The Canterville Ghost

by

Oscar Wilde

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The Bloodstain Symbol Icon

The bloodstain on Canterville Chase’s sitting-room floor symbolizes the continued relevance of the aristocracy and, by extension, Sir Simon himself. All stains—whether they’re caused by barbecue sauce or blood—serve as a material reminder of the event that created them. In this case, the bloodstain is a reminder that Sir Simon murdered his wife. People have remembered the murder for over three hundred years, even turning the bloodstain into a tourist attraction. However, within minutes of his family’s arrival, Washington Otis manages to erase the stain and thus erase the material reminder of the event that caused it. It’s likely that, with the removal of that memento, the murder itself will also fade from memory, along with Sir Simon’s reputation as a truly violent, terrifying ghost. In addition, by erasing the stain that has marked Canterville Chase for centuries, Washington also erases the aristocracy’s relevance. Sir Simon struggles valiantly against that by renewing the stain. However, he can’t create new blood because, unlike the aristocrats he’s used to scaring, none of the Otises have killed themselves in response to his ghastly pranks. Instead, he uses paint that he steals from Virginia. However, Virginia’s stain-enabling kindness has a built-in limit to it—once she’s out of paints, the stain will disappear forever.

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The Bloodstain Symbol Timeline in The Canterville Ghost

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Bloodstain appears in The Canterville Ghost. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
The British Aristocracy vs. American Vulgarity Theme Icon
Mercy and Empathy Theme Icon
Appearance, Reality, and Sincerity Theme Icon
One of the first things that the family notices about their new home is a bloodstain on the fireplace mantle. Mrs. Umney assures them that the stain is centuries old and... (full context)
Chapter 2 
The British Aristocracy vs. American Vulgarity Theme Icon
Commercialism and Politics Theme Icon
Appearance, Reality, and Sincerity Theme Icon
The next morning, the Otis family discovers that Washington’s cleaning job didn’t stick: the bloodstain has come back overnight. Washington again cleans the stain, but it comes back the next... (full context)
Chapter 3
The British Aristocracy vs. American Vulgarity Theme Icon
Commercialism and Politics Theme Icon
Mercy and Empathy Theme Icon
Appearance, Reality, and Sincerity Theme Icon
A few days go by without incident, except that the bloodstain on the fireplace—which Washington still scrubs clean daily—changes colors every morning, so that it seems... (full context)
The British Aristocracy vs. American Vulgarity Theme Icon
Appearance, Reality, and Sincerity Theme Icon
...Washington for this grotesque display because he’s particularly mad at Washington for constantly cleaning the bloodstain from the fireplace. (full context)
Chapter 4 
The British Aristocracy vs. American Vulgarity Theme Icon
Appearance, Reality, and Sincerity Theme Icon
...the strange failure of the rooster to crow twice. He gives up on refreshing the bloodstain on the fireplace, deciding that the Otis family isn’t worthy of his scares after all.... (full context)
Chapter 5
The British Aristocracy vs. American Vulgarity Theme Icon
Mercy and Empathy Theme Icon
Appearance, Reality, and Sincerity Theme Icon
...been horrid: especially since he’s been stealing her craft paints in order to renew the bloodstain on the fireplace night after night. By constantly depleting her supply of colors, he’s made... (full context)