At the start of Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Canterville Ghost’ (1887), the titular specter is firmly in charge. Lord Canterville tells Mr Hiram B. Otis, an American minister who wants to buy the ancestral home, that his family has not been able to live there’since my grandaunt, the Dowager Duchess of Bolton, was frightened into a fit, from which she never really recovered, by two skeleton hands being placed on her shoulders as she was dressing for dinner’ (191). Later on, the reader learns of the many other triumphal appearances of the ghost, Simon de Canterville, who murdered his wife and was killed by her brothers in revenge in 1584. He revels in taking on different spectral guises — Gaunt Gideon, the Bloodsucker of Bexley Moor; Dumb Daniel, or the Suicide’s Skeleton; Reckless Rupert, or the Headless Earl — in order to frighten Canterville Chase’s inhabitants and visitors, sometimes to death. Mr Otis, however, is not at all disturbed by the revelation that his new home is haunted. He asserts that he is from ‘a modern country, where we can buy everything that money can buy’, so that if ghosts did exist, they would long ago have been acquired for an American museum or road show (191). His faith in the substantiating power of capitalism and the laws of nature is tested when a blood stain is found on the library floor that, despite vigorous treatment with Pinkerton’s Stain Remover and Paragon Detergent, keeps reappearing.
KeywordsInitial Inability Television Series Social Realm Cultural Imagination American Minister
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