Introduction to The Demon Lover

“The Demon Lover” is a 1945 short story by Irish-British author Elizabeth Bowen. It was written in response to the continuous German bombings of London during World War II and, more broadly, as an examination of the widespread trauma that the ongoing war inflited on civilians. For many English citizens, World Wars I and II both fell within their lifetime, as is the case for the protagonist of “The Demon Lover,” Kathleen. This led to fears regarding an endless war as the traumas of World War I resurfaced for the survivors. Kathleen’s experiences with the titular demon lover can thus be read as either a literal supernatural experience or a more figurative metaphor for the devastating effects of war on the human psyche. 

In addition to its ruminations on war, “The Demon Lover” also evokes old folk legends surrounding monstrous or ghostly individuals coming to claim their mortal lovers. The idea of a promise, especially one of eternal love or devotion, is a common motif in fairy tales, and the notion of the demonic lover is a dark twist in which that promise is defiled by death. Bowen’s story takes advantage of this gothic notion, and she combines the archetypal demonic lover with a more modern setting in order to portray a traumatized woman who is haunted by her own memories.

A Brief Biography of Elizabeth Bowen

Elizabeth Bowen (1899–1973) was born in Ireland but moved to England with her mother when she was a child. She had creative inclinations from a young age, and by her early twenties, she had turned her energies to writing fiction. During this time, she lived in London and became familiar with the Bloomsbury Group, the intellectual and artistic circle that included Virginia Woolf and E. M. Forster. For the next several decades, Bowen devoted herself to her writing, dividing her time between England and Bowen’s Court, her ancestral home in Ireland, which she inherited in 1930. She also worked as a critic and a contributor to the British Broadcast Corporation.

Bowen’s fiction is concerned with the conventions and mores of middle-class British society, often exploring the tension between social convention and individual desire. Bowen’s style combines an attentiveness to interior states, a keen perception of environmental and social details, and linguistic ingenuity. Her essential works include the novels The Death of the Heart (1938), The Heat of the Day (1949), and Eva Trout (1968), as well as the stories “The Demon Lover” (1945) and “Tears, Idle Tears” (1941).

Frequently Asked Questions about The Demon Lover

The Demon Lover

There is little in the way of physical action in Bowen's story, but plenty of interior conflict. Imagery plays a large role in setting the tone of the story and in conveying the dissociative...

Latest answer posted November 7, 2021, 12:30 pm (UTC)

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The Demon Lover

After the scene where Mrs. Drover reads her dead lover's letter, author Elizabeth Bowen goes into a flashback depicting the last time Mrs. Drover saw her lover alive. Taking place twenty-five years...

Latest answer posted November 6, 2021, 11:45 am (UTC)

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The Demon Lover

The story is set during World War II, in 1941. The Drover family has left their London home to live in the countryside because of the Nazi blitz or bombing raids that were to break the British...

Latest answer posted November 6, 2021, 11:35 am (UTC)

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The Demon Lover

After being frightened by the idea of reuniting with her possessive and mysterious former lover, Mrs. Drover decides to hail a taxi. The notion of interacting with the taxi driver— who will surely...

Latest answer posted November 6, 2021, 11:33 am (UTC)

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The Demon Lover

Mrs. Drover looks into the mirror after reading the letter from her former lover. She sees nothing more than her own reflection, but the passage is significant for two reasons. Firstly, it gives...

Latest answer posted November 6, 2021, 11:20 am (UTC)

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The Demon Lover

In "The Demon Lover," the author begins by describing Mrs. Drover's London house as "shut-up." In the second paragraph, she elaborates on this by showing that the family abandoned the house rather...

Latest answer posted November 7, 2021, 11:45 am (UTC)

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The Demon Lover

When Mrs. Drover sees the mysterious letter without any stamp dropped on the table in her hallway, she runs upstairs with it to a bedroom overlooking her back yard. Immediately after reading it,...

Latest answer posted November 7, 2021, 11:45 am (UTC)

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The Demon Lover

We never actually find out exactly what promise Mrs. Drover made to her soldier twenty-five years before the action of “The Demon Lover” begins, but we can infer what it may have been. Mrs. Drover...

Latest answer posted November 7, 2021, 5:55 pm (UTC)

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The Demon Lover

Mrs. Drover, hoping to escape what she fears is her appointment with the demon lover, decides to move from her deserted street to a nearby busy thoroughfare and find a taxi before the clock tolls...

Latest answer posted November 7, 2021, 11:32 am (UTC)

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The Demon Lover

Kathleen Drover feels free when the soldier goes missing in World War I because he has had a mysterious, frightening hold over her. We don't learn much about the soldier who enters Kathleen's life....

Latest answer posted November 6, 2021, 11:51 am (UTC)

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The Demon Lover

Dramatic irony is when the audience knows more about a situation than the characters in the story do. A great example of this would be the typical horror movie scenario in which a character enters...

Latest answer posted November 5, 2021, 11:30 am (UTC)

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The Demon Lover

Based on the mood the author creates in "The Demon Lover," as well as the inclusion of mysterious flashbacks, readers might interpret this as a ghost story. The characterization of Kathleen's...

Latest answer posted November 4, 2021, 3:01 pm (UTC)

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The Demon Lover

Based on characterization and foreshadowing, it seems likely that the driver of the taxi at the end of "The Demon Lover" is Kathleen's former fiancé. Twenty-five years prior to this day, Kathleen...

Latest answer posted November 4, 2021, 12:30 pm (UTC)

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The Demon Lover

When Kathleen Drover first realizes that there is a letter for her on the hall table, she is merely annoyed. Her feelings of annoyance shift to reflect a sense of alarm and apprehension as she...

Latest answer posted November 5, 2021, 12:51 pm (UTC)

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The Demon Lover

Foreshadowing is a literary technique that gives the reader some preparation or hint of what might be coming later on in the story. Examples of foreshadowing in "The Demon Lover" start in the first...

Latest answer posted November 4, 2021, 12:44 pm (UTC)

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The Demon Lover

The entire story of "The Demon Lover" is a buildup to the ending, when the titular demon lover, disguised as a taxi driver, apprehends Kathleen Drover and drives away with her. Although it is meant...

Latest answer posted November 4, 2021, 4:48 pm (UTC)

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The Demon Lover

It is World War II, and the Germans are bombing London on a regular basis. Like many other Londoners, Mrs. Drover and her family have escaped to the countryside. Mrs. Drover is in the city for a...

Latest answer posted November 5, 2021, 11:24 am (UTC)

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The Demon Lover

The World War I lover, who disappears on a battlefield in 1916, is a mysterious figure from the start. Kathleen's family is relieved when he disappears on the battlefield, because they don't know...

Latest answer posted November 5, 2021, 11:43 am (UTC)

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The Demon Lover

Mrs. Drover returns to her London townhome, boarded up against the Nazi blitz, and finds a letter without postage dropped on the hall table. It is from her former beloved, K., who went missing and...

Latest answer posted November 4, 2021, 12:25 pm (UTC)

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The Demon Lover

Because Mrs. Drover is the only character in the story as it unfolds, we have no way to verify if what she is experiencing is real or a figment of her imagination, but the story offers us enough...

Latest answer posted November 5, 2021, 11:56 am (UTC)

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Summary