Throughout the story, houses represent the self, specifically the health of the human psyche. In the past tense of the story, Mrs. Drover’s family home appears as a place of sanctuary. She is eager to flee from her former fiancé in the garden, and to run back towards the house and the safety and company of her family. This suggests that, despite the background of wartime trauma and her discomfort within her mismatched romantic relationship, she is still healthy enough to retreat into herself and find comfort and stability. This trope of the family home as sanctuary, however, is upturned in the present day. Returning to her street in London after the bombings, all of the houses have become ominous and threatening. It becomes evident that, in the context of warfare, the family home has been dislodged as a beacon of safety, and rather represents the threat of physical and psychological harm and the violence of wartime. Now, when Mrs. Drover enters her family home that she has shared with her husband and children for many years, she is submerged in traumatic memories, suggesting her mental health has substantially depleted since the First World War. This parallel between the self and the house is further established by the damage caused to the house by warfare, which is described as though it’s happening to a human body: there is a “bruise” in the wallpaper and the piano has left “claw marks” on the carpet. Furthermore, Mrs. Drover’s mental health continues to deteriorate and worsen the longer she spends inside the house. In this way, the house’s progression from a stable sanctuary to a rundown, possibly haunted building mirrors the psychological trauma brought about by wartime violence.
Houses Quotes in The Demon Lover
Against the next batch of clouds, already piling up, ink-dark, broken chimneys and parapets stood out. In her once familiar street, as in any unused channel, an unfamiliar queerness had silted up; a cat wove itself in and out of railings, but no human eye watched Mrs. Dover’s return.
…looking about her, Mrs. Drover was more perplexed than she knew by everything that she saw, by traces of her long former habit of life—the yellow smoke stain up the white marble mantelpiece, the ring left by a vase on the top of the escritoire; the bruise in the wallpaper where…the china handle had always hit the wall. The piano…had left what looked like claw marks...
Only a little more than a minute later she was free to run up the silent lawn. Looking in through the window at her mother and sister, who did not for the moment perceive her, she already felt that unnatural promise drive down between her and the rest of all humankind.
…her married London home’s whole air of being a cracked cup from which memory, with its reassuring power, had either evaporated or leaked away, made a crisis—and at just this crisis the letter writer had… struck. The hollowness of the house… cancelled years on years of voices, habits, and steps.
She heard nothing—but while she was hearing nothing the passé air of the staircase was disturbed by a draft that traveled up to her face. It emanated from the basement: Down where a door or window was being opened by someone who chose this moment to leave the house.