What does Alan think love is in “The Chaser” by John Collier?

Expert Answers

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

Unfortunately, I believe that Alan has an exceptionally warped view of what love is. Alan goes to the mysterious potion dealer in hopes of purchasing a love potion that will aid him in his quest to secure the affections of his dear Diana. Alan is quite infatuated with Diana, and it appears that she does not reciprocate his feelings. Alan's solution is to drug Diana with a love potion that will supposedly make her fall desperately in love with Alan. The potion dealer describes to Alan that the love potion will make Diana desire to be everything to Alan. She will be jealous of anyone that he talks to that isn't her, and Diana will quite literally try to occupy every waking moment of Alan's time. This is what Alan believes is true love. Unfortunately, Alan mistakes true love for something that more closely resembles infatuation and obsession.

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

"Wonderful!" cried Alan.

"She will want to know all you do," said the old man. "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."

"That is love!" cried Alan.

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

Alan Austin is a young man who has fallen in love for the first time. He thinks the woman he loves--but who does not yet love him--is an angel, a dream, the answer to all life's problems. He does not realize, as the old man in the story does, that this kind of romantic love is only a temporary illusion which many people experience during what has been called "that first fine careless rapture." Alan thinks it will last forever, but that sort of love might also be called "the honeymoon stage." Inevitably people realize that the person they married is human and has human faults of one kind or another. By this time many married people have settled into a more realistic relationship based on attachment to their children, common financial interests, shared social relations, mutual toleration, and an alternative to single loneliness. 

John Collier, like Ambrose Bierce, Guy de Maupassant, Artur Schopenhauer, and even the great Leo Tolstoy, had a cynical attitude about marriage. Collier wrote a number of short stories in which a man murders his wife. He always treated these stories with a dash of humor, as if to signify that he did not intend them to be taken too literally or too seriously. He also wrote highly imaginative short stories about other subjects. These can be found in a single volume of his collected stories, many of which were originally published in the New Yorker. In one story a young man decides to solve his financial problems by pretending  to be a mannequin in a department store.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team