A Sonnet Sequence
My lady I saw first within my mind
Her eyes thorn-sharp, an ocean in her soul
Fit to swallow me without hope’s parole
We spoke soft words, but her I could not find
Though we sought, wished and yearned to be entwined
In soft embrace learning secrets whole;
Under the trees a passionate école.
No more from the other would we be blind
I toiled to reach lofty spires where she dwelt
Twisted my life to stay afar from home
‘Til at last her gaze upon me I felt
The sun to my leaves. My queen on her throne
From two to one in her arms we would melt
So each to the other can now be known
My love and I forgot to be alone
Three years we laid happy on petals red
As open books; gentle pleas to be read,
My queen’s sharp eyes on me, quick to the bone
I in her twisting arms. Demands to atone
Plucking my shame from its dark, hidden bed
Ne’er could be met; Sisyphus and his stone
Was I under autumn’s chilling moan
When her blades turned on me. And for her I bled
Bound in loving ropes, my mind hers to play,
Mould with traditional hands, hers to make.
Captive a year, caught in cavernous
Knowledge of how to say and not say
Branded me, dying alone for her sake
My self lost facets multitudinous.
Gone is my Minerva. I lie broken
Fogged, aimless, black mourning for what was lost
Cast upon the uncaring seas. No token
Have I to guide me home. My world is frost
Flecked; winter-barren and thoughts all faded
Bled by her. Wed to her. Fled far from me
To where Eurydice be, a shaded
Dream. The giants’ shoulders are not for me
To stand upon and awe the deft words
Trimming and training the world tree’s branches.
I lie below where all my world is blurred
For loss of her by my dazed advances.
I am but a fugue, losing memories
Of lightness and smiles. Nevermore I dream.
My lady’s eyes were cruel, winter and hungry
When we first met, though my own were clouded,
Awash with dawn’s soothing balm, I happ’ly
Bowed in the wash of brilliance. She, shrouded
In light, came and blessed me with her fine hands,
Heavier than mountains. I buckled
Surrendered to her will; all I had planned
Slain in hungry crawling plants of her cull.
I was an ancient ruin, crumbling
And I did not dream or think or dare hope
In eternal day, deception playing
Cadence hypnotic in my blinded ears.
Can my ruinous heart be rebuilt
Or am I an autumn bloom to wilt?
Fortune and Time’s wheels turn in their pace
And silken moonlight slips the shadows deep
Parting the waves of weighted gloom with grace
So my lady’s eyes part, aroused from sleep.
Fearful, I crouch behind a crumbling heap
To seek solace from wicked, bloody words
Obsidian-sharp knives to make me weep
Before her. I’m naught but a fool’s coward.
She greets me with embraces soft as bird’s
Feathers, a dove’s coo, and quiet starlight
In her eyes. No more will she cause me burn
‘Neath her grasping, endless might.
She is the first rose, shaped by cruellest youth
She mine, I hers, in spring, we learn the truth.
A Commentary on Five Sonnets
The five sonnet sequence is comprised of five sonnets written in iambic pentameter in progressing in chronological order through the three traditional sonnet forms. The first two are in the classic Petrarchan style, the second two are Shakespearean and the final sonnet is Spenserian. This shift is a “re-work[ing of an] older” (Witla, 2010, p. 145) form to a newer form whilst still retaining the history of the form itself. The progression from the most rigid structure to a flexible one allows for a more varied rhyming pattern. Combining this with the versatility of three quatrains and a final couplet in which to engage in the themes of the poems allows for the complex thematic transformation from one of simpler romantic perception to a more nuanced one.
The evolution from the Petrarchan rhyming scheme of abbaabba cdcdcd (sonnet 1) or abbaabba cdecde (sonnet II) to the more intricate rhyming structures in Sonnets III to V reflect the change in the writer’s lover. She shifts from a “lady” (I, l.1) to a “queen” (II, l. 4) with blades and eyes cruel as “winter” (IV, l. 1), to a woman softened by time into “moonlight” (V, l. 2), “starlight” (V, l. 10) and compared to other traditional imagery of birds and roses. However, even the writer is changed throughout the sequence from a besotted, “[f]ogged” (III, l. 2) lover to a scared one with eyes opened to truth.
Other prominent themes include education (“books”, II, l.3), the transience of life and violence (III, l. 9) and the seasons. The academic imagery is intricately linked to the violence and cruelty of the lover through the invocation of “Minerva” (III, l.1), the goddess of wisdom and of strategic warfare. In the first sonnet education and romance are linked in a “passionate école” (I, l. 7) which reinforces the interplay between the main themes.
The allusion to failing to stand on the shoulders of giants and the way the writer perceives himself as being in ruins because of their love’s attentions aptly combines the destruction of academic interests, dreams and romantic life into a “blurred” (III, l. 11) depression that sinks them into a dark state.
Sonnets II to V all contain direct references to every season except summer, the seasons most mentioned are winter and autumn. These seasons, winter in particular, are traditionally linked to death and mourning (Hirst, 2014) and are often used in melodramatic poems about yearning for an unattainable love as in Shakespeare’s second, third and ninety-fourth sonnets amongst others.
The woman’s potential cruelty is connoted with phrases such as “thorn-sharp” (I, l. 2) and an ocean for a soul. Oceans are a complex image in literature, known for being alternately cruel or kind depending on their fickle nature. The woman’s soul is one that can “swallow” (I, l. 3) without hope of being saved, and his aspiration to reach her leaves them “twisted” (I, l. 10) after hard work. The connotations become explicit from the second sonnet onwards. Her sharp eyes are now blades and she is the stone weighing the lover’s life down until it has been destroyed.
However, unlike many sonnets about courtly love, this sequence ends in a reunion between the lovers and a better understanding between the two. The woman is gentled by times passing, and the lover made wiser by her actions. The lover is saved from the bright “sun” (I, l. 12) of her gaze and brought into the softer “moonlight” (V, l. 2); this is accented by the sibilance and smooth vowels in the final quatrain and couplet of the final sonnet creating a gentler sound when read aloud.
If the sequence is considered in terms of the Petrarchan sonnet structure, then the first four sonnets and the octave of the final one represent the problem and desire of the lover as they reflect upon their situation. The volta is introduced with the sibiliance and introduction of animal and flower imagery. The sestet is the true solution to the lover’s reality, and it comes with the repetition of the embrace that first trapped the lover within the woman’s arms and a more matured understanding of one another and their relationship.
Both the writer and the lover are contrasted through floral imagery; the writer is an autumn flower, but the woman is “the first rose […] in spring” (V, l. 13-14) when she is ready to return to the one she wronged. Her return brings spring, the writer comes out of depression and a healthier relationship comes out of their trials.
However, applying the Petrarchan sonnet form to the whole sequence applied, accentuates the “unequal relationship” (Fuller, 2nd ed, 2018, p. 2) between octave and sestet, and thus the two lovers. This leaves the sequence open for debate about whether or not the relationship is truly healthy or if the pattern of cruelty will continue after another period of happiness.
- Burrow, C (2010) The Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Sonnets and Songs OUP.
Culler, J (1997) Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction. OUP
Fuller, J (repr. 2018) The Sonnet. Routledge.
Hirst, R “The Top Ten Winters in Literature” The Guardian https://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/dec/24/top-10-winters-in-literature 24 Dec 2014. Retrieved 01 Apr 2019
Whitla, W (2010). The English Handbook: A guide to Literary Studies. Wiley-Blackwell
Apply Whitla’s statement to an analysis of the sonnet form by selecting two to three sonnets for a close reading. You will need to demonstrate how your selected sonnets compare and contrast their genre to an “accumulated literary history.” In other words, do these sonnets ignore, adapt, modify, or transform this literary history? How do they do so?
A Close Reading of Two Victorian Sonnets
The sonnet has “good claim to be one of the oldest […] verse forms […] simple yet flexible” (Fuller, repr. 2018, pp. 1) forms of poetry in English and as such has an “accumulated literary history” (Whitla, 2010, pp. 251) stretching back centuries. Sonnets can generally be placed into three main variations: the Petrarchan, the Shakespearean and the Spenserian forms. Each one modifies and adapts the form preceding it by modifying the rhyme scheme and the structure. For this reason, Fuller claims the Petrarchan sonnet is the “legitimate” (Fuller, pp. 1) one because the sonnet was designed around the imbalance between the octave and sestet: a problem and solution, or observation and conclusion, and as a result the later sonnets are not as subtle, though they are more popular due to Shakespeare and Spenser’s influences over eighteenth and nineteenth-century writers.
In order to show how nineteenth-century poets adapted sonnets to their purposes, this essay will undertake a closer reading of Elizabeth Barret Browning’s Songs From the Portuguese, Sonnet XXII (The Broadview Anthology of Victorian Poetry and Poetic Theory, pp. 78), dated to approximately 1850, and Caroline Norton’s Sonnet VIII To My Books (The Broadview Anthology of Victorian Poetry and Poetic Theory, pp. 146) which was written ten years earlier. For the sake of this essay Browning’s sonnet will be called Portuguese and Norton’s My Books.
Portuguese is a Type 2 open rhyme Petrarchan sonnet, following the rhyme scheme ABBAABBA CDCDCD, whereas My Books is a Shakespearean sonnet with the rhyme scheme ABAB CDCD EFEF GG despite the revival of the Petrarchan form between 1750 and 1850 (eds. Feldman and Robinson, 1999). Feldman and Robinson highlight Browning’s sonnets as being the “culmination” (pp. 1) of the sonnet form during the Romantic era even as it deviates from traditional Petrarchan subject matter.
Portuguese’s subject matter is not of erotic longing for an idealised woman, but a love that dwells more in spirituality and emotions. My Books deviates from the standard Shakespearean themes of love, jealousy, beauty and time to explore the solace of reading and inspiration. Both of these sonnets have a gentle tone due to the triphthongs in the first quatrain (My Books) and the octave (Portuguese) and the smoothed vowel /aə/ in “hour” and “power” (My Books, l. 1-3) and /aə/ in “fire”, “nigher”, “higher” and “aspire” (Portuguese, l. 2-7) creating a gentle assonant glide from one one line to the next. This helps accentuate the feeling of requited satisfaction and love, directly opposing the longing that originally characterised the sonnets’ traditional themes.
Browning also chooses to adapt the form of her sonnet very slightly through the use of the imperative “[t]hink” in line nine. It creates a break in the octave and leaves the impression that the writer is talking directly to her specific beloved instead of admiring from afar or talking to another. She additionally employs enjambement three times(lines 4, 6 and 9) throughout the poem, and rather than starting the sestet of the beginning of the ninth line, her proposition “Let us stay / Rather on earth” comes towards the end of the first line of the sestet, This gives the impression of Browning’s suggestion is more of a revelation and less of a logical conclusion or counter-proposal. Her proposal of choosing the imperfect earth over being alone with her loved one also seems counter to Petrarch’s more sexual ideal because of the spiritual theme running throughout the sonnet and its entire sequence.
In contrast to Portuguese, My Books is materialistic; Norton is thanking her books for being “[f]riends who can never alter or forsake […] And all neglect, perforce, must calmly take,-” (l. 2-4). These two lines also invert the idea of the constant, loving narrator and the fickle object of affection because it is she who “neglect[s]” (l. 4) the books until there is enough “turmoil” (l. 5) in her mind to make her return to one of her life’s bedrocks: her unchanging books and stories. They are not new to her, and while they are “haply” reuniting, she only receives a “sort of welcome” (l. 14) indicating that her nostalgic, but slightly indifferent attitude to her books is mutual. There is a lack of wonder regarding these books which is a direct comparison to the Petrarchan sonnet On First Looking Into Chapman’s Homer (Keats, 1816) where Keats’ first reading of the book is compared to “Cortez / […] Silent, upon a peak in Darien” (l. 11 – 14), likely because these books are not new to her, but “familiar” (l. 7) and homely.
Likewise, Portuguese is concerned about maintaining the union between herself and her loved one and holding their “deep, dear silence” in favour of rejecting something new, awe-inspiring and “perfect” (l. 8). Neither of these poems seek to change the status quo, but find the moments of solace “from time to time” (My Books, l. 9) in a world of emotional “darkness” (l. 14). This directly contrasts the traditional romantic sonnets which often seek a change in affairs, a desire for their lover to notice them or give them what they want by encouraging the reader to find happiness in familiar moments and not to “[mount] higher” (Portuguese, l. 6) than they should.
The key thematic difference between Norton and Browning is that Norton also weaves the theme of imagination into her poem, acknowledging her “unripe musings” (l. 14) are born from literature that came before. She indirectly references the Petrarchan revival and the increasing popularity of specific literature types and genre types through the use of the word “echo” (l. 10) to show that the works created now are often derivative of earlier works. In doing this she directly engages in the transformative properties of literature and the concept of reviving older forms of poetry by alluding to how their fancies “echo […] my own” (l. 10) in her “native language” (l. 12). Therefore, her decision to use a Shakespearean sonnet in defiance of the more popular Petrarchan form can be seen as a both a mockery and acknowledgement that creativity is fading and that writers turn more and more to the past in order to express themselves. Even the title of her sonnet echoes the dedications of poems past. Ode to A Nightingale and even poems as old as Chaucer’s Complaint unto [His] Purse were written as if the object of dedication were a person able to respond. Given Norton’s lukewarm thanks to her books for being constant, this adds an extra twist of humour to the intertextuality mentioned in the poem.
Browning’s primary theme of a spiritual love is more in keeping with the subject matter of Shakespeare’s sonnets inasmuch as Shakespeare frequently use words to invoke a religious tone such as “heaven” (sonnets 28 and130), “good faith” (sonnet 131), “religious love” (sonnet 31) and prophecy (sonnet 107, l. 1) to his romantic desires in order to raise them above normal love. However, Portuguese uses religion to express to the strength of her joy, as Sonnet XLIII ‘How do I love thee?’ dramatically proclaims “I love thee […]/ [….] For the Ends of Being and ideal Grace” (l. 2-4) with “my childhood’s faith” (l. 10) to create something purer and simultaneously more humble than Shakespeare’s sonnet 116 ‘Let me not to the marriage of true minds’. Browning asks permission to love and, in sonnet XXII, refuses to exalt their romance too high lest the “angels press upon [them] and aspire” (l. 8) to give them something perfect when perfection is not what they seek.
Comparing these two poems together and to the literary culture preceding them demonstrates that while Browning’s use of the Petrarchan form and adherence to the theme of romantic love shows a closer adherence to the earlier writers, Norton not only chooses an already modified form, but adapts it even further to discuss the commonplace where typically courtly love or discussions of great turmoil would take place. Norton’s sonnet is the more transformative of the two, and she even obliquely references the repetition of creativity within the poem as a problem, but both of the sonnets discussed modify the subject matter of the traditional sonnet without breaking away from the prescribed form.
In spirit, both Portuguese and My Books are about affection and comply with a sonnet’s usual subject matter. It can be concluded upon closer reading that both poems, My Books especially, stray from the expected content and even form of the sonnet in order to reinvent something that “can never alter or forsake” (My Books, l. 2) its origin or audience into a more appealing, contemporary tone and engage with the traditional sonnet.
- Burrow, C (2010) The Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Sonnets and Songs OUP.
eds. Collins, T J and Rundle V J (1991, Broadview Press Ltd) The Broadview Anthology of Victorian Poetry and Poetic Theory
eds. Feldman, P R and Robinson, D, (1999, OUP) A Century of Sonnets: The Romantic-Era Revival, 1750-1850
Fuller, J (1972, repr. 2018, Routledge) The Sonnet
Keats, J (1816) On First Looking Into Chapman’s Homer [website] Poetry Foundation https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/44481/on-first-looking-into-chapmans-homer Accessed 01 Apr 2019
Whitla, W (2010, Wiley-Blackwell) The English Handbook: A Guide to Literary Studies
Frames for organizing details means that you find particular perspectives for reading a text, for focusing your attention. In other words, in moving from surveying, skimming, and summarizing to frames, we are moving from strategies that describe a text to frames based on questions that shape an analysis (Whitla, 34). The statement was experientially validated when I went through the novel. It takes a while to understand what the theme is , what the trend is, and then identify one by one the common threads that hold the story together.
The novel “Dinner at Homesick Restaurant” by Tyler is an unique creation, in that the theme deals with the ordinary middle class American family life. A very mundane theme at the most. As Lisa Allardice explains ( 2012, The Guardian) Tyler’s subject matter in her writing has been “the everyday lives of middle-class America over more than half a century, her writing an attempt, to borrow Updike’s phrase, ‘to give the mundane its beautiful due’.” These statements tell the main theme of the story. The theme is very unappealing, yet the novel is regarded as her best. The simple reason is that she made it beautiful through her writing style. She does not deals with any labels such as: murder mysteries, suspense or real events. In a similar article in for the same paper, Tyler herself declares: “I don’t have murder mysteries, suspense or real events. I rely on time to do my plotting: people having babies, marrying, dying, just normal things that happen.” She adds: “I am fascinated by how families work, endurance, how do we get through life?” And further: “We’re endlessly striving and keeping going. How many times we hurt each other in families or drift apart or do harm – and then we come back together and try over again. It’s very heartening and touching.” (2015, The Guardian) By questioning what is the recurrent thread throughout the novel, it became evident, that each chapter of the novel is dedicated to a a family member, and individual narrations give life to the creation.
Tyler herself has identified the common thread that runs through the narratives, connecting them in a strong bond. That is endurance, the endurance of the family concept, the endurance of the love and feelings each family member has for each other, like a roller coaster going up and down but always present. (2018, New York Times ).
The title of the novel Dinner at Homesick Restaurant is giveaway of the central focus of the novel. That is that all the characters are homesick in one form or another. As Allardice observes, “captures the dichotomy on which her fiction rests”: the characters focus on the home, either return to it or runaway from it. The family lives are strewn with disputes, love and hate, ambitions achieved or failed, betrayals , in short all human experiences are shown in the story. Driven by these the members look for security, love and affection elsewhere and most long for a home that never was. (2012, The Guardian).
One might ask, why chose such a novel for reading. The answer is given by Martin Wilson: “Here was a novel that was compelling line by line, and not because of some complicated plot, and not because of a flashy style that trumpeted the writer’s brilliance. What mattered to me was the joy of seeing a writer set all of it down nearly perfectly—the crisp sentences, the perfect yet pleasingly off-kilter dialogue that captured character, the gorgeous concrete descriptions that brought the world these characters inhabited into sharp focus. There was a simple beauty to it”. (www.readitforfward.com)
The whole novel is a narration comprising of 10 chapters. Each chapter is dedicated to a family member and the contents in a chapter reveals the person behind the character. The character expresses things from own perspective. This gradually builds up the picture of the family, what are they, what has happened to them, and what is future holding for them. Yet Tyler suggests that there is no thing called objective reality. Every thing is subjective in a very fluid human to human interaction. In a narration such as this is it possible for the “writer’ of the narration to remain neutral ? As Tyler herself says about Cody: “I don’t think he’s admirable, but I feel a little sorry for him as clearly something has gone very wrong.” Tyler says she does let time decides and determine the plot as it goes along. (2012 The Guardian).
Tyler commences her story by using the “flash back” (analepsis) technique, where the dying mother, Pearl, lies reflecting back over her life. This technique is used by the author throughout the novel , to bring life into the story telling. The readers are encouraged to weave the story by reading through each character as it unfolds on the given chapter. Why did the husband, Beck, deserted her and the family in 1944? Is it because of the high strung temperament of the the wife, Pearl ? Now we know she is high strung person, a real dangerous person through Cody, the eldest son and Jenny, the Doctor. We also know that Pearl thinks her children somehow have failed.
Does the story involves any thing dramatic. No. It is about very mundane happenings of a middle class family in America over 50 or so years. The love and hate, betrayals, abuse, praise and pain are the features that are highlighted. One may find various forms of psychoses if one reads with detailed care.
The lonely struggles of a single mother in raising 3 children takes its toll, as is seen by the picture painted by others of her. Pearl has a constant fear of the house burning, which could be a manifestation of her real fear of losing control, involving feelings, passions and general things. She still harbors an affection for Beck, although she does not admit openly. The children have failed her right from the beginning. She does not know why. These makes her bewildered as manifested by her yearnings to go back to the early days. She requests, at the end of her life, Ezra to read from the scrap books and journals from her girlhood, showing her yearning for a life that was never enjoyed by her.
The Dinner at Homesick Restaurant is a symbol of the home they never had, yet each feels the need to have a home. The attempts to have everything settled and back to normal fails. The son, Ezra has assumed the role of a mother, perhaps in place of a real mother they never had, as they assume. Ezra takes it upon himself to try and bring the family together. He provides comfort and food to every one who visits him.
As stated earlier the novel is about mundane happenings and experiences of a middle class American family. Things never happen according to plan. It is replete with disappointments and failures. Every thing possible that is disappointing take place. Yet the characters go on, they endure and the life goes on, again and again. Endurance of humans.
1.William Whitla. The English Handbook: A guide to Literary Studies, 274, Wiley-Blackwell.
- Martin Wilson in; https://www.readitforward.com/essay/article/start-reading-Anne-tyler/
The Demon Lover was written by Elizabeth Bowen, as a wartime story based in London. This is not a war story, but a wartime story, thus emphasizes the historical and social context in which it was set. On the other hand it is a story based on reality and fantasy or is it between reality and the supernatural ?
Intertextuality also involves the relationships in which a text is produced as a social text
by concurrent discourses in history, sociology, and culture in general. (Whitla 274). Intertexuality is amply demonstrated in this short story, a part of a series by Bowen, using different periods of time in history, and at times bringing to surface her mental reactions in a deserted, damaged , isolated and lonely house in war torn London. The story concerns the visit of a women in her early forties, to her house in the war torn London, during the Blitz, to collect some of her belongings. In reality the whole episode does not covert more than few hours. Yet, Bowen, encompasses the psychological trauma she and fellow countrymen had undergone during this specific period: “the plot recreates the the kind of psychological disconnectedness that war causes-the terror, the uncertainty, the denied reality, the disappearances of people, and the death” (Demon-Lovers and their Victims in British Fiction 91).
This is aptly introduced via her use of the subtle hints of the unnatural. The main story line is interspersed with her anxiety of the unnatural. “On the supernatural side of the letter’s entrance she was not permitting her mind to dwell. Who, in London, knew she meant to call at the house today? Evidently, however, that had been known. The caretaker, had he come back, had had no cause to expect her: He would have taken the letter in his pocket, to forward it, at his own time, through the post. There was no other sign that the caretaker had been in—but, if not?” (Boden, 3)
She is beginning to show doubts, anxieties and fear . Yet the story suggests that, she has not lost her power of rational thinking. On the contrary she is suppressing the answer. Here is a women. All on her own, in a hurry to collect some of her belongings and get back to her family in the country side confronted by unnatural happenings. She knows that “Letters dropped in at doors of deserted houses do not fly or walk to tables in halls. They do not sit on the dust of empty tables with the air of certainty that they will be found. There is needed some human hand—but nobody bot the caretaker had a key. Under the circumstances she did not care to consider, a house can be entered without a key. It was possible that she was not alone now.” (Boden,4) The fears, the doubts, the uncertainties begin to play in the mind of this lonely woman. It is almost as if we, the readers, can share these moments of mental turmoil in her mind. At the same time she knows her priority, the purpose of her visit: “The thing was, to get out. To fly? No, not that: She had to catch her train. She would slip down the street and round the side of the square to where the square gave on the main road. She would return in the taxi, safe, to her own door, and bring the solid driver into the house with her to pick up the parcels from room to room. The idea of the taxi driver made her decisive, bold:” (Boden,4). Now the reader feels everything would turn out to be normal. Oh No ! “ She unlocked her door, went to the top of the staircase, and listened down. She heard nothing—but while she was hearing nothing the passé air of the staircase was disturbed by a draft that traveled up to her face. It emanated from the basement: Down where a door or window was being opened by someone who chose this moment to leave the house.” (Boden,4) So some one is here ! The reader is kept in suspense.
Th story is set in the wartime period of the second world war. The woman in the main role, Mrs.Drover, is in her house. Then we are taken back to 1916, the period of the first world war. This is an attempt to show the similarities of experiences , the negativitiess that are common in situations of war.
“The young girl talking to the soldier in the garden had not ever completely seen his face.
It was dark; they were saying goodbye under a tree. Now and then—for it felt, from not
seeing him at this intense moment, as though she had never seen him at all—she verified
his presence for these few moments longer by putting out a hand, which he each time
pressed, without very much kindness, and painfully, on to one of the breast buttons of his
uniform. That cut of the button on the palm of her hand was, principally, what she was to
carry away. This was so near the end of a leave from France that she could only wish him
already gone. It was August 1916. Being not kissed, being drawn away from and looked
at intimidated Kathleen till she imagined spectral glitters in the place of his eyes. Turning
away and looking back up the lawn she saw, through branches of trees, the drawing room
window alight: She caught a breath for the moment when she could go running back
there into the safe arms of her mother and sister, and cry: “What shall I do, what shall I
do? He has gone.” (Boden,2). Her emotions are clearly described. Two lovers meet and non fulfillment of the longings of a couple abut to depart, the uncertainty of the future and the lack of security of the moment. Even though she is with her lover, she longs to be in the security of her family, where security is guaranteed. This is the situation in 1916 during the first world war. This is the situation during the second world war. Two periods in history are woven together in a single text to bring out a story
with a common theme.
“Kathleen behaved well when, some months later, her fiancé was reported missing,
presumed killed. Her family not only supported her but were able to praise her courage
without stint because they could not regret, as a husband for her, the man they knew
almost nothing about. They hoped she would, in a year or two, console herself—and had
it been only a question of consolation things might have gone much straighter ahead. But
her trouble, behind just a little grief, was a complete dislocation from everything. She did
not reject other lovers, for these failed to appear. For years, she failed to attract men—and
with the approach of her thirties she became natural enough to share her family’s
anxiousness on the score. She began to put herself out, to wonder, and at thirty two she
was very greatly relieved to find herself being courted by William Drover. She married
him, and the two of them settled down in the quiet, arboreal part of Kensington: In this
house the years piled up, her children were born, and they all lived till they were driven
out by the bombs of the next war.” (Boden,3)The reader is then shown how the mental landscape had been shaped by the happenings of the distant past. The death of the lover; the isolation and the mental shut down of the young girl during the period of grief; then the slow normalizing of things when she began to long for a courtship with another man. Yet the anguishes of life are not faraway, for they are again driven by another war, in anther time to the safety of the country side from a settled life in Kensingnton.
The reader is informed that Mrs. Drover “had had an intermittent muscular flicker to the left of her mouth, but in spite of this she could always sustain a manner that was at once energetic and calm.” (Boden,2) As shown earlier, the woman is tempered by experiences, by bitter experiences in the past. She had developed resilience. What ever is the state of her mind she is capable of facing the world with a composed mind and a face.
- William Whitla. The English Handbook: A guide to Literary Studies, 274, Wiley-Blackwell.
- Demon-Lovers and their Victims in British Fiction 91
- Elizabeth Bowen, Demon Lover and other stories. Published by Chatto & Windus; First edition. 1945