The Demon Lover

by

Elizabeth Bowen

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The Letter Symbol Analysis

The Letter Symbol Icon

When Mrs. Drover returns to her family home in London, she finds an unstamped letter that is addressed to her on the hall table. The letter represents the past and the ominous power it holds over Mrs. Drover. After she first notices the letter on the table, she attempts to rationalize its mysterious appearance and she puts off reading it, as though she suspects the effect its contents will have on her. Once she reads it, it causes her to experience a powerful flashback about her former fiancé and the struggles she faced as a young woman in an incompatible (and perhaps abusive) relationship. When she returns to the present moment, Mrs. Drover is unable to maintain a clear boundary between the present moment and the past: despite her best efforts to focus on the present, she is absorbed by recollections of her former fiancé and the physical and emotional discomfort he caused her. Ultimately, her reading of the letter symbolizes an almost literal return to the past, as it re-establishes the anxieties of a relationship that ended 25 years previously.

The Letter Quotes in The Demon Lover

The The Demon Lover quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Letter. 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

She felt so much the change in her own face that she went to the mirror, polished a clear patch in it, and looked at once urgently and stealthily in. She was confronted by a woman of forty­four, with eyes starting out under a hat brim that had been rather carelessly pulled down.

Related Characters: Kathleen Drover
Related Symbols: The Letter
Page Number: 662
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:
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The Letter Symbol Timeline in The Demon Lover

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Letter appears in The Demon Lover. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Demon Lover
Reality, Illusion, and Trauma Theme Icon
Identity and Alienation Theme Icon
Time and Repression Theme Icon
...estranged from this once-familiar setting. As Mrs. Drover makes her way upstairs, she sees a letter on the hall table. Its very appearance—never mind the lack of a stamp and the... (full context)
Reality, Illusion, and Trauma Theme Icon
Love and War Theme Icon
Identity and Alienation Theme Icon
Promises and Punishment Theme Icon
Though reluctant to read the letter, Mrs. Drover does so upstairs in her bedroom. The sender writes, “You will not have... (full context)
Reality, Illusion, and Trauma Theme Icon
Identity and Alienation Theme Icon
Promises and Punishment Theme Icon
Time and Repression Theme Icon
Though disturbed by the contents of the letter and the fact that it is marked with that day’s date, Mrs. Drover attempts to... (full context)
Reality, Illusion, and Trauma Theme Icon
Identity and Alienation Theme Icon
Time and Repression Theme Icon
Returned to the present moment, however, Mrs. Drover asserts that “dead or living the letter writer sent her only a threat.” She finds it difficult to continue kneeling “with her... (full context)
Reality, Illusion, and Trauma Theme Icon
Identity and Alienation Theme Icon
Time and Repression Theme Icon
Mrs. Drover refers to “the supernatural side” of the letter’s appearance: how did it get into the house? How did the sender know she would... (full context)