John Collier’s message in “The Chaser” is clear, although he never states it in words: Love is only a temporary illusion. People fall in love and believe it will last forever. While they are in the grip of this illusion, they will do anything to obtain possession of the loved one. Once the illusion has dissipated and grim reality has intruded, the former ardent lover realizes that he or she has tied himself or herself for life to a stranger who may be totally incompatible, and who does not fulfill all the wonderful expectations the illusion of love initially created. At that point the lover has two choices: either to remain in a loveless relationship and live a life of pretense or to find some means of obtaining freedom.
In “The Chaser,” the old man emphasizes the fact that the young man’s loved one will cling to him so tenaciously that he may have to use drastic means to free himself from her clutches. She will make herself disagreeable by demanding all his time and attention. Because the price of the love potion is so cheap and the price of the chaser, the vial of undetectable poison, so exorbitant, Collier implies that it is easy to fall in love and to get married, but very difficult to extricate oneself from such a legally, socially, and morally binding relationship after discovering that marriage is often monotonous, expensive, overly demanding, and sexually unsatisfying.
Collier was cynical about human beings in general and...
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In this exceptionally short work, Collier uses a strictly objective technique. He briefly describes the two characters and the setting in the opening paragraphs, then lets his characters tell the story almost entirely through their dialogue. This technique is perfect for the author’s purposes, because he wants his message to dawn on the reader without his having to spell it out. It is interesting to observe how Collier displays his technical virtuosity by suggesting the debilitating effects of long years of married life while respecting the classic Aristotelian unities of time, place, and action.
The entire story unfolds in only a few minutes and is confined to a simple setting. It contains only two characters, and these two are sharply contrasted so that it is easy to visualize both and to imagine how their voices sound. One is young, the other old. One is idealistic, the other realistic. The young man is governed by his passions; the old man has been disillusioned by long years of living and is governed by the cold light of reason. The young man is interested in love; the old man is only interested in money. The young man has his whole life ahead of him but acts as if he is pressed for time; the old man obviously is at the end of his life but acts as if he has all the time in the world.
Collier often wrote unrealistic stories with realistic settings. He was noted for putting his genii, jinns, sibyls, demons, and ghosts in contemporary...
(The entire section is 471 words.)