What is the connotation in "The Chaser"?

Expert Answers

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

I believe that this question is asking for a bit of explanation as to how the title of this great short story applies to the events being narrated. I'm actually always pleased to find out that most of my students are ignorant of what a chaser beverage actually is. A lot of strong liquors don't necessarily taste all that great, so after taking a shot of something particularly strong and foul tasting, it is common to follow up with something that washes the taste away. The second drink "chases" the first drink. Beer is often a common chaser, but the first drink and/or the chaser don't have to be alcoholic. I use the chaser concept with my elementary aged children when they have to drink a little "shot" of cough medicine. They usually chase it down with milk or apple juice.

The drink-chaser concept applies to this story because the salesman is quite confident that Alan will be back some day to purchase the relationship-ending potion. Diana will drink the first drink and be obsessed with Alan, and he will eventually give her a chaser beverage to end her life and obsession. The chaser-drink connotation and how it applies to the story is always an eye opener for my students. They usually have a different connotation for what "the chaser" means. Students often explain that they thought the chaser refers to a person. "The chaser" is someone that chases. This thinking actually works for this story too. Alan is the chaser that is chasing Diana, and he is willing to drug her in order to catch her.

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

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.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial