terça-feira, 27 de março de 2007
2. The Canterville Ghost, by Oscar Wilde


The Canterville Ghost (& Other Stories) , by Oscar Wilde (1887)

As pretty much every poetically inclined girl, I've always been interested in Oscar Wilde. Not that his name his a synonym of angsty girl poetry, but we all know half a dozen names of writers who led romantic lives - even if they had nothing romantic in them - , who inspire us to live through our words. The only things I knew about him, having done a sort of biography in 7th grade, were common facts about his life - until now, I'd never read anything he'd done. In my mental - and here "mental" means more than a list I keep in my mind - list, I had established that I would at least read one of his books. One of my best friends loves him, and she (I wonder if, apart from Stephen Fry, we're all girls) spoke wonders of him, particularly of "Portrait of Dorian Gray". To my surprise, my house, in its fairly meek collection, had a book called "The Canterville Ghost".
A small note: I read this in portuguese, and the translation wasn't as clear as it could have been.
Mr. Otis, a rich american man, has just purchased a house for him and his family, said to be haunted. Despite many warnings, the family moved to Canterville Chase and found out that a ghost actually lived there. Mr. Otis informed himself as much as could about how to deal with ghosts and, without any shed of bemusement, dealt with the Canterville ghost "in the american way", you could almost joke. He and his family treat the ghost like he's a real person with odd habits and help him, to the ghost's surprise. For instance, when the family tires of hearing the chains the ghost has tied to his hands and feet, they leave him a lubricant so he can walk around without making any noise. And all the other hauntings are dealt in much the same manner. There's always a miracle product, straight from America, who can wipe any stain, stop any noise, cure any cold. This is why I enjoyed the Canterville Ghost: it's extremely fun to watch the ghost's frustration with the family. But, on the other hand, there's a softer side of things, which is materialized in Virginia, the shy girl in the family. She helps the ghost overcome his sadness, leaving us admiring her maturity, although at first we are puzzled by her actions. Since the family moved in there has been a blood stain in the kitchen flood. Every day it was promptly removed with some Clean-o-Fabulous and in the next it would have a slightly different color. On the morning that it was an emerald green, Virgina looked at it and cried. We later find out why, and amuse ourselves with the ghost once more. There isn't much more to address, as this is a short story but I'll comment on the other two.
The version of the book I have comes with two other short stories: The Fisherman and his Soul and The Sphinx Without a Secret. Both of them, to my chagrin, are rather forgettable. The first one reminds me of just about every children's book I've read to this date, mainly due to the fact that it has very a repetitive manner, and could have ended about 20 pages earlier but also it's one of those stories with obvious metaphors. It's about a fisherman that falls in love with a mermaid, cutting his soul - because that's how it's done; you stand in the moonlight with a dagger and then cut your shadow - so he could join her, for it was the only way. His soul then tries, over a number of years, to win the fisherman back and eventually does so. Each time the soul travels, we are treated to much the same block of text about how it finds this and then and then shows it to the fisherman, to which he replies that love is greater than everything. Didn't touch me. Not even in that mildly funny way. The story ends with everybody dead, which is always a happy thought.
The Sphinx Without a Secret is a very very very short story, but because it's so short, I guess, it doesn't leave any sort of impression. I've read it 5 times, trying to see if I could gather any kind of emotion from it, and didn't. I'd sum up the story, but then I'd be giving the plot away.
posted by black__cherry @ 22:50  
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