What Is the Theme of Elizabeth Bowen’s “The Demon Lover”?

Elizabeth Bowden’s “The Demon Lover” has two themes: the effects of war on civilians and the return of the past. The story takes place during World War II. The main character, Kathleen Drover, also lived through World War I, when her fiancé went missing.

According to an essay published on Humanities 360, the story concerns the main character’s introspection regarding her own repressed memories. Drover is living through World War II, and she returns to her house in London to retrieve belongings she left behind.

The theme of the effects of war on civilians comes through in the hardships Kathleen has suffered. Her fiancé disappeared during World War I. She is now faced with the horrors of war again 25 years later. Bowden’s imagery in the story emphasizes pain and loss. She describes bruises and scars left behind on the house in London, suggesting the bruises and scars on Kathleen’s psyche. The overall description of the house engenders a feeling of anxiety in the reader, similar to the feelings Kathleen is enduring.

The theme of the past returning comes in the final scenes of the story. Kathleen has carried guilt for 25 years because she promised to wait for her fiancé, but when he did not return from the war, she eventually married another. During her time at the house, she cannot stop her reflections of the past. In the end, she catches a taxi to take her back to her present home in the country, but she is confronted by her returned fiancé in the form of a specter.