Lit React ~ Analysis & reactions on works of fiction.

28 Sep 2012

(Short Story) The Chaser by: John Collier

(Reaction) Cleaning Up by: Antonio Conejos

Collier's story utilizes the contrast between naive youth and jaded experience to comment on the true nature of love; or at least that type of exuberant love experienced by the young.

In many ways the plot of the story is driven by who the characters are. Austen is young, exuberant and in love; heedless to anything else. On the other hand, the old man has seen all this before and hints to Austen that the outcome of the love potion may not be desirable. The old man does not lie about his potions; indeed he is quite candid in his explanation of them and when they are needed.

Austen and the old man are a study in contrasts. The former is jumpy and nervous, with youth's affectation of experience, Alan, attempting a look of scientific detachment. The latter has true experience, as his age and demeanor amply demonstrate. Note the topics that the old man discusses, life-cleaning, infidelity, the cost (financial and otherwise) of his potions. Moreover, the old man himself is not named which adds to the atmosphere of mystery surrounding him. Lastly, Austen lives in the present (the courtship of Diana is the only thing on his mind) while the old man concerns himself with the future (the consequences of a successful, with the aid of a cheap potion, courtship).

Again and again the old man hints to Austen that the love potion will grant everything Austen desires; but that his desire will not outlive the efficacy of the potion. She will want nothing but solitude and you... She would never divorce you.

The youth though is deaf to the warnings of the old man. His failure to see the outcome of the love potion lies in his belief, not uncommon in young lovers, that his affection will last forever. As he fervently states, That [the possibility that Austen will be unfaithful] will not happen.

Yet that Austen will eventually tire of Diana is all but assured. This conclusion is born out of the old man's long experience with is customers and the potions he peddles. Austen later in life, when he is no longer naive and has made money for himself, will need the glove-cleaner. That is why instead of a simple goodbye the old man takes his leave of with Austen with Au revior. This French phrase means till we meet again and the old man is sure that Austen will return for the other potion, sooner or later.


The Chaser's theme may sound heavy handed and ornery but it is actually quite deft and entertaining in its execution. A lot of the story is implied but not stated and this technique makes it all the more fun to read.

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