The Demon Lover

By: Cem Ozcan

Conflict is one of the most important elements of stories, novels and plays because it causes the action. In order to discover what the story is really about, it is important to examine those
conflicts to find some ideas and themes. Conflict that exists totally within a person is called inner-conflict. It usually involves indecision, self-doubt, self-blame or some intense emotion.
It is a state of mind in which you find it impossible to make a decision. It takes place within the mind of a character. In the story, The Demon Lover, by Elizabeth Bowen the major character, Mrs. Kathleen Drover, has an inner conflict. She is struggling to make a decision, take an action or overcome her feelings from the begining of the story till the end.

The Demon Lover is a tale of one woman's introspective journey to face repreesed memories of her past. The story takes place in the context of World War I and II. It is about an inward pilgrimage of Kathleen Drover who returns to her old house to pick up some things
which she has left long before. Although it is not clear whether or not Kathleen Drover's return to her house is a physical journey, it is with certitude, a psychological one. She has been feeling guilty for the last twenty five years of her life. She promised to wait her fiance the day she sent him to war. But, she could not keep it and got married and became Mrs.Drover. As the story starts, we come across with Mrs.Drover who decides to go back to her old house which has not been used since war times. She goes there to question her life. Nevertheless, she has some doubts. She has repressed all her feelings for a long time and when she is confronted with truth she does not know how to behave. She has lived so long with no balance between societal rules and personal desires. She created a false identity for herself and bahaved according to the norms of society. She was expected to get married and she herself considered it as an escape. Later, she realized that it was impossible to escape
from her real identity. So, this journey represents the exploration of her unconscious.

In the begining of the story, there is a description of weather. This tells readers a lot about the mood of the character. " It was late August; it had been a steamy, showery day : at the moment the trees down the pavement glitterd in an escape of humid yellow afternoon sun.'' ( pg 346) August is time of harvest. When we think of Mrs.Drover picking her things up, it is same for her. It is also end of summer when you are out of energy. Mrs.Drover's strength is also lessening because she can not bear this tension any more. It is a steamy hot weather; but on the other hand it is showery. This rain can be interpretted as release for her. She will feel releived after that visit. It is not only rain but shower. All of her feelings come
out in a much stronger way because of the fact they have been repressed for twenty five years.

The house also represents the psyche of Mrs.Drover. Bruised and battered by the war, the house contains several battle scars: the 'bruise' in the wallpaper, 'claw-marks' and the 'cracks
in the structure, left by the last bombing'. Not only her mind but also the house is damaged. She has closed the house which means she has erased her past. She now gets into her own mind she has locked . She is there to question her life. Nevertheless she is not sure whether to enter or not. " She slowly forced round her latchkey in an unwilling lock, then gave the door, which had warped, a push with her knee." ( pg 346) It is clear from the passage that she has a
dilemma in herself. She makes a decision but she is unwilling to act according to it. It is said to be an unwilling lock, but still she pushes the door with her knee. She wants to uncover the repressed memories but she suffers a lot while doing so.

" She had not put any more powder since she left the shop where she ate her solitary tea.'' ( pg348 ) She did not want to cover something on her face. It seems she is ready to confront with her past; but she is not willing to see the realities. Her going there without putting no powder on her face may be explained as her wish not to hide anything, but still she wears a hat which is pulled down. She keeps a secret which she can not confess. She is in between. She is so indecisive that she can not choose the right way.

Mrs.Drover is described as a 'prosaic' woman whose normal expression was that of 'controlled worry, but of assent' (pg 348) She has always tried to control her life. Even her worry is controlled to maintain the impression that she is okey. She has always been a woman suffering and scarred by a repressed emotional event.

As the story goes on we see a letter written by Kathleen addessed to herself . She has already forgot about it. She considers it written by her fiance. The letter is about the promise which should have been kept. She wrote the letter in order to relieve from the feeling of guilt. We, as readers, can see her conflict here. She has been suffering for a long time and she thinks she has to be punished. Therefore, she arranges the punishment herself. She comes
back to the house in their anniversary date. She believes she has to suffer. Hence, she plans all these just to be punished.

While she is getting ready to go, she thinks about the bad sides of him. "He was never kind to me, not really, I don't remember him kind at all. Mother said he never considered me. He set on me, that was what it was- not love. Not love, not meaning a person well. What did he do, to make me promise like that?''( pg 351 ). She wants to feel relaxed. On the one hand she feels guilty, but to make herself better she says she should not any more.

After spending enough time in the house, she decides to 'flee'. ' The idea of the taxi driver made her decisive, bold: she unlocked the door, went to the top of the staircase and listened down.'' (pg 351). The idea that she will leave the gloomy atmosphere makes her feel good, but still her mind is full of questions. She interpretes every sound as her fiance's voice. She wants to leave before he comes; she does not consider that he will never be able to come as he is reported missing- probably dead in the war. When she comes eye to eye with the taxi driver, she starts to scream. She thinks that he is her fiance. No matter who the man is, she is ready to take any male she sees. Her screaming and beating on the glass around the taxi indicate a mental breakdown. At last, she comes to that point. But, on the other hand, this scream may be interpretted as something positive. Finally, she does not have to repress anything or control her feelings but she screams.

She is in conflict with her mind. She has lived with that pressure all the time . She spent her days thinking about the promise and consequences she had to pay for not keeping it. At last, she accomplished; she came across with all the realities; the next step is much easier now ; because she is not willing to return to the town without the 'objects' she has come to fetch.

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