• ‘The violent destruction of solid things’: Elizabeth Bowen’s wartime short stories

      Darwood, Nicola (2016-07-05)
      Elizabeth Bowen’s introduction to the American edition of The Demon Lover and Other Stories (1944) explores the feeling of ‘lucid abnormality’felt by many during the Second World War; in this collection of short stories, Bowen offers a portrayal of London life when ‘[t]he violent destruction of solid things, the explosion of the illusion that prestige, power and permanence attach to bulk and weight, left all of us, equally, heady and disembodied. This paper focuses on three specific stories from the collection; these stories – ‘The Inherited Clock’ (where time is literally stopped), ‘The Demon Lover’ and ‘Happy Autumn Fields’ – demonstrate Bowen’s own fascination with temporal discombobulations, depicting in the latter two stories the ‘destruction of solid things’ where time is no longer fixed and where ghosts from the past displace time in order to appear in the present.  Drawing on these stories, this paper discusses Benson’s use of temporal disturbances in her wartime Gothic stories to explore the fears of many in London who did not know ‘who the dead were’ and for whom ‘the destruction of solid things’ leads to a ‘rising tide of hallucination' for those struggling to live in a world torn apart by war.