The ghost story genre, though historically well-received, reached a new level of popularity in the Victorian era. Much of the appeal of the genre stemmed from finding some escape from the malaise of the fin de siècle. Oscar Wilde, a critic of and commentator for his time, would take this much beloved genre and adapt it into a unique style consistent with many of his other works. This essay consists of a close reading of Wilde’s 1887 novella, “The Canterville Ghost,” in order to examine his attempts to invert the conventions of the typical horror story. Though the primary focus will be on the comedic elements prevalent within the text, there is a deeper complexity that belies the surface humor. Much like other Wildean works, the story will be shown to be a reconciliation with the genre, not a rejection of it. In the end, “The Canterville Ghost” will be shown to operate as a hybrid, borrowing aspects from comedy, horror, religion, and even romance, creating a completely unique story that has remained influential even until the present.
The genre of the ghost story seemed to reach a sort of revival during the Victorian period. Though the popularity of the genre existed long before the reign of Victoria, historian Jack Sullivan notes that critics consider the period between the decline of the Gothic novel and the start of the First World War to be the “Golden Age of the Ghost Story”. Works like “The Old Nurse’s Story” and “The Open Door” in England, or “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and “The Masque of the Red Death” in America, became foundational texts in the canon of the horrific. A possibility is that the typical Victorian was fascinated with the macabre as a sort of escape from their mundane world, a decadent fantasy existing in direct opposition to the ennui they faced in their reality. It is no wonder, then, that Oscar Wilde would take this staple of the era in which he lived and mutate it into something that is both a criticism and reflection of the time. Wilde’s 1887 novella, “The Canterville Ghost,” is his attempt to invert the typical horror story, but, much like other Wildean works, it is not entirely what it seems. Instead, this story operates as a hybrid, borrowing aspects from comedy, horror, religion, and beyond, creating a completely unique kind of tale.
As the story opens, the audience is, like the American Otis family, introduced to the English manor of Canterville Chase, a house that “there was no doubt at all that [it] was haunted” (Wilde 184). All of the surrounding townsfolk, and even descendants of the Cantervilles, are frightened of the old mansion. There is a sense of fascination within the locals that surrounds the legend of the cruel Sir Simon de Canterville. This kind of awe, whether reverential or frightened, is completely lost upon the Otis family. According to patriarch Hiram, it would be chiefly anti-American to believe in ghosts. “’I reckon that if there were such a thing as a ghost in Europe, we’d have it in a very short time in one of our public museums, or on the road as a show,’” he tells Lord Canterville as the two finalize the sale of the property (184). Not only does this quote raise the role capitalism plays in this story, it also highlights Hiram’s credo that believing in ghosts is absurd. This is ironic, considering that he is a minister; faith, like superstition, requires belief. Once the Otises purchase the manor, the stage is set for a terrifying tale, but, knowing Wilde, it’s most likely not going to remain that way for long. When touring the manner, the Otises notice a stain on the floor of the library, a stain described by the housekeeper, Mrs. Umney, as “the blood of Lady Elanore de Canterville, who was murdered […] by her very own husband, Sir Simon de Canterville. [… It] has been much admired by tourists and others, and cannot be removed’” (186). Eldest son Washington is then prompted to procure a bottle of “’Pinkerton’s Champion Stain Remover and Paragon Detergent’ [… and] In a few moments no trace of the blood-stain could be seen” (186). Like Hiram, the other members of the Otis family have no time for the nonsense of ghosts. Washington’s act once again inspires the capitalistic spirit suggested by his father. While the bloodstain will return, its initial scouring demonstrates the mythic power of the American materialistic economy, an attitude that anything can be fixed for the right price, additionally rooting “The Canterville Ghost” within the genre of social satire. The superstitious nature of ghosts is extremely weakened if they can be defeated with money. This instance, however, is only a foreshadowing of the effect the Americans have over the ghost.
These scenes have the added benefit of highlighting what is suspenseful in order to make the humor even sharper. When Lord Canterville or Mrs. Umney invoke Simon, they often refer to the cruel and gruesome acts he performed on others, like attacking Lady Stutfield or startling the family butler so badly that he ended up shooting himself. As “the moments of suspense are only a few with respect to the comic elements and the humoristic devices used by the author in the book, […] they are profoundly effective and respond to what can be expected from the most traditional Gothic novel”, creating a juxtaposition that underscores the comedic (Balakrishnan 205). The fear experienced by others does not translate to the Otis family and, almost in mockery, they debase the frightening power of Simon. Their irreverence to the legacy of the Cantervilles eventually inspires the ire of the aforementioned phantasm.
As the expatriates settle into their new home, Hiram eventually comes face to face with the specter himself, Sir Simon de Canterville. He is described as having “eyes […] as red as burning coals; long grey hair [falling] 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 gyres”; a most petrifying sight, indeed (Wilde 187). One would expect Hiram Otis to flee in fear, but the American minister simply tells the ghost, “’I really must insist in you oiling those chains, and have brought you for that purpose a small bottle of the Tammany Rising Sun Lubricator’”, offering Simon the bottle and leaving him in stunned silence (187). Hiram’s attempted good act not only reveals, yet again, that American ingenuity can outwit superstition, it makes the once-abhorrent ghost impotent. The Otis family have no reason to fear Simon because they can directly influence him.
This brings into play the subtitle of the novella, as the full title reads “The Canterville Ghost: A Hylo-Idealistic Romance.” Considering “Hylo-idealism is the philosophical position that reality exists by virtue of our belief in it”, it is entirely possible that “the Cantervilles all must have believed the ghost could hurt them, thereby allowing him to do so” (Dierkes-Thrun). Because the Otises doubt the power of the ghost, they are able to undermine it without fear of repercussion. Simon, taken aback by this lapse of weakness, returns to his hidden chamber and reflects upon the terrors he inflicted on the Canterville family, reinforcing how after all his effort, a meager family of Americans got the best of him.
It is here Wilde yet again inverts one’s expectations, as the narrative’s point-of-view shifts to focus on Simon, solidifying that “This ghost story is told not from the point of view of the castle occupants, as in traditional tales, but from the perspective of the ghost” (Balakrishnan 209). The story becomes less about how the Otis family deals with the ghost in their house and more about how Simon deals with the Americans in his home. What would normally be frightening in a ghost story becomes amusing because of this inversion: “Picture to yourself certain characters in a certain situation: if you reverse the situation and invert the roles, you obtain a comic scene” (Bergson). This simple inversion turns the story into one where the ghost must find a way to regain his terrible power. Simon resolves to increase his assault tenfold, and what started as the basis for a classic ghost story has been entirely vitiated.
Simon is ultimately humiliated by this futility because he is so very proud of himself. He spends many nights gleefully recalling many of the innumerable, horrible deeds he inflicted on others during his afterlife, thinking “of the Dowager Duchess, whom he had frightened into a fit as she stood before the glass in her lace and diamonds; of the four housemaids, who had gone into hysterics when he merely grinned at them through the curtains on one of the spare bedroom” and many others over the centuries (Wilde 188). With nothing but time and disdain, he settles into his ghastly role. Something about the sadist archetype allows the reader a sort of cathartic release; seeing someone who takes such joy in committing these atrocities is both unsettling and amusing. One of his recurring attempts to scare the Otises comes in the form of the bloodstain. Though the spot would be cleaned and cleaned again, it kept on reappearing, sometimes “a dull (almost Indian) red, then it would be vermillion, then a rich purple, and once […] they found it a bright emerald-green.” (189). Simon is a bit of a cliché, all things considered. Even though the Otis family may not appreciate the lengths to which he goes to in order to keep up his appearance as a frightening ghoul, he nonetheless resorts to his basic tricks. After hundreds of years of haunting, all he knows are the routines he has become familiar with. Along with his acts, Simon takes great delight in the many wardrobes he uses. In order to not become bored of the same routine over and over again, he invents many characters he assumes the mantles of during his fright-runs, such as “’Black Isaac, or the Huntsman of Hogley Woods’” or “’Reckless Rupert, or the Headless Earl’” (193). His many costumes are extremely elaborate, some requiring hours of preparation. Simon’s obsession with appearances is a pervasive motif across his hauntings. He does not solely desire to be a vengeful specter; rather, he wants to appear as one, too. This attention to detail makes Simon somewhat of a dandy, as his “stress on the clothes […] gives the Ghost an element of puerility which augments the contrast and reinforces the parody” (Balakrishnan 207). Much like his aesthete author, Simon desires to make a strong visual impact so that he may be remembered. His legacy has been preserved among the Canterville family for generations and desires to continue his eternal torment. He is a sucker for “the classics” and his use of the many spectral banalites over the years has been successful. Until the arrival of the Otis family.
Not only are the Otises completely unafraid of Simon, the ghost is, in actuality, haunted by the living. As Simon attempts to intimidate the family, the Stars and Stripes, the young Otis twins, set themselves upon him. At every turn, they toss their pillows at him, drop buckets upon him, or set up a butter-slide for him to fall down. Their biggest prank, however, comes one night when, as Simon traverses the hallways in search of someone to haunt, he comes face to face with a terrible sight:
“Right in front of him was standing a horrible spectre, motionless as a carven image, and monstrous as a madman’s dream! Its head was bald and burnished; its face round, and fat, and white; and hideous laughter seemed to have writhed its features into an eternal grin. From the eyes streamed rays of scarlet light, the mouth was a wide well of fire, and a hideous garment, like to his own, swathed with its silent snows the Titan form” (Wilde 191).
In fear, Simon flees, returning later only to find that he had been outwitted and scared by Ye Otis Ghoste. It is ironic that the thing which would most scare a ghost is another ghost, but after all, Simon has never seen another ghost before now. Whether there are even other spirits, or if Simon is the only the ghost in existence, is never mentioned in the novella. This scene introduces the fact that that Simon is unique and ultimately alone, estranged from the humans and ghosts alike, while also demonstrating how the Otises are able to torment Simon to no end. After enough of these kinds of incidents, “The terrible excitement […] was beginning to have its effect. His nerves were completely shattered, and he started at the slightest noise”, and eventually ceased his attacks on the Otis family (193). It is amusing to imagine a ghost undergoing an anxiety attack, considering that it is usually them who could cause anxiety in humans. This is yet another inversion which serves to make the text a parody of its genre.
It is important to keep in mind that “The Canterville Ghost” is not a pure comedy, though so far it may seem to be the case. This novella is based on the foundations of the horror genre and, although it parodies many of the conventions of horror, it also embraces them: “the Gothic recurs as its own doppelganger, a double whose uncanny likeness satire attempts to disavow, but the spectre proves resistant to parody” (O’Connor 330). Through his many bumbling failures, it’s easy to forget the kind of monster Simon de Canterville is. As mentioned earlier, Simon takes delight in the deeds he has committed upon the descendants of his family, but some of them are particularly horrid, like choking “the wicked Lord Canterville […] in his dressing-room with the knave of diamonds half-way down his throat” or forcing “Lady Barbara Modish [… to break] off her engagement with the present Lord Canterville’s grandfather, and [run] away to Gretna Green with handsome Jack Castleton,” ending with Lady Barbara dying of a broken heart after Jack is killed in a duel (Wilde 188-193). Simon’s most terrible act, however, took form in the death of his wife, Lady Elanore, presumably his first victim, who he admits to killing for “’being very plain, never [having his] ruffs properly starched, and [knowing] nothing about cookery’” (196). Between his love of outfits and his petty reasoning for his wife’s murder, it’s apparent that Simon’s hubris and fascination with dandyism is also what drove him to his gruesome nature. His ire for the living ultimately culminates in his own death: being chained to a wall by his late wife’s brothers and starving, “trying to grasp […] an old-fashioned trencher and ewer, that were placed just out of [his] reach” (201). It is equally easy to paint Simon as an inept ghost as it is to paint him as some frightful revenant, but the truth that Wilde conceivably could have attempted to convey is far more complex. Simon is both amusing and horrifying, and he is also a man tormented by his past, unable to escape the hell that he has created for himself. At first glance, this novella seems to hide its comedic presence behind horror undertones, but the genre of fear is not entirely concealed.
This dichotomy between humor and horror becomes most prevalent at the start of the fifth chapter, when the tone of the story yet again shifts as a background character comes to prominence. Virginia Otis, once relegated to be an observer of the events at Canterville Chase, comes face to face with Simon one day, after his retirement from haunting. Entering the Tapestry Chamber, she finds Simon in a deep melancholy and beseeches him to behave himself if he does not want to be tormented, to which the spirit replies, “’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’” (196). It is rather peculiar to muse on the existential intent of ghosts. Death could have been potentially liberating for the cruel-natured Simon. Whereas in life he may not have been sure of his reason to live, in death he has found a morbid purpose to justify his continued existence. It may not be the most pleasant task nor is it one he necessarily enjoys, but he has nevertheless come to identify himself with his role. He calls the Otis family a group of “’horrid, rude, vulgar, dishonest’” people and Virginia contests this, bringing up the fact that Simon “’stole the paints out of [her] box to try and furbish up that ridiculous blood-stain in the library’”(196). The truth of the reappearing blood-stain has been revealed, and rather than coming from some supernatural realm, the multicolored spot ‘s nature is far more mundane. What was once terrifying has become commonplace. Simon’s many acts have been “deprived from their awe and reduced to the daily level”, performing his functions in order to continue his centuries-long traditions (Balakrishnan 211). This quote is made additionally humorous by the fact that Virginia is angry at Simon for using up all of her colors and leaving her with “’indigo and Chinese white, and [now she] could only do moonlight scenes, which are always depressing to look at, and not at all easy to paint’” (Wilde 197). It is completely absurd to imagine a scene where a young lady yells at a ghost for not being able to paint, but that is exactly the scene Wilde has constructed for his readers. By highlighting Simon’s need to keep up the appearances of a haunting spirit, Wilde yet again shows the weakness that underscores his performances. Simon has been utterly defeated by prankster children, by American capitalism, and finally by the wrath of a young woman.
Succumbing to his own misery, Simon reveals the true nature of his sorrow to Virginia, the one member of the Otis family to actually show some level of concern for him. He acknowledges his loneliness, unhappiness, and restlessness to her, admitting that “’for three hundred years [he has] not slept and [he is] so tired’” (197). Though he has long pretended to enjoy the schadenfreude he has inflicted upon others, in actuality he is tormented by his crimes. The pain he has caused weighs heavily on his soul and now, more than anything, he desires some respite from his role. He tells Virginia of the Garden of Death, the one place where he will be able to sleep:
‘Far away beyond the pine-woods,’ he answered, in a low dreamy voice, “there is a little garden. There the grass grows long and deep, there are the great white stars of the hemlock flower, there the nightingale sings all night long. All night long he sings, and the cold, crystal moon looks down, and the yew-tree spreads out its giant arms over the sleepers” (197).
Images of the poisonous hemlock plant and the yew tree, often aligned as symbols of death, depict the immense beauty and solemnity of the Garden. The landscape Wilde describes, no matter how beautiful, is also chilling, as the land is permeated by the presence of other “sleepers”, the vast and countless dead. Not only will Simon be able to finally rest there, he will also no longer be alone, joined by an infinite number of those like him. It is this desire, “’To lie in the soft brown earth, with the grass waving above one’s head, and listen to silence. To have no yesterday, and no to-morrow. To forget time, to forget life, to be at peace,” which he confides in Virginia, exposing the terrors of the universe to the unspoiled maiden (198).
From the novella’s opening, Virginia is portrayed as a symbol of naivety and innocence. Her introduction in the first chapter describes her as “a little girl of fifteen, lithe and lovely as a fawn, and with a fine freedom in her large blue eyes” (185). Though this description initially implies a delicate nature, the independence reflected in her eyes is underscored by her rejection of the Duke of Cheshire’s marriage proposal, who was “sent back to Eton that very night by his guardians, in a flood of tears” (185). Her repudiation of the Duke keeps her chaste, untouched, and, above all, pure. She is not bound to another and, in many respects, is able to take care of herself. It is very much like Wilde to write a capable, independent female character. The Duke’s proposal, however, additionally complicate matters for Virginia. It is never explicitly stated in the text, but what “would have been understood by its contemporary audience, is the reason the Otises have relocated to England in the first place: to marry Virginia into the aristocracy” (O’Connor 335). It was commonplace in Wilde’s time for rich American families to marry into British royalty, trading wealth for title. Yet another instance of the power commerce holds in Wilde’s world. Even her name, which honors the commonwealth located in America, reflects her immaculate nature and underlines the story’s subtextual conflict between America and England. Virginia, among the oldest colonial territories and a birthplace of the United States, was named “in honor of ‘The Virgin Queen,’” Elizabeth I (State Symbols USA). The innocence in Virginia Otis’ name is reflected her actions; for instance, in the moment she first encounters Simon in the Tapestry Chamber.
Facing this supernatural phenomenon for the first time, although she is nearly overcome with fear, she “was filled with pity, and determined to try to comfort him” (Wilde 196). There is no maliciousness in her intent, unlike her younger brothers. Instead, her instinct is to reach out and attempt to comfort him, emphasizing the benevolence within her. Simon, at first surprised by this kindness, engages in conversation with her. Although this is a rare reaction for Simon, it is equally as rare for a human to approach him without repulsion. He informs her of his ghastly existential purpose, admits his motivation for murdering his wife, reveals his death by starvation, and confides in her his longing for eternal rest. These sorts of macabre revelations would be a lot for anyone to handle, especially an unexposed, fifteen year old young woman. Virginia’s response is both humorous and depicts her kind, albeit naive, nature. She offers Simon the “’sandwich in [her] case” if he is hungry and tells him that if he wants to go to sleep, “’You have merely to go to bed and blow out the candles. […] Why, even babies know how to do that, and they are not very clever’” (197). It’s ridiculous to imagine a teenager instructing a ghost on how to sleep, but the audience has so-far accepted a ghost that is scared of the humans he intended to haunt. Wilde has constructed an environment where the ludicrous becomes logical. Yet, there is a kind of innocence that belies her reactions. She does not know how she can help Simon but offers herself anyways. Realizing the purity in her heart, he recalls to Virginia the old prophecy written in the library and informs her of its meaning:
“’They mean,’ he said sadly, ‘that you must weep for me for my sins, because I have no tears, and pray for me for my soul, because I have no faith, and then, if you have always been good, and gentle, and sweet, the Angel of Death will have mercy. You will see fearful shapes in darkness, and wicked voices will whisper in your ear, but they will not harm you, for against the purity of a little child the powers of Hell cannot prevail’” (198).
He sees her sympathy and pristine love as the source of his salvation, and the steadfast Virginia, the strong-willed young lady that she is, agrees to enter harm’s way in order to help him. Risking her virginal purity and her very existence, she follows Simon to the land of the dead, spurred on by the strength of her ardor. This self-sacrifice augments the complexity of the story, adding to the comedic and horrific elements already presented, and continues into the novella’s conclusion.
Virginia’s acceptance of Simon’s request and her traversal to the Garden of Death introduces yet another genre into the already bursting story, that of the religious text. Christianity and his many opposing views on it are a key function of Wilde’s works. Like most everything dealing with Wilde, his relationship with religion is paradoxical: “He and his brother were baptised as infants into the Church of Ireland. […] Lady Wilde, however, […] just to be sure of their salvation […] may have had her boys baptised [sic] as Catholics when Wilde was about four” (Cavill 337). From a young age, he was torn between the two sects, grappling with determining his own thoughts and feelings on religion. This additional facet of his personality with which he struggled is reflected in many of his stories’ characters, who often act in contradiction to traditional Christian doctrines. It is far more rare for Wilde to express his unadulterated philosophy in a character, but it is possible to see a reflection of Wilde in Virginia Otis. Wilde did not consider Christianity in a traditional sense, but instead “he viewed Christ and Christianity as capable of transforming human beings into sentient people who demonstrate sympathy as well as self-reliance” (Quintus 515). Virginia, spurred on by her purity and her faith, follows Simon into potential self-obliteration in order to give him a chance at salvation. She does not fear for herself, caring more about helping the specter achieve peace. Her religion gives her the strength to pursue this arduous task, a shining example of Wilde’s credo. She takes Simon by his ephemeral hand, enters the realm of the dead, and disappears from Canterville Chase without a trace; for all intents and purposes, she is now lost to the living. Her family, joined by the Duke of Cheshire, police officers, and a band of gypsies, scour the land, but “Not the slightest trace of Virginia had been discovered” (Wilde 200). She remains missing for the rest of the day, leaving her family nearly in mourning, until, at midnight, from “out on the landing, looking very pale and white, with a little casket in her hand, stepped Virginia” (200). The parallel created between Virginia and Jesus in this scene is almost too perfect. Technically, while Virginia never died, she finds herself amidst death, separated from her reality, and, after a period of time, returns to the land of the living. Wilde’s fascination with the theology becomes extremely overt in this scene. Virginia’s holiness and resurrection, shown when she prays to Simon and “a beautiful light seemed to illumine her face”, is a testament to the strength and fidelity of her character, as augmented by the purity of her faith (201). However, she does not return from the realm beyond unscathed.
While her family is delighted at her return, Virginia was obviously affected in her attempt to save Simon. Mrs. Otis, upon finding her daughter, “kissed the trembling child, and smoothed the tangled gold of her hair” (201). This description is the barest indication of the horrors she conceivably could have experienced, but Virginia does not otherwise appear to be visually distressed. The greatest signal of her internal disquiet comes as she leads her family through the house and reveals to them Simon’s skeleton, chained to the wall. She kneels down beside him, praying, and after a moment, rises and speaks: “’God has forgiven him,’ Virginia said gravely” (201). Years later, when her husband asks what happened to her when she confronted the ghost, Virginia merely replies, “’I have never told anyone, Cecil,’ said Virginia gravely” (204). Though her life continues on and she and her family achieve status and happiness, the adverb “gravely” is used whenever she mentions the topic of Simon and the Garden of Death. Something terrible and unspeakable, something befitting a horror story, must have happened to her while she was praying for Simon’s soul, and her refusal to acknowledge the specifics indicates how horrific it must have been. It does not seem like such a sacrifice would ultimately be worthwhile, but the ghost of Simon, the Otis family, and Virginia each manage to benefit from the episode.
The subtitle of “The Canterville Ghost” emphasizes that the story is not just a comedy or horror tale. Above all, Wilde determined this text to be a romance and, the romantic that he is, ensures a merry ending and that the characters are justly rewarded for their trials. After three hundred years, Simon’s remains are finally laid to rest, lowered into a grave “in the corner of the churchyard, just under the old yew-tree […] And […] the moon came out from behind a cloud, and flooded with its silent silver light the little churchyard, and from a distant copse a nightingale began to sing” (202). This description immediately evokes the imagery of the Garden of Death; the cemetery was the land he long yearned to enter. Though he pretended to take pride in his ghastly role, the guilt of centuries’ worth of horrors weighed heavily on him, and thanks to Virginia’s sacrifice, the Canterville ghost is at peace. On Virginia’s return from rescuing Simon’s spirit, she is gifted with a box of “perfectly magnificent [jewels], especially a certain ruby necklace with old Venetian setting, which was really a superb specimen, and their value was so great that Mr. Otis felt considerable scruples about allowing his daughter to accept them” (202). This is an unexpected change in personality for Hiram Otis, who, like many others in his family, reveled in the strength of capitalism and commerce. However, as reminded by Lord Canterville, when Mr. Otis “’took the furniture and the ghost at a valuation [… he] acquired [Simon’s] property by purchase” (203). Even attempting to reject capitalism’s brute strength as an economic force is futile. The system that the Otises so readily accepted ensure the family’s continued prosperity. As for Virginia, she marries the Duke of Cheshire:
“in the spring of 1890, the young Duchess of Cheshire was presented at the Queen’s first drawing-room on the occasion of her marriage, [and] her jewels were the universal theme of admiration. For Virginia received the coronet, which is the reward of all good little American girls, and was married to her boy-lover as soon as he came of age” (203).
For her virtue and her kindness, Virginia is granted the greatest reward of all. She fulfilled her family’s wishes and is wed into aristocracy, she is gifted with a wondrous array of gemstones, and perhaps most importantly, she is taught an important sentiment by Simon de Canterville. When the Duke asks her to explain what happened the night she disappeared, Virginia confides in him, “’He made me see what Life is, and what Death signifies, and why Love is stronger than both’” (204). Simon committed a rare act of kindness for Virginia, granting her vital knowledge and perspective on existence. She incorporates that lesson into her life, cherishing her marriage to the Duke of Cheshire and burying the scars of the past with Simon’s bones in Canterville Chase.
The influence “The Canterville Ghost” has had on modern texts and media is almost too vast to describe. Horror-comedy hybrid stories are a much beloved form of entertainment in today’s society. The lasting popularity of films like Ghostbusters, Young Frankenstein, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, all comedies with their roots firmly entrenched in horror, will be impossible to track. They have become major cultural icons integrated into our daily lives. In general, hybrid genre fiction has the ability to touch a wider range of audiences and point out the strengths and weaknesses of its individual genre components. Though not the first, “The Canterville Ghost,” Wilde’s “attack [on] a literary form, usually considered of low quality, which was quite popular among readers” elevates the genre to a new form, making it among the best examples of hybrid genre fiction (Balakrishnan 212). Not only does it blend comedic, satirical, horrific, religious, and romantic elements, Wilde develops a new kind of genre unique to his own style. Part decadent revelation, part cultural rejection, and part paradox, Wilde’s stories contain this quality of hitting just close enough to the truth to be meta-reflective, sharp, and poignant, giving them a universal appeal.
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