Canterville Ghost Chapter 1 Summary
When Mr. Hiram B. Otis, the American Minister, bought Canterville Chase, every one told him he was doing a very foolish thing, as there was no doubt at all that the place was haunted. Indeed, Lord Canterville himself, who was a man of the most punctilious honour, had felt it his duty to mention the fact to Mr. Otis when they came to discuss terms. ‘We have not cared to live in the place ourselves,’ said Lord Canterville, ‘since my grand-aunt, 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, and I feel bound to tell you, Mr. Otis, that the ghost has been seen by several living members of my family, as well as by the rector of the parish, the Rev.
Augustus Dampier, who is a Fellow of King’s College, Cambridge. After the unfortunate accident to the Duchess, none of our younger servants would stay with us, and Lady Canterville often got very little sleep at night, in consequence of the mysterious noises that came from the corridor and the library.’ ‘My Lord,’ answered the Minister, ‘I will take the furniture and the ghost at a valuation.
I come from a modern country, where we have everything that money can buy; and with all our spry young fellows painting the Old World red, and carrying off your best actors and prima-donnas, I reckon that if there were such a thing as a ghost in Europe, we’d have it at home in a very short time in one of our public museums, or on the road as a show.’ ‘I fear that the ghost exists,’ said Lord Canterville, smiling, ‘though it may have resisted the overtures of your enterprising impresarios. It has been well known for three centuries, since 1584 in fact, and always makes its appearance before the death of any member of our family.’ ‘Well, so does the family doctor for that matter, Lord Canterville. But there is no such thing, sir, as a ghost, and I guess the laws of Nature are not going to be suspended for the British aristocracy.’
‘You are certainly very natural in America,’ answered Lord Canterville, who did not quite understand Mr. Otis’ last observation, ‘and if you don’t mind a ghost in the house, it is all right. Only you must remember I warned you.’ A few weeks after this, the purchase was concluded, and at the close of the season the Minister and his family went down to Canterville Chase. Mrs. Otis, who, as Miss Lucretia R. Tappan, of West 53rd Street, had been a celebrated New York belle, was now a very handsome, middle-aged woman, with fine eyes, and a superb profile. Many American ladies on leaving their native land adopt an appearance of chronic ill-health, under the impression that it is a form of European refinement, but Mrs. Otis had never fallen into this error. She had a magnificent constitution, and a really wonderful amount of animal spirits. Indeed, in many respects, she was quite English, and was an excellent example of the fact that we have really everything in common with America nowadays, except, of course, language.
Their eldest son, christened Washington by his parents in a moment of patriotism, which he never ceased to regret, was a fair-haired, rather good-looking young man, who had qualified himself for American diplomacy by leading the German at the Newport Casino for three successive seasons, and even in London was well known as an excellent dancer. Gardenias and the peerage were his only weaknesses. Otherwise he was extremely sensible. Miss Virginia E. Otis was a little girl of fifteen, lithe and lovely as a fawn, and with a fine freedom in her large blue eyes. She was a wonderful amazon, and had once raced old Lord Bilton on her pony twice round the park, winning by a length and a half, just in front of the Achilles statue, to the huge delight of the young Duke of Cheshire, who proposed for her on the spot, and was sent back to Eton that very night by his guardians, in floods of tears. After Virginia came the twins, who were usually called ‘The Stars and Stripes,’ as they were always getting swished.
They were delightful boys, and with the exception of the worthy Minister the only true republicans of the family. As Canterville Chase is seven miles from Ascot, the nearest railway station, Mr. Otis had telegraphed for a waggonette to meet them, and they started on their drive in high spirits. It was a lovely July evening, and the air was delicate with the scent of the pinewoods. Now and then they heard a wood pigeon brooding over its own sweet voice, or saw, deep in the rustling fern, the burnished breast of the pheasant. Little squirrels peered at them from the beech-trees as they went by, and the rabbits scudded away through the brushwood and over the mossy knolls, with their white tails in the air. As they entered the avenue of Canterville Chase, however, the sky became suddenly overcast with clouds, a curious stillness seemed to hold the atmosphere, a great flight of rooks passed silently over their heads, and, before they reached the house, some big drops of rain had fallen. Standing on the steps to receive them was an old woman, neatly dressed in black silk, with a white cap and apron.
This was Mrs. Umney, the housekeeper, whom Mrs. Otis, at Lady Canterville’s earnest request, had consented to keep on in her former position. She made them each a low curtsey as they alighted, and said in a quaint, old-fashioned manner,’I bid you welcome to Canterville Chase.’ Following her, they passed through the fine Tudor hall into the library, a long, low room, panelled in black oak, at the end of which was a large stained-glass window. Here they found tea laid out for them, and, after taking off their wraps, they sat down and began to look round, while Mrs. Umney waited on them. Suddenly Mrs. Otis caught sight of a dull red stain on the floor just by the fireplace and, quite unconscious of what it really signified, said to Mrs. Umney, I am afraid something has been spilt there.
‘Yes, madam,’ replied the old housekeeper in a low voice, ‘blood has been spilt on that spot.’ ‘How horrid,’ cried Mrs. Otis; ‘I don’t at all care for bloodstains in a sitting-room. It must be removed at once.’ The old woman smiled, and answered in the same low, mysterious voice, ‘It is the blood of Lady Eleanore de Canterville, who was murdered on that very spot by her own husband, Sir Simon de Canterville, in 1575. Sir Simon survived her nine years, and disappeared suddenly under very mysterious circumstances.
His body has never been discovered, but his guilty spirit still haunts the Chase. The blood-stain has been much admired by tourists and others, and cannot be removed.’ ‘That is all nonsense,’ cried Washington Otis; ‘Pinkerton’s Champion Stain Remover and Paragon Detergent will clean it up in no time,’ and before the terrified housekeeper could interfere he had fallen upon his knees, and was rapidly scouring the floor with a small stick of what looked like a black cosmetic. In a few moments no trace of the blood-stain could be seen. ‘I knew Pinkerton would do it,’ he exclaimed triumphantly, as he looked round at his admiring family; but no sooner had he said these words than a terrible flash of lightning lit up the sombre room, a fearful peal of thunder made them all start to their feet, and Mrs. Umney fainted. ‘What a monstrous climate!’ said the American Minister calmly, as he lit a long cheroot. ‘I guess the old country is so over-populated that they have not enough decent weather for everybody.
I have always been of opinion that emigration is the only thing for England. ‘My dear Hiram,’ cried Mrs. Otis, ‘what can we do with a woman who faints?’ ‘Charge it to her like breakages,’ answered the Minister; ‘she won’t faint after that;’ and in a few moments Mrs. Umney certainly came to. There was no doubt, however, that she was extremely upset, and she sternly warned Mr. Otis to beware of some trouble coming to the house. ‘I have seen things with my own eyes, sir,’ she said,’that would make any Christian’s hair stand on end, and many and many a night I have not closed my eyes in sleep for the awful things that are done here.’ Mr. Otis, however, and his wife warmly assured the honest soul that they were not afraid of ghosts, and, after invoking the blessings of Providence on her new master and mistress, and making arrangements for an increase of salary, the old housekeeper tottered off to her own room. FROM: Wikisource.
Excerpt from The Canterville Ghost, by Oscar Wilde.
1- Try and find as many words as you can from the “ghost / supernatural” semantic field: any word or phrase that has the same root or that is related to it. Organize your findings in a grid.
Ghost semantic field
Reality / down-to-earth semantic field
2- Write their translations, explain the differences of meaning. 3- Try and find the meaning of the following words / phrases: Foolish
For that matter
4- Use them in a sentence.
5- What could a “fawn” be? (In the saying: “lovely as a fawn”)
6- Discuss with a partner what you know about Oscar Wilde. Write a short summary of what you both know. 7- Using the title, guess what the story might be about. Which type of story do you expect it to be? 8- Imagine a story. Be creative!
9- Prepare 6 guesses: what do you think the story is going to deal with? 10- Prepare 6 questions to which you would like to find an answer in the first chapter. 11- Write 10 words you expect to find in the extract.
12- Imagine a short summary of the story using these words.
13- Discuss it with your partner.
Read the first paragraph of the story and answer the following questions: 1- What do we learn at the beginning of the story?
2- List all the information you are given about the main characters. 3- What do the following expressions refer to?
“The Stars and Stripes”
“She” won’t faint after that (end of the chapter).
The old housekeeper
4- Can you infer the meaning and word-class (for instance adjective, noun, verb, preposition…) of the following words & phrases? Indeed
5- Compare the description of the British Aristocracy (Lord Canterville) with that of the modern Americans. 6- What can you infer from these descriptions & their reactions? 7- Write 10 key-words you read.
8- Write a short summary of the story using those words and some connectors. (at least 5) 9- Check if you found the words you thought might appear in the text and tick the correct ones. 10- Try and answer your questions.
11- Prepare 6 more questions (& the answers to your questions) to ask your friends. 12- Pick out 5 verbs from the text and describe their forms (tense, active or passive voice…) and decide why this particular tense was chosen. Answer the following questions:
1- Who will be the main characters in your opinion?
2- What do you learn about them? (Draw a grid.)
3- Where does the story unfold? When?
4- What is the excerpt really about?
5- Did you enjoy it or not? Why?
6- Which type of short story is it?
7- In which ways is it different from usual ghost stories?
8- What must have been the author’s goal?
9- Do you think the story is a success? Why (not)?
10- Let’s list the key phrases & words from the text:
(To be learnt for next lesson):
To do a very foolish thing
There was no doubt that…
To be haunted
To discuss terms
To get very little sleep at night
To be enterprising
To warn someone
11- Add some which you did not know. (at least 3)
1- Write a summary of the first chapter.
2- Write a story using the title “The (name of your school) ghost”. It must be a mock ghost story, a parody. The best story (the most interesting, the most creative, the funniest….) will be selected by the class. 3- Make a poster about Oscar Wilde.
4- Prepare a talk on Oscar Wilde’s main novels, plays, short stories. 5- Learn the vocabulary.
6- Imagine a sequel to the story (the following chapters).
7- Imagine another title for the story.
8- Which type of stories do you enjoy most? Why?
9- Sum up your favourite story for the class.
Try and find as many words as you can from the “ghost / supernatural” semantic field: any word or phrase that has the same root or that is related to it.
Ghost semantic field
Reality / down-to-earth semantic field
Frightened into a fit
Several living members of my family
Makes its appearance before the death of any member of our family Curious stillness
Blood has been spilt
To discuss terms
As she was dressing for dinner
Got very little sleep at night
“that is all nonsense”
Try and find the meaning of the following words / phrases:
Foolish (= stupid) fool (noun) + -ish ( adjective)
Punctilius (=Strictly attentive to minute details of form in action or conduct. See synonyms at meticulous/ Precise; scrupulous.)
Duty (= what you are supposed to do)
Unfortunate ( = Characterized by undeserved bad luck; unlucky / Causing misfortune; disastrous)
Un- (prefix) + fortune (noun) + -ate ( adjective)
To reckon (=To consider as being; regard as / To think or assume.) Verb (informal)
For that matter (=as far as that is concerned)
= phrase (preposition + quantifier + noun)
Purchase (= something you buy)
1. The act of refining.
2. The result of refining; an improvement or elaboration.
3. The state or quality of being refined; cultivation, as in manners or taste. 4. A keen or precise phrasing; a subtle distinction.)
= noun (to refine, verb + suffix –ment noun)
Worthy ( =
1. Having worth, merit, or value; useful or valuable.
2. Honorable; admirable: a worthy fellow.
3. Having sufficient worth; deserving: worthy to be revered; worthy of acclaim.) = worth (noun) + suffix –y ( adjective)
Use them in a sentence.
This was a very foolish reaction!
Paul has always been extremely punctilius in all matters.
This is your duty. You don’t have a choice.
This unfortunate accident proved that the house was not safe at all. I reckon I saw the ghost this morning.
I don’t believe in ghosts myself for that matter.
What a lovely purchase!
One of his best qualities is the refinement of his language. He is not worthy of you!
What could a “fawn” be?
Like the deer and the stag, the fawn exercised great power over the early Celtic imagination. The Eacute;rainn King Lugaid Laígde pursued a fawn, probably a divine personification of Ireland itself. Aige and Sadb were transformed into fawns. Donn mac Midir used yet another woman transformed into a fawn to lure Fionn mac Cumhaill and his men. But some fawns are male, like Fionn’s son Oisín, whose name is still the Irish word for fawn. The fawn appears to be an antecedent of the stag in the Perceval legend. (Adapted from answer.com)
Discuss with a partner what you know about Oscar Wilde.
Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde (16 October 1854 – 30 November 1900) was an Irish playwright, poet and author of numerous short stories and one novel. Known for his biting wit, he became one of the most successful playwrights of the late Victorian era in London, and one of the greatest celebrities of his day. Several of his plays continue to be widely performed, especially The Importance of Being Earnest. As the result of a widely covered series of trials, Wilde suffered a dramatic downfall and was imprisoned for two years hard labour after being convicted of “gross indecency” with other men. After Wilde was released from prison he set sail for Dieppe by the night ferry. He never returned to Ireland or Britain Adapted from: Wikipedia.
Using the title, guess what the story might be about. Which type of story do you expect it to be? It will certainly be a ghost story, a gothic story.
Prepare 6 guesses: what do you think the story is going to deal with? (Use modals!!!) It might be about …
This story may deal with a cranky old ghost.
It could tell the story of a …
Prepare 6 questions to which you would like to find an answer in the first chapter. Is the ghost scary?
How do the inhabitants feel about it?
What is going to happen to the main characters?
What did the ghost to be forced to haunt a house?
What can he do to rest in peace at long last?
Who represents evil, who represents good?
Write 10 words you expect to find in the extract.
To haunt, to be haunted, to be scared to death, to scream, to howl, to be afraid, to run away, to hide, to moan, to cry. Imagine a short summary of the story using these words.
There was once a huge haunted castle in which the inhabitants kept being scared to death by a moaning ghost who kept rattling his chains & howling at night. The poor inhabitants kept crying, screaming, running away from him but there was no escaping him so they had to hide and then to move out at last.
Read the first paragraph of the story and answer the following questions: What do we learn at the beginning of the story? (1st paragraph) 2 characters are introduced:
Mr Hiram Otis, an American Minister who has bought Canterville Chase and Lord canterville, an English aristocrat. Lord Canterville has told Mr Otis that the place was haunted. List all the information you are given about the main characters. Mr Otis is American.
Lord Canterville is English and an aristocrat. He is a man of most punctilius honour and does not hide from his buyer that the castle is haunted. What do
the following expressions refer to?
“The Stars and Stripes” (= the twins)
The Minister (= Mr Otis)
“She” won’t faint after that (end of the chapter). (= Mrs Umney) The old housekeeper (= Mrs Umney)
Can you infer the meaning and word-class (for instance adjective, noun, verb, preposition…) of the following words & phrases? Indeed (link-word)
1. Without a doubt; certainly: very cold indeed; was indeed grateful. 2. In fact; in reality: felt sure I’d win, and indeed I did.
Aristocracy (noun, aristocrat + suffix –y)
1. A hereditary ruling class; nobility.
a. Government by a ruling class.
b. A state or country having this form of government.
a. Government by the citizens deemed to be best qualified to lead. b. A state having such a government.
4. A group or class considered superior to others.
(noun + verb + -ed, adjective)
Of or relating to middle age: middle-aged parents; middle-aged interests. Ill-health
(adjective + noun noun)
Poor health; sickness.
Compare the description of the British Aristocracy (Lord Canterville) with that of the modern Americans. What can you infer from these descriptions & their reactions? Lord Canterville is a man of punctilius honor whereas Mr Otis mocks the English and is quite derogatory when he mentions that money can buy anything, that the Americans would have bought ghosts if there were such things. Write 10 key-words you read.
Ghost, haunted, skeleton, nonsense, to faint, honest soul, frightened, modern country, old-fashioned, be scared. Write a short summary of the story using those words and some connectors. Canterville Chase is haunted by a ghost who had been scaring the British aristocracy for 300 years when it was bought by an American Minister who keeps comparing America, a modern country to Great Britain, an old-fashioned nation. Moreover, Mr. Otis is not afraid of the ghost. On the contrary, he doubts its existence. It’s nonsense according to his son, Washington. Later in the chapter his son even goes so far as removing a blood stain and that makes the old housekeeper, an honest soul, faint. She is afraid of the ghost and of skeletons. Pick out 5 verbs from the text and describe their forms (tense, active or passive voice…) and decide why this particular tense was chosen.
“When Mr. Hiram B. Otis, the American Minister, bought Canterville Chase” = past simple, used for a finished time. “every one told him he was doing a very foolish thing” = past continuous, used for a finished time but when we insist on the activity, its duration, when we give our opinion on the sentence (when we comment upon it). “We have not cared to live in the place ourselves” = present perfect, used when there is a connection with the present time, with “now” (indeed, nobody is living now at Canterville Chase, it’s still true). “lady canterville often got very little sleep at night” = past simple, used for a finished time + narrative tense. “I fear that…” = present simple, “fear”: you fear when you say it (then the present simple is used). Answer the following questions:
Who will be the main characters in your opinion?
Mr. Otis & his family (Washington seems quite enterprising), the ghost. What do you learn about them? (Draw a grid.)
Talks about America in a very proud way
Insulting (without meaning to), proud
Does not believe in ghosts
Removes the blood stain
Is trying to defeat the ghost from the start
Tells Mr. otis about the ghost
Tries to warn the family
Where does the story unfold? When?
In Great Britain, at the end of the 19th century (1584 + 300 = 1884). What is the excerpt really about?
It’s about American & British values. Money vs tradition.
Which type of short story is it?
It is the parody of a ghost story.
In which ways is it different from usual ghost stories?
There’s a gothic castle but the new owners are not scared to death. They even doubt the ghost’s existence! What must have been the author’s goal?
Write a summary of the first chapter.
Mr. Otis, an American Minister, buys a property in England called Canterville Chase, against the advice of his friends and the owner himself, Lord Canterville, who assures him that it is haunted. Lord Canterville’s family has chosen not to live there because of the ghost. His grandaunt never recovered from her fright caused by two skeleton hands grabbing her shoulders.
Mr. Otis says that he does not believe there is such a thing as a ghost, and says he will take the house and the ghost if it does indeed come with it. Lord Canterville replies that the ghost’s existence has been well known since 1584, and always appears before the death of a member of his family. A few weeks later, when the purchase is complete, the family moves into Canterville Chase. Mr. Otis is accompanied by his wife, who is a good-looking woman of good health, and their four children. The eldest is a son named Washington, a handsome, sensible young man who is also good at dancing. Virginia is the only daughter, and is fifteen years old. She is “lithe and lovely” and an accomplished rider. She even beat the young Duke of Cheshire in a race, and he was so impressed by her he proposed to her. The youngest children are the twins, otherwise known as the “stars and stripes” because they are always being switched for their mischievousness. The Otises have a lovely drive to their new property, seeing squirrels, rabbits and birds along the way. However, as they approach Canterville Chase, the sky becomes dark, and everything is very still.
The housekeeper, Mrs. Umney, greets them and tells them about the bloodstain on the library floor when asked by Mrs. Otis. She tells them that the stain mysteriously cannot be removed, and is the blood of Lady Eleanore de Canterville who was murdered there by here husband, Sir Simon, in 1575. Sir Simon lived for another nine years, but then mysteriously disappeared. His body was never found, but his ghost haunts the house. Washington says her story is nonsense, and proceeds to remove the stain with stain remover. There is a clap of thunder and Mrs. Umney faints. When she awakes, Mrs. Umney warns the Otis’ to be wary because she has seen the truth of the ghost’s existence, and has spent many sleepless nights in the house. All of the Otises, however, state that they are not afraid of ghosts. (From Bookrags.com).