here, that you had killed your wife.'

'Well, I quite admit it,' said the Ghost petulantly, 'but it was a purely family matter, and concerned no one else.'

'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.

'Oh, I hate the cheap severity of abstract ethics! My wife was very plain, never had my ruffs properly starched, and knew nothing about cookery. [.] However, it is no matter now, for it is all over, and I don't think it was very nice of her brothers to starve me to death, though I did kill her.'

'Starve you to death? Oh, Mr. Ghost, I mean Sir Simon, are you hungry? I have a sandwich in my case. Would you like it?'

'No, thank you, I never eat anything now; but it is very kind of you, all the same, and you are much nicer than the rest of your horrid, rude, vulgar, dishonest family.'

'Stop!' cried Virginia stamping her foot, 'it is you who are rude, and horrid, and vulgar,and as for dishonesty, you know you stole the paints out of my box to try and furbish up that ridiculous blood-stain in the library. First you took all my reds, including the vermilion, and I couldn't do any more sunsets then you took the emerald-green and the chrome-yellow, and finally I had nothing left but indigo and Chinese white, and could only do moonlight scenes, which are always depressing to look at, and not at all easy to paint. I never told on you, though I was very much annoyed, and it was most ridiculous, the whole thing; for who ever heard of emerald-green blood?'

'Well, really,' said the Ghost, rather meekly, 'what was I to do? It is a very difficult thing to get real blood nowadays, and, as your brother began it all with his Paragon Detergent, I certainly saw no reason why I should not have your paints. 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.'

'You know nothing about it, and the best thing you can do is to emigrate and improve your mind. My father will be only too happy to give you a free passage, and though there is a heavy duty on spirits of every kind, there will be no difficulty about the Custom House, as the officers are all Democrats. Once in New York, you are sure to be a great success. I know lots of people there who would give a hundred thousand dollars to have a grandfather, and much more than that to have a family ghost.'

'I don't think I should like America.'

'I suppose because we have no ruins and no curiosities,' said Virginia satirically.

'No ruins! no curiosities!' answered the Ghost; 'you have your navy and your manners.'

'Good evening; I will go and ask papa to get the twins an extra week's holiday.'

'Please don't go, Miss Virginia,' he cried; 'I am so lonely and so unhappy, and I really don't know what to do. I want to go to sleep and I cannot.'

'That's quite absurd! You have merely to go to bed and blow out the candle. It is very difficult sometimes to keep awake, especially at church, but there is no difficulty at all about sleeping. Why, even babies know how to do that, and they are not very clever.'

'I have not slept for three hundred years,' he said sadly, and Virginia's beautiful blue eyes opened in wonder; 'for three hundred years I have not slept, and I am so tired.'


Reading comprehension and comments.

What is the role of the initial mentioning of the fact that 'those primary conditions of receptive

expectation' were not met?

What is the author's attitude toward commonplaces and clichés? Consider both the universe of

British aristocracy and the life and ways of modern Americans.

Has the contrast and cultural clash between these two categories become a cliché in itself?

Are there any elements in the story that not only support this idea, but also give a hint about Wilde's being aware of this aspect, and including it among the targets of his irony?

Enlarge upon the psychological and social archetypes and clichés employed in the story.

Which of the archetypal characters eventually turns out to be profoundly atypical?

Wilde is perhaps best known for his love of paradoxes. Think of the normal antagonism - a commonplace in itself - between traditionalism and adaptability, consider also your answer to the previous question, and identify the paradoxical situation, if any.

Comment upon the rich cultural tradition related to ghosts or other forms of spiritual persistence after death. How is this kind of immortality perceived and considered?

Vocabulary study and practice

Look up the meaning(s) of the following words or phrases in a dictionary.

clank, coil, manacle, gyve, wainscot, pea-shooter, pellet, peal, wig, oriel, free passage, heavy duty

to allude, to groan, to whiz, to glare, to gibber, to rattle, to furbish

oblong, wan, fell, weary, sensuous, forlorn, petulant, horrid

Grammar Module

The Pronoun (Pronumele) (I)

Exista o categorie de cuvinte care nu au un inteles de sine statator, care nu "denumesc', nu "caracterizeaza' etc., ci doar inlocuiesc ceva, facand referiri la idei, obiecte, actiuni, etc. (cu unele exceptii) mentionate in cursul comunicarii sau cunoscute de catre interlocutor, cititor etc. intrucat, intr-un sens gramatical, ele inlocuiesc de cele mai multe ori substantive, pot fi denumite inlocuitori ai substantivului (Noun Substitutes), ca in:

John did all the work. (John a facut toata treaba.)

He did all the work. (El a facut toata treaba.)

Who did all the work?(Cine a facut toata treaba?)

Aceste cuvinte sunt pronume si, in linii mari, raspund la aceleasi intrebari ca substantivele: who? - cine?; what? - ce? , etc.

Din punctul de vedere al compunerii, pronumele pot fi simple (Simple Pronouns) si compuse (Compound Pronouns), in care ar putea fi incluse si locutiunile pronominale (Pronominal Phrase).

a) Pronume simple: you (tu; voi); which (care); many (multi)

b) Pronume compuse: adj. + subst.: (everybody - fiecare, toti, toata lumea); pron. + adv.: (whatever - orice, indiferent ce); adj. + pron.: (no one - nimeni); art. + pron.: (a few - unii, unele); pron. + pron.: he who (acela care).

1. The personal pronoun (Pronumele personal)

The Personal Pronoun (Pronumele personal)





I (eu)

Mine (al meu)

(to) me (mie)

me (pe mine)

You (tu)

Yours (al tau)

(to) you (tie)

you (pe tine)

He (el)

His (al lui)

(to) him (lui)

him (pe el)

She (ea)

Hers (al ei)

(to) her (ei)

her (pe ea)

It (el, ea) - pentru animale,  obiecte, lucruri neinsufletite

Its (al lui, al ei)-pentru animale, obiecte, lucruri neinsufletite

(to) it (lui, ei) -pentru animale, obiecte, lucruri neinsufletite

it (pe el, pe ea)-pentru animale, obiecte, lucruri neinsufletite)

We (noi)

Ours (al nostru)

(to) us (noua)

us (pe noi)

You (voi)

Yours = (al vostru)

(to) you (voua)

you (pe voi)

They (ei)

Theirs = (al lor)

(to) them (lor)

them (pe ei)


I am a big girl. 
He lives near the school.

We like chocolate very much.

Do you like football?

I watch my brother playing tennis.
You gave me a nice gift.
Give them a kiss from me!

The Personal Pronoun - is used to talk about:

the speaker (s): I, we

the person(s) we are speaking to: you

or the person(s) or things we are speaking about: he, she, it

Uses of "it": a) to talk about a thing: I lost my pencil. It was blue.

b) Impersonal "IT" (as subject in a sentence about time, weather or distance)

It's ten o'clock.

It is raining.

How far is Bucarest ? It is 180 Km.

c) Emphatic "IT" (to emphasize a word or a phrase)

It was Tom who came late last night.

d) Introductory "IT":

It is nice that you came.

2. The possessive pronoun and the possessive adjective

(Pronumele posesive adjectivul posesiv)

Example: Mother's car is new. Mine is old.

This is mine.

mine al meu, a mea, ai mei, ale mele
yours -
al tau, a ta, ai tai, ale tale
his -
al sau (a lui), a sa (a lui), ai sai (ai lui), ale sale (ale lui)
hers - al sau (a ei), a sa (a ei), ai sai (ai ei), ale sale (ale ei)
its own -
al sau, a sa, ai sai, ale sale (neutru)
ours -
al nostru, a noastra, ai nostri, ale noastre
yours -
al vostru, a voastra, ai vostri, ale voastre
their -
al lor, a lor, ai lor, ale lor

My brother is tall, but yours is taller.
His car is old, but hers is older.
I lost my pencil, can you lend me yours?

The possessive pronoun replaces both the object that is possessed and the person who possesses it.

The possessive adjective replaces the person who possesses something and determines the noun that expresses the object which is possessed:

This is her car. 

The possessive adjective: my, your, his, her, it (singular)

our, your, their (plural) The adjective "OWN" can be used after the possessive adjective to underline the idea of possession:

It was his own idea to go there.

3. The interrogative pronoun and the interrogative adjective

(Pronumele interogativ si adjectivul interogativ)

who cine?
whom? who? -
pe cine?
whose? -
al (a, ai, ale) cui?
what? -
care pe care,ce?
which? -
(pe) care dintre?

Whom did you see last Sunday?
Whose shoes are those?
What are you doing?
Which do you like more?

The interrogative pronoun occurs in an interrogative sentence and replaces the noun in the answer:

"Who is coming?"


The interrogative adjective determines a noun and helps to build a sentence"

Which books did you read?

"WHO" and "WHOM" can only be pronouns. The pronoun "WHO" is used only for persons:

Who is your teacher?

The interrogative pronouns and adjectives can have both a singular and a plural meaning:

Who are they?

Whose pen is this?

What film did you see?

Which books did you buy?

4. The demonstrative pronoun and the demonstrative adjective

(Pronumele demonstrative si adjecivul demonstrativ)

"near" reference (de apropiere): this (singular) - acesta, aceasta, asta, asta
(plural) - acestea, acestia, astia, astea

"distant reference (de departare): that (singular) - acela, aceea, ala, aia
(plural) - acelea, aceia, aia, alea

This is my brother.
Those are his parents.

The demonstrative pronouns usually express spatial and temporal relationship between the objects they stand for and the speaker:

That is our house.

The demonstrative adjective determines a noun and expresses the place of the noun in time or space:

This man helped me.

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