Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

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...

(The entire section is 507 words.)