A Mystery Letter

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Updated: Apr 30, 2024
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Back at her abandoned home in London, Kathleen Drover is attentive to her surroundings. Although, they start to change as the story progresses, affecting Mrs. Drover and her personality. In the beginning of the story, she is very practical and well adjusted to the changes ever since the war began and trauma years prior. Progressively, she grew nervous after receiving a letter from someone she did not remember, leaving her mortified in the end with attempts to escape back to the countryside.

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In Elizabeth Bowen’s “Demon Lover”, Mrs. Drover has a hazy sense of identity due to the fate and presence of her past.

After returning to her run-down home from the English countryside to retrieve some items, Mrs. Drover was very practical and well-adjusted to the recent change in her environment. The change was prominent as the story opened with the immediate use of foreshadowing. Bowen displays it right off the bat to prepare us for what is about to happen. “Against the next batch of clouds, already piling up ink-dark, broken chimneys and parapets stood out” (Bowen 1). The use of foreshadowing draws the listeners in, because knowing something bad is about to come will force them to continue reading to find out what dread is in the future. It adds dramatic tension, building up the story leaving the readers anticipating what it may be. It can help readers understand what is to happen later, but also prepares them for it. The readers can get a sense that the war took a toll and was very effective on the society, because of the constant description of how beat down and old everything seems. Bowen utilizes imagery to describe the desolation of the town, but also to describe upcoming drama of the letter Mrs. Drover will soon be reading. She began to grow nervous, “preceding the fall of rain she read it: It was a few lines” (Bowen 2). The fall of rain awards the readers with an auditory image, adding drama and creating a sense of suspense as we are still waiting to see what is to come. The imagery forces the readers to put their senses to use pressuring them to construct those senses into something animated and legitimate. The desolated and estrangement of the imagery gets the reader’s involved and more in depth with the story. Although, after opening the letter, Mrs. Drover is no longer feeling well-adjusted, but rather nervous and apprehensive.

As the story progresses, Kathleen opens a letter from a person from her past, changing her mood instantly, leaving her nervous and on edge. Not knowing whom the letter is from, let alone possibly expecting the author of the letter at a specific, unknown hour arranged by him, builds up her anxiety and fear of what will happen. “Her lips, beneath the remains of lipstick, beginning to go white. She felt so much change in her own face that she went to the mirror, polished a clear patch in it, and looked at once urgently and stealthily in” (Bowen 2). Bowen presented her readers with an image, inflicting them to represent their ideas as they read that appeals to their senses. The mirror grants the sense of sight as Mrs. Drover’s lips begin to turn white, because she is filled with anguish. The mirror is used as an object to aid in creating a visual presentation of what we believe is really happening. Formulating the readers to think adds drama, pulling them into the plot of the story. The letter is the sole reason she begins to evolve from calm to crazy. Without the mystery letter, the story would have no tie to make it as interesting. The thriller letter is a symbol to the short story and supports the effectiveness of it. For Mrs. Drover to feel a little better, she had “to rally herself, she said she was in a mood—- and for two or three seconds shutting her eyes, told herself that she had imagined the letter. But she opened them—- there it lay on the bed” (Bowen 3). The letter is meant to represent the horror that is to come. The specific location of the letter also created an uneasy feeling. The perfectly placed, written, unaddressed letter helps to build emotion to the plot, along with meaning. It gives the story depth, relating the theme to the plot of the story. Kathleen imagined it was unreal, because she was so deathly afraid of her past. Now, her past can disturb her in the upcoming events as the clock ticks on hour by hour. The letter was on her mind. No matter how persistent she was in attempting to believe it was unreal, it agitated her constantly. She began creating scenarios in her head, but nothing was to help her from impending crisis.

Everything takes a turn for the worse as they became more abhorrent, and Mrs. Drover cannot do anything to escape from her what used to be home sweet home. The clock was still ticking, striking every hour. Each strike startled Mrs. Drover as she awaited for the specific hour her past was to come back and haunt her. “Six has struck” (Bowen 4). Startled, it is easy to see that Mrs. Drover is suffering a trauma that once happened to her, and she is now reliving it. The constant flashbacks provide background information into the character’s’ past. It is often essential to the plot of the story, because without it, the readers would not have known. She has gone through an entirety of circumstances from her missing fiancé whom no one knew much about, the war that kicked her new family out of their home, and what is happening now. “Repeated exposure can trigger traumatic stress and leave you feeling hopeless and helpless” (Helpguide). The several eerie events she has lived through has enabled her to stay mortified in these kinds of situations. The beat-down environment she is in continues to add effect to the story line. Bowen repeatedly highlights the damaged buildings, creating a sense of foreboding. “The unoccupied houses opposite continued to meet her look with their damaged stare” (Bowen 4-5). The repetition of the warn down architecture mirrors the atmosphere it is within. It allows the readers to have a more clear, but memorable idea due to the constant highlighting of it. Things are not going well, and when the clock strikes seven, there are more possibilities of the demon lover showing up. In the end, Mrs. Drover was left frightened, and the repetition was just the build up to the final series of events where her worst fear comes true.

In Elizabeth Bowen’s “Demon Lover,” Mrs. Drover has a clouded sense of integrity, because of a predetermined course and presence of her past. Once she returned to her London home, everything was normal, and she was feeling well-adjusted to her new life in the countryside. It was until she found the perfectly placed, mystery letter when she began to grow nervous. The built up nervousness turned into her being mortified of the hours to come. Each device aided in the development to Kathleen Drover’s characterization, allowing for a smooth plot line. Attentive to her surroundings most of the time, little Kathleen know they were to be violated by her demon lover. 

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A Mystery Letter. (2022, Jun 27). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/a-mystery-letter/