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Literary Devices in The Canterville Ghost

Wilde uses traditional Gothic imagery and conventions, often for comedic effect. The old Canterville mansion is set within the English landscape, which is described as gloomy and foreboding. When the Otis family rub out the bloodstain in the carpet, the sky flashes with lightning, causing the English maidservant to faint with terror. However, the fact that the Otis family remain unperturbed by this conventional Gothic imagery furthers the parody of the narrative. Wilde further subverts these conventions of the horror genre through the ghost of Sir Simon, who at one point is found struggling to get into a suit of armor, and later is himself scared by the twins’ own evocation of a ghost. These moments of humorous irony permeate the text and further the theme of culture clash between England and America.

Literary Devices Examples in The Canterville Ghost:

Chapter I.

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"we..."   (Chapter I.)

Wilde's narrator interjects his own voice several times throughout the story. While we are not privy to the identity of the narrator nor their relationship to the family, this inclusive pronoun "we" demonstrates that the narrator identifies as English. Based on this, readers should understand that many of the narrator's observations of the contrasting cultures are exaggerated and done for humorous effect.

"the sky became suddenly overcast with clouds..."   (Chapter I.)

Wilde juxtaposes the beautiful, idyllic English countryside with the gloomy, ominous area around Canterville Chase to set the sinister tone of the location and play into traditional Gothic and horror story conventions.

"as I have since learned from Mr. Otis..."   (Chapter II.)

Earlier, the narrator established himself as a fellow Englishman, and here we learn that he is recounting the events of the story based on what he learned firsthand from Mr. Otis. This style of narration gives the tale a sense of intimacy as if the narrator we sharing a very personal and true tale with his audience.

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