What are the character traits of Alan Austen in "The Chaser"?

Alan Austen's character traits in "The Chaser" include lovesickness, a sense of commitment, gullibility, and naivete.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I would argue that Alan Austen is characterized by lovesickness, a sense of commitment, gullibility, and naivete.

To deal first with his lovesickness, he has become obsessed with a young woman named Diana, despite the fact that she couldn't care less about him. He is unable to consider life without her, which is why he is willing to resort to what is arguably the greatest source of romantic manipulation—a love potion. This will compel Diana to love him, although she will never understand what changed her mind.

Closely linked to this is Alan Austen's sense of commitment. Now that he has fallen in love, he is unwilling to consider any life other than one shared with Diana. He is committed, arguably to the point of obsession, with making her his wife.

His gullibility refers to his certainty that this love potion will work. Given that it is only a one-dollar investment, however, this can be easily overlooked.

His naivete relates to the fact that he does not heed the old man's warning that he will one day be back for an antidote as a result of the short leash that Diana will keep him on once the love potion has taken effect. He is quite willing to believe that the potion will work, but cannot heed the warning of the $5000 bill that will come his way when he wants to be free of Diana.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Alan Austen is young, naive, and hopelessly in love. He's also quite desperate to solve his problems. Hence his visit to the old man in his little shop to get his hands on some love potion. His love is unrequited and he needs to figure out a way to the get the object of his affections to start paying attention to him. The old man has just what Alan needs.

But Alan is so keen for the love potion to work that he's not really thinking far ahead. Even when the old man tells him how cloying and needy the potion will make his girlfriend, Alan doesn't care. He just hands over his money and eagerly takes possession of this magic elixir.

This is a prime example of Alan's naivety and relative lack of experience with the ways of the world. But the old man's certain that this attitude won't last; that before long Alan, like so many others before him, will be beating a path to his door to get his hands on "the chaser."

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Collier's short story "The Chaser," Alan Austen is described as a nervous, naive, and darkly infatuated boy. The story opens with Austen going up the stairs to meet with the man who, he has been told, can make him a love potion that will win the heart of his beloved, Diana. During the conversation between the two men, Austen shows himself at first to be hesitant but then to grow in confidence. As this dialogue progresses, the reader soon recognizes the dark undertones of the story and of Austen himself. Firstly, by asking for a love potion in the first place, Austen is proving himself to be someone who is content with knowing the love he receives from Diana will not be genuine but rather be a mandated effect of the potion. Thus, the one-sided darkness of the affection is made clear and unsettles the reader.

Also, although the reader sees the danger of the love potion the old man describes, Austen shows no awareness of understanding the true effects that he will see in Diana once he gives her the potion. The old man tells him, "She will want to know all you do . . . All that has happened to you during the day. Every word of it. She will want to know what you are thinking about, why you smile suddenly, why you are looking sad." Through this revelation, the reader becomes aware that the love will not be genuine not only because it is imposed by a potion but also because the "bottled love" is more obsessive and neurotic than true love should be. Yet Austen does not understand this, for he immediately replies to the old man's description, "That is love!"

Unfortunately, it is not love, which Austen will quickly discover once he gives the potion to Diana—to the ruin of them both.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Alan Austen is a young man who is both desperately and passionately in love with a woman who does not love him back. It is fairly clear that he passionately loves this woman, because he knows a great deal of her habits, likes, and dislikes. However, she does not reciprocate his feelings. This is why Alan is a desperate individual. He is desperate enough to have her love that he is willing to drug her. This also shows that Alan has a "never say die" attitude of sorts. He is simply unwilling to give up, and he is willing to think outside of the box and enlist the help a mystical apothecary of a sort. If I am being honest, Alan is also a bit creepy. I understand desperately wanting someone else's affections, but he is willing to chemically change who the woman is in order to have her essentially worship him.

"She will, when she has taken this. She will care intensely. You will be her sole interest in life."

"That is love!" cried Alan.

Alan has a warped view of what a loving relationship looks like. He wants Diana to more or less be a mindless automaton of a woman. He does not care about her feelings as long as her feelings are always her "love" for him.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team