Unsettling Language in Elizabeth Bowen’s The Demon Lover

1265 Words6 Pages
Unsettling Language in Elizabeth Bowen’s The Demon Lover

Elizabeth Bowen retells a popular folk tale in her short story, "The Demon Lover." The title suggests that the plot consists of a woman being confronted by a demon lover from her past. Bowen does not stray far from this original tale. Instead of originality, Bowen's prose relies on the use of subtleties to keep the story interesting. The story's subtleties feed us questions that continually grab our interest.

Bowen immediately begins to create a sense of uneasiness in the first paragraph. As Mrs. Drover, the protagonist, walks toward her London house, "an unfamiliar queerness had silted up; a cat wove itself in and out of railings, but no human eye watched Mrs. Drover's return" (36). The author's use of the word "queerness" puts the reader on guard for something out of the ordinary. She then follows it by the description of a cat-a mysterious creature-wondering down the street with no regard to any passersby. The phrase "no human eye watched" seems to be overstating the situation. Instead of just saying that nothing was watching Mrs. Drover, the author chose to say that no human was watching her. We are led to question whether the cat was the only non-human watching her or not. And, if not, what else was watching her?

The feeling of uncanny continues throughout the next paragraphs. The house Mrs. Drover enters is given characteristics that suggest that it is living. There is a "bruise in the wallpaper" and a piano "had left what looked like claw-marks" (36). On their own, these descriptions would not have created uneasiness. But, the house that bruises and furniture that leaves claw-marks contribute to the sense of uneasiness that had already begun to develop. W...

... middle of paper ...

... no resulting rescue (40). Her screaming leads us to believe that she had in fact gotten into the demon lover's taxi. As the driver "made off with her into the hinterland of deserted streets," we are still left questioning who exactly the driver was, how he had come back from the dead, what Kathleen had promised him, and whether she had actually remembered her promise and had used it as an escape to her monotonous life (40).

All of the unanswered questions, along with subtle uses of unsettling language, create an unsettling effect throughout the story. The title, "The Demon Lover," gave a good general idea of what Elizabeth Bowen was writing about, but her clever writing left interesting questions lingering throughout the story and even after its end.

Works Cited

Bowen, Elizabeth. "The Demon Lover." Collected Stories of Elizabeth Bowen. New York: Knopf, 1981.

    More about Unsettling Language in Elizabeth Bowen’s The Demon Lover

      Open Document