The Demon Lover

by

Elizabeth Bowen

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Houses Symbol Icon

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

The The Demon Lover quotes below all refer to the symbol of Houses. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Reality, Illusion, and Trauma Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Anchor edition of The Demon Lover published in 1981.
The Demon Lover Quotes

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.

Related Characters: Kathleen Drover
Related Symbols: Houses
Page Number: 661
Explanation and Analysis:

…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...

Related Characters: Kathleen Drover
Related Symbols: Houses
Page Number: 661
Explanation and Analysis:

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.

Related Characters: Kathleen Drover
Related Symbols: Houses
Page Number: 663
Explanation and Analysis:

…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.

Related Characters: Kathleen Drover
Related Symbols: The Letter, Houses
Page Number: 664
Explanation and Analysis:

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.

Related Characters: Kathleen Drover
Related Symbols: Houses
Page Number: 665-666
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Demon Lover PDF

Houses Symbol Timeline in The Demon Lover

The timeline below shows where the symbol Houses appears in The Demon Lover. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Demon Lover
Identity and Alienation Theme Icon
Time and Repression Theme Icon
Kathleen Drover, a woman in her forties, has returned to her house in London during the Second World War. She has come to collect items that she... (full context)
Reality, Illusion, and Trauma Theme Icon
Identity and Alienation Theme Icon
Time and Repression Theme Icon
...cup from which memory, with its reassuring power, had either evaporated or leaked away”. The house now feels hollow enough to undo the years she has spent there with her family... (full context)
Reality, Illusion, and Trauma Theme Icon
Identity and Alienation Theme Icon
Time and Repression Theme Icon
...refers to “the supernatural side” of the letter’s appearance: how did it get into the house? How did the sender know she would be there? Putting these issues to the side,... (full context)
Reality, Illusion, and Trauma Theme Icon
Promises and Punishment Theme Icon
Time and Repression Theme Icon
Finally, Mrs. Drover decides that she will exit the house before “any clock struck what could be the hour” and find a taxi whose driver... (full context)