What is the connotation in "The Chaser"?

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The title of John Collier's short story has probably confused some contemporary readers because the term "chaser" is not nearly as familiar today as it was when Collier published "The Chaser" in 1951. A chaser is a small drink of water, beer, or soda which is typically drunk after a straight shot of a strong liquor, usually whiskey or gin or perhaps tequila. Probably the most common such combination today is a shot of straight bourbon followed by a chaser of beer, which is called a "boilermaker." In Collier's day it was common to drink a straight whiskey followed by a little plain water. The title of the story has nothing to do with chasing or being chased. In the story the second potion bought by Alan Austen is undoubtedly a poison, but neither Austen nor the old man uses such a literal and potential incriminating term. The old man refers to it as a "glove cleaner" and with other cryptic euphemisms, but it is obvious to the reader that he knows that Austen will be using it to murder his wife.


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