"The Canterville Ghost" is a popular short story by Oscar Wilde, widely adapted for the screen and stage. It was the first of Wilde's stories to be published, appearing in the magazine The Court and Society Review in February 1887. It was later included in a collection of short stories entitled Lord Arthur Savile's Crime and Other Stories in 1891.
The story of the Canterville Ghost takes place in an old English country house, Canterville Chase, which has all the accoutrements of a traditional haunted house.
“The Canterville Ghost” is a study in contrasts. Wilde takes an American family, places them in a British setting, then, through a series of mishaps, pits one culture against the other. He creates stereotypical characters that represent both England and the United States, and he presents each of these characters as comical figures, satirizing both the unrefined tastes of Americans and the determination of the British to guard their traditions. Sir Simon is not a symbol of England, as perhaps Mrs. Umney is, but rather a paragon of British culture. In this sense, he stands in perfect contrast to the Otises. Sir Simon misunderstands the Otises just as they misunderstand him, and, by pitting them against each other, Wilde clearly wishes to emphasize the culture clash between England and the United States.
The story illustrates Wilde’s tendency to reverse situations into their opposites as the Otises gain the upper hand and succeed in terrorizing the ghost rather than be terrorized by him.