Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Author Study: Oscar Wilde Curated by Emily Liu '23

Irony in The Canterville Ghost

“… and spent most of that day looking over his wardrobe, ultimately deciding in favour of a large slouched hat with a red feather, a winding-sheet frilled at wrist and neck, and a rusty dagger.”

Situational Irony:

   In The Canterville Ghost, Oscar Wilde created the character of this ghost by thinking out of the traditional box for ghosts. He portrays this ghost as someone who cares about appearance, someone who have deep thoughts about life.

    Ghosts are dead people that raise from the ashes, in traditional gothic novelas, they normally don’t care about anything besides revenge. But the ghost from Canterville cares about his appearance, and the ghost is rather polite to others. Which created this ironic situation through out the story.

“Never having seen a ghost before, he naturally was terribly frightened, and, after a second hasty glance at the awful phantom, he fled back to his room…”

Dramatic Irony:

    The fake ghost that the Otis twins made scared the real ghost of Canterville. Ironically, the gentle Canterville ghost was scared by fake ghosts, and the readers are all aware that this is exactly what the Otis family hope the ghost would fail for. Wilde was trying to imply the message that although some people might be scary, they can still be gentle inside and even be frightened by other things.

Irony in The Nightingale and The Rose (SPOILER ALERT)

“… and he threw the rose into the street, where it fell into the gutter, and a cartwheel went over it.”

    The rose that the nightingale watered with blood was tossed and thrown away in such an ease. This shows that sometimes what a person cherish the most the other might not even bother to look at. 

Irony in A Woman of No Importance (SPOILER ALERT)

“LORD ILLINGWORTH. So that is our son, Rachel! Well, I am very proud of him. He in a Harford, every inch of him. By the way, why Arbuthnot, Rachel?”

Dramatic Irony:

    Both Lord Illingworth and Mrs. Arbuthnot are aware at this point that Gerald is their son (and so does the audience), but others (including Gerald) don’t know about this. The dramatic irony in this play helped to build up major conflicts and tensions later in the play. This is what caused the conflict between Gerald and Mrs. Arbuthnot.