Sunday, 28 March 2010

The Canterville Ghost

No tour through the literary landscape of The Ghost Story would be complete without Oscar Wilde's clever little tale The Canterville Ghost. He turns the whole concept on its head with the ancient titular ghost, who has spent several centuries not paying for the sins of his life by blithely terrifying the old house's residents and visitors to death and insanity, being driven to his own wits end by the American family who bring their own blithe modernity to bear in dealing with him. The results are very funny; Wilde is justly famous for his wit and his command of satire. It's not just a comedy though. There are more serious themes at work, not least the chance for redemption. Wilde also can find time between the fun to show he can use lyricism to evoke pathos with equal mastery. This is one you can read more than once, because like good poetry it doesn't always give everything up with the first reading.

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