Humane & Compassionate Narrative in The Canterville Ghost

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Is the Canterville Ghost a humorous story only? Or is it more of a humane and compassionate narrative? Support your answer with reason and illustrations from the story.


      True to classical tradition, Oscar Wilde puts in unexpected and topsy-turvy incidents without forewarning for creating humour. We expect to be horrified by the ghoulish antics of the Ghost and their terrible effects on the Otis family members. Instead, we see that the Otises, far from being scared, behave in a totally offhanded manner, not giving any importance to the Ghost at all! They heap a series of humiliations and insults upon the Ghost, who is frustrated and cornered, and finally gives up his attempts to scare the Otises. Thus humour is generated out of a situation that is reversed. We are tickled by the dreadful ghost’s predicament triggered by human beings. But still, it is not a funny story only.

      It soon becomes clear that Wilde’s sympathy lies with the Ghost. He transforms the Ghost from an evil terrorizer to a pitiable, lonely figure, rejected by Death and trapped in a state of uncertainty. Virginia’s love and concern reveals his true self yearning for salvation. Wilde wants to tell us that Love and Mercy are the two most potent forces that can change even the meanest criminal into a law-abiding person. We are deeply touched by the Ghost’s plight when he says that he hasn’t slept for three hundred years, and now craves eternal peace and rest, but cannot attain it. He appears totally human, wretched and dejected, pleading for the compassionate support of Virginia, which he finally gets as a consequence of his repentance, after having suffered for three hundred years. So, ultimately The Canterville Ghost turns out to be a humanitarian narrative.

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