The Demon Lover


Elizabeth Bowen

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Themes and Colors
Reality, Illusion, and Trauma Theme Icon
Love and War Theme Icon
Identity and Alienation Theme Icon
Promises and Punishment Theme Icon
Time and Repression Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Demon Lover, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Reality, Illusion, and Trauma

Twenty-five years ago, Mrs. Drover was engaged to a soldier—an unkind and mysterious man—who then died in the First World War. Somewhat relieved by his death, she married someone else and created a life. However, after fleeing London during the Second World War, she returns to her house to collect some belongings and finds a letter, signed “K,” reminding her that today is “the day we said.” Immediately, she thinks of her old fiancé…

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Love and War

One reason that this story is so unnerving is that it turns the familiar cliché of wartime romance on its head. Rather than a romantic relationship between a woman and a soldier who must leave his home to protect his country, Bowen portrays Mrs. Drover’s former fiancé in a suspicious and sinister light and suggests that Mrs. Drover is with him not out of love, but fear. The man seems infected by wartime, taking on…

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Identity and Alienation

Throughout the story, Mrs. Drover is sometimes uncertain of both the identity of her former fiancé and her own identity, stating that she cannot recall—and perhaps has never seen—her former fiancé’s face, and failing to recognize her own face in the mirror. As the story progresses, it becomes clear that Mrs. Drover’s dislocation of self began during the First World War (perhaps because of the trauma of wartime living, and certainly because of the emotional…

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Promises and Punishment

At the heart of this story is an unkept promise, and the question of whether Mrs. Drover should be held accountable for her apparent failure to keep it. While the letter states a promise has been made, its exact terms are unclear: is the promise that Mrs. Drover would marry her fiancé, whom she believed died at war? Is the promise to meet on this day as the letter describes, which is a promise…

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Time and Repression

Mrs. Drover’s relationship to time governs her actions in the story. She is consistently trying to evade the past, she becomes uncomfortable and disturbed within the present moment, and she is always looking to the immediate future as a place of safety. Though she initially enters her house with the intention to retrieve items from her past to use in her present life (she and her family are living in the country in an…

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