Short Story Analysis

"The Demon Lover" by Elizabeth Bowen

Critical Biography

Bowen was born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1899. Her father, Henry Bowen, suffered a nervous breakdown in 1905. This led to Elizabeth and her mother, Florence, to move to southern England ("Elizabeth (Dorothea Cole) Bowen").

Bowen was twelve when her father was recovering from his breakdown and he planned to reunite the family in Ireland. Sadly, only a year later Florence died of cancer, leaving Elizabeth to the care of her aunts ("Elizabeth (Dorothea Cole) Bowen").

In 1917, Elizabeth finished school at Downe House boarding school in Kent and returned to Dublin to work in a hospital for shell-shocked soldiers. These memories would remain with her for the rest of her life. Likewise, she later infused her characters with many of their notable traits. Her first book of short stories was "Encounters", which was published in 1923 ("Elizabeth (Dorothea Cole) Bowen").

In 1925, Bowen entered the Oxford intellectual circle, befriending many of the leading thinkers in England at the time. Several more moves and many more highly lauded published works followed before she died of lung cancer in 1973 ("Elizabeth (Dorothea Cole) Bowen").


"The Demon Lover" conveys a story about a young woman who promised a soldier marriage who was on leave from the fighting in France in 1916. He does not return and is presumed killed some months later. Although she is filled with guilt, the woman eventually marries to another man at the age of thirty-two and is known at this point on as 'Mrs. Drover'. Twelve years later Mrs. Drover receives a mysterious letter at her old home. The letter is sent by someone who expects to meet her at the hour arranged and claims today is their anniversary. Fearing this was her ex-fiancé, she heads outs for a taxi to return to her family. Strangely enough, there was only one taxi on the busy street and it seemed to be expecting her. When she entered the vehicle, she was not greeted kindly by the driver.
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Analysis of Theme

Mrs. Drover promises marriage to a leaving soldier, and like many other women, she eventually marries to another man because the soldier does not return soon enough. Though she is filled with guilt as twenty-five years pass, she pushes the thought of the soldier away and leaves time to deal with the issue. This fits well with my theme that you cannot expect time to always heal things, whether it be death or a broken promise of eternal love.

As quoted from the story, "She remembered- but with one white burning blank as where acid has dropped on a photograph: under no conditions could she remember his face. So, wherever he may be waiting, I shall not know him. You have no time to run from a face you do not expect." It proves Mrs. Drover has it set in her mind that if she cannot remember his face, there will be nothing to run from. She believes if she can forget the soldier, she can move on with her life and time will deal with the problem at hand.

However, Mrs. Drover can't avoid her ex-fiancé forever. The contents of the letter may suggest that the soldier-lover intends to fulfill his twenty-five-year-old promise to return and "be with" Mrs. Drover ("The Demon Lover," 108). The story ends with the soldier abducting her in the taxi cab, and this further verifies my theme that you can't always expect time to heal things.

Works Cited

Bowen, Elizabeth. "The Demon Lover." Jonathan Cape 1945. 26 April 2016. PDF file.

"The Demon Lover." Short Stories for Students. Ed. Kathleen Wilson. Vol. 5. Detroit: Gale, 1999. 108. Print.

"Elizabeth (Dorothea Cole) Bowen." Contemporary Literary Criticism Select. Detroit: Gale, 2008. Literature Resource Center. Web. 11 May 2016.

Taylor Jennings

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