HOLY CRAP, IT’S OSCAR WILDE!!
OK, so here’s the deal, I have adored Oscar Wilde for a long time, but…I’ve never actually read him :P. Until now that is…
I have always admired Oscar Wilde. I have great respect for his audacity and tenacity, and for the courage he had to be himself at a time when being outside the mainstream was more than uncomfortable. Yet, despite my respect for Wilde the man, I have never had an opportunity to appreciate Wilde the author. Back in January, I sought to remedy the problem by picking up Collins’ Complete Works of Oscar Wilde which I have since allowed to sit on my TBR pile unmolested. Last week I had my first encounter with the Wilde Man.
The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde, 1887.
Publisher: Harper Collins
Source: Personal Collection – Purchased New
Reason for Reading: Reputation of Author
American minister Hiram Otis and his family have recently moved to Canterville Chase, just outside of London. The previous owners made it quite clear to the Otis family upon purchase of the estate that the home was haunted. Being a practical, upstanding family with republican values, the Otises don’t believe in anything of the supernatural sort. The reappearing blood stain in the front room and the perpetual visits of a rather noisy, translucent visitor with a taste for the theatrical, however, quickly convince the good American minister and his kin otherwise. What do they say about the presence of this apparition in their abode? How rude!! As desperate as he is to scare the wits out of his newest victims, it seems this ghost may have bitten off more than he can chew.
“The next day the ghost was very weak and tired. 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 Canterville Ghost, page 9.
The extraordinary humor in this story was an unexpected treat. Truly, the refined British ghost is at a loss to understand this unruly, unrefined family of foreigners. I was in stitches reading this short story; honestly, who could come up with something like this, a ghost being driven bananas by the people he is desperately trying to haunt? The story comes together so nicely in the end with its message of acceptance and forgiveness, but the change in tone doesn’t effect the overall jocular nature of the work.
If this story is indicative of authentic Oscar Wilde, the man may quickly move to the top spot among my favorite authors. I know it doesn’t make much of a review, but I honestly don’t know what else to say. When I finish a story with a smile as broad as the one engendered by this Wilde tale, I can’t help but be speechless…