Useof Gothic Style in The Demon’s Lover

Useof Gothic Style in The Demon’s Lover

TheGothic tradition in literature is linked to the Gothic art andarchitecture which emphasized on emotions. The Goths introduced astyle of an architect in the 4thcentury among the Romans that was crude, grotesque and exaggerated.Like the Gothic art style, the Gothic literature is characterized bya sense of awe, terror, vulnerability, or the sense of a higher powerwhich is a medieval world view. It is intended to invoke strongemotional reactions. These are the same elements that characterizewar. Elizabeth Bowen uses certain characteristics of the Gothictradition in her novel, The Demon’s Lover, to present a clearerpicture of the world war as discussed below

Gothicliterature uses strong emotions and elements of fear for the unknownimpending disaster. This is evident in Mrs. Drover throughout thestory…“Mrs. Drover’s most normal expression was one ofcontrolled worry…” She is full of apprehension of the ‘hour’and what would happen after reading the letter. “…with rapidlyheightened apprehension she counted each of the slow strokes (Bowen,1945a).” She momentarily finds comfort at the thought of having ataxi driver in the house as she picks her belongings. Her fear ofmeeting the letter-writer is also depicted in her efforts not to lookbehind and her unnatural pace as she went for a taxi. In the taxi,Mrs. Drover fears for her life when she comes face to face with thetaxi driver…“Mrs. Drover’s mouth flung open for some secondsbefore she could issue her first scream.” The element of fearrelates to the emotions brought about during the war fear ofdestruction and death. The war brings about the gloomy and depressingmood in The Demon’s Lover story (Bowen, 1945a).

Gothicliterature has evil characters, and in the case of The Demon’sLover, Kathleen’s fiancé is an evil man. The Gothic literaturedepicts the human condition as a struggle between the good and theevil. As noted by Bowen (194b), humans are divided by conflictingforces in the world and themselves. Mrs. Drover’s fiancé neverloved her but was rather set upon her and she never remembered hiskindness. For example, when they met face to face, he accelerates thetaxi without mercy into the hinterland of the deserted streets.The war is brought about by the innate corruption of the humannature the fallen world. It shows the cruelty that a man is capableof to a fellow man.

TheGothic literature has elements of the virginal maiden. In The Demon’sLover, Mrs. Drover is an innocent character as opposed to her soldierfiancée (Bowen, 194b). She brings out a strong character that isable to endure hardships. She kept a calm mannerism even when herthird born son was seriously ill…” but in spite of this she couldalways sustain a manner that was once energetic and calm.” Afterher fiancé was presumably killed, she faced the situation withcourage and calmness…”Her family not only supported her but wasable to praise her courage…” Even after the bombings, she feltrelatively safe…”Her movements as Mrs. Drover were circumscribed,and she dismissed any idea that they were still watched.” Thisdepicts the resilience depicted during wartimes, especially by thesoldiers (Bowen, 1945a).

Gothicheroines are on their own in crucial circumstances and becomeestranged to family ties resulting to alienation. After meeting herfiancé, Kathleen felt drawn away from her family “…she alreadyfelt that unnatural promise drives down between her and the rest ofall humankind.” After the death of her husband, she felt dislocatedfrom everything. War brings emotional alienation and sometimes drivesfamilies apart…”Her children were born, and all lived till theywere driven out by the bombs of the next war” and ”The unoccupiedhouses continued to meet her look with their damaged stare.” Thewar served to drive most of Mrs. Drover’s neighborhood out of theirfamiliar homes….”In her once familiar street, as in any unusedchannel, an unfamiliar queerness had silted up a cat wove itself inand out of railings.”

Gothiccharacters may be of questionable sanity or mad. Mrs. Drover thoughin normal circumstances sane she appears insane especially aftermeeting her fiancé. “I was not myself- they all told me so at thetime.” She kept a fiancé whose face she had never completely seenshe does not seem to question this. She made a scary promise to himthat now haunted her…” she could not have plighted a moresinister truth.” Mrs. Drover’s unstable state of mind representsthe emotional instability brought about by war (Bowen, 1945a).

Actionin the Gothic literature takes place in darkness and haunted orabandoned buildings. Mrs. Drover arrives at her house beforedusk…”Against the next batch of clouds, already piling upink-dark…” The young Kathleen also talks to her fiancé indarkness and cannot completely see his face. The Gothic setting isalso characterized by ruins that depict human confrontation withinfinite forces such as death and spirits…”The house wasshuttered and bore dust and cracks of the last bombings.” Mrs.Drover goes to look for a taxi when the dark had already set in theempty streets. The dead air in the house depicts abandonment andlifelessness. This setting clearly depicts the ruins and thedepressing atmosphere left after the war (Bowen, 1945a).

Gothicliterature has an element of the supernatural. It brings out theexistence of an unexplainable element in the human world. In TheDemon’s lover, the soldier seems to have supernatural powers toappear the exact time and date twenty-five years after Mrs. Drovermade that promise. How the letter entered Mrs. Drover`s house couldnot be explained the only person who could have delivered it, thecaretaker, was away. The button-cut on Mrs. Drover’s palm seem tocontain supernatural powers that remind her of the promise she madeto her soldier fiancé. Her fiancé seems to understand her everymove and positions himself to wait for her as a taxi driver. Mrs.Drover and her family never knew the soldier well, and he could notbe explained.

Theuse of the Gothic literature in The Demon’s Lover brings out thewar in the life of Mrs. Drover just outside war that drove her, herfamily and neighborhood out of London. It also brings out theelements of life and death. Mrs. Drover’s fiancé is presumed deadbut later appears under mysterious circumstances after twenty-fiveyears. Mrs. Drover’s inner and outside world are therefore wellpresented in Elizabeth Bowen’s The Demon Lover story.


Bowen,E. (1945a). TheDemon Lover.

Bowen,E. (1945b). TheDemon Lover, and Other Stories.Jonathan Cape Press.