What struck me the most about both “The Canterville Ghost” and “Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime” was how subversive they were to two popular genres of stories, those being ghost stories and murder mysteries respectively.
“Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime” very clearly mocks Victorian society, a culture in which everybody does what they feel they are supposed to do, instead of what they might want to do. This is reflected most in the titular character, who feels that, because a fortune teller foretells murder in his future, he must go about killing someone close to him, just to get the inevitable murder out of the way. Arthur never considers simply not murdering anybody, but instead allows others to command his actions for him. Through attempting to conform to external pressures, he ends up performing several vile acts, culminating in throwing a man off a bridge, killing him. Arthur feels no regret after this, immediately marries his fiancé, and lives happily ever after. I believe the story is also a commentary on how the upper class get away with everything, as Arthur attempted two murders and succeeded with a third and faced zero legal repercussions.
“The Canterville Ghost” is quite clearly a satire on common ghost stories at the time, as the titular specter is far from an intimidating villain, but rather a bumbling fool. It seems significant that the ghost is haunting a house in England that is lived in by a family of Americans, and that said Americans are immune from his attempts to frighten them. To me, the ghost is a reflection, somewhat of Victorian values, as he feels it is his duty to spook and frighten the residents of the house, almost as if he is honor bound to do so. As Americans have different values, they are completely unfazed by the ghost, but instead attempt to rationally deal with the small amount of trouble he causes their family. I found it interesting that the daughter of the family, named Virginia in reference to both the state in which Europeans first journeyed to America and the Virgin Mary, served as the savior of the ghost, allowing him to abandon his duty and finally rest, after becoming one with nature. This seems to be symbolic of Wilde’s desire for all people to give up the stuffy customs of the day, and start living life at one with the world, and with oneself.