What is the best way to describe Kathleen's first fianceé in "The Demon Lover"?

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shake99 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Elizabeth Bowen’s “The Demon Lover” is an odd story about a woman, Kathleen, who falls in love with a man who does not seem very lovable and who seems to somehow strike a bargain with her to meet again even if he is killed in battle in World War I.

This event occurs twenty-five years in the past, as far as story-time is concerned. When Kathleen finds a letter from him reminding her of their plan to meet on this appointed day, her fears grows to the point where she feels it necessary to leave the house.

The description of the man can only make one wonder what Kathleen sees in him:

She verified his presence for these few moments longer by putting out a hand, which he each time pressed, without very much kindness, and painfully, on to one of the breast buttons of his uniform.

Kathleen’s lover does not appear to have a very positive affect on her, as we see from the words, “without very much kindness.” Also, his actions cause her physical pain.

The following lines also emphasize the same idea. Although Kathleen is drawn to the man, she does not seem to feel love from him.

Being not kissed, being drawn away from and looked at intimidated Kathleen till she imagined spectral glitters in the place of his eyes.

Finally, her and her mother’s appraisal of his intentions toward Kathleen tell us something about him:

Mother said he never considered me. He was set on me, that was what it was—not love.

There is a strange possessiveness to the fiancee's attitude toward Kathleen, and perhaps that is what scares her so much about meeting him again.