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The Demon Lover

The Demon Lover Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Elizabeth Bowen's The Demon Lover. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Elizabeth Bowen

Elizabeth Bowen was born in Ireland in 1899 but moved to England in 1907 and was educated in London. During the First and Second World Wars, she travelled frequently between Ireland and England. The wars made a huge impact on Bowen, which can be seen in her fiction. Her first book, a collection of short stories entitled Encounters, was published in 1923, and her best-known works include the novels The House in Paris (1935) and The Death of the Heart (1938). She inherited Bowen’s Court, an Irish country manor, in 1930. Though she continued to live primarily in England, many writers including Virginia Woolf, Eudora Welty, Carson McCullers, Iris Murdoch, visited her there. In the 1940s and 1950s, driven by the need to make money, she wrote extensively in the form of articles, reviews and travelogues. She died of lung cancer, in London, in February of 1973.
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Historical Context of The Demon Lover

The Second World War was ongoing (1939 to 1945) at the time Bowen wrote “The Demon Lover” between 1941 and 1944. An especially relevant aspect of the war to this story is The Blitz, a systematic bombing on London by Nazi Germany that lasted from 1940 to 1941. The Blitz destroyed around 60% of homes in London, and the city was largely deserted as its inhabitants had evacuated to the countryside in order to avoid the bombings by the German offensive.

Other Books Related to The Demon Lover

Bowen’s direct influences include Henry James, Marcel Proust and Virginia Woolf. She has been compared to Edith Wharton for her mannered portrayals of aristocracy. Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited also seems related, as it tackles nostalgia for the English aristocracy, and Waugh’s Second World War trilogy Sword of Honour (1952–61) is also in the same cultural milieu as much of Bowen’s fiction. Like Bowen, Graham Greene’s wartime fiction studies how military conflict impacts on personal relationships. His short novel The End of the Affair (1951) is also set in London between 1942–46, and it blends thriller-like tension with studies of moral and psychological ambiguity in a vein similar to Bowen. In describing the wartime experiences of women, Bowen shares thematic similarities with Doris Lessing, most notably in The Golden Notebook (1962), which is an account of the fractured lives of British women after the war. More broadly, in its depiction of a woman struggling within of a paternalistic society with ambiguous supernatural undertones, “The Demon Lover” is comparable with Shirley Jackson’s Hangsaman (1951). It is important to note that Bowen herself made a clear distinction that, while “The Demon Lover” and other similar stories are certainly wartime works, they are not war stories: there is no account of the actions of war: air raids, battle etc. Rather, they are accounts the traumatized and charged sub-consciousnesses that took hold of the population during the war in England. In this way, Bowen’s work distinguishes itself from other wartime authors such as Joseph Heller and Norman Mailer.
Key Facts about The Demon Lover
  • Full Title: The Demon Lover
  • When Written: 1941-1944
  • Where Written: London
  • When Published: 1945
  • Literary Period: modernism
  • Genre: short story, gothic
  • Setting: London during The Second World War
  • Climax: Mrs. Drover’s abduction by the demon lover
  • Antagonist: the demon lover
  • Point of View: close third person

Extra Credit for The Demon Lover

British Spy: During the First World War, Bowen lived in Ireland and reported on Irish opinion to the British Ministry of Information, which has caused some critics to describe her as a spy.

Art School: In 1918, Bowen began two terms at the London County Council of Art, but realized she was better suited to writing and went on to study journalism.