Literary Critique - The Demon Lover

Elizabeth Bowen
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A Vision of Distorted Reality

Published in 1945, “The Demon Lover” by Elizabeth Bowen portrays a distraught woman facing a serious mistake. While out of touch with reality, Kathleen Drover promises to wed a soldier on his return from World War I. Without getting to know him or even seeing his features clearly, she commits herself to a future marriage. He disappears and is presumed dead, then returns twenty-five years later to force her to honor her promise.

This is where the story begins and where her vision of reality changes. Using a strategically placed letter along with stealth, he traps her in a taxicab and drives off with her. His face is never described, but Kathleen’s reaction is one of terror when she looks at him.

This is where the story ends and where her distorted reality begins.

Bowen writes, “He was never kind to me, not really. I don’t remember him kind at all. Mother said he never considered me. He was set on me, that was what it was—not love.”

Even after the passage of another war, Kathleen’s supernatural abductor exercises what he believes is his right to claim her. Although she has never waited for his return because she didn’t realize he was coming back, their relationship picks up where it left off.

Kathleen is alone throughout the story. Her family’s London residence is damaged, and she’s come to collect possessions. The protagonist may believe she’s haunted, or the ghost in the cab could be an innocent driver she fears will harm her. Bowen implies that the experience is psychic, a stress-induced reaction to the trauma of war.