Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 289
There are two main characters in this short story by John Collier:
1. Alan. Alan is a young man who has come to visit an old man in a shady part of town, desperately in search of a love potion. He is not at all familiar with these kinds of transactions and is "nervous as a kitten" about it, but he is desperate to engage the attentions of his beloved, Diana. He has heard that the old man can offer love potions, but is uncertain how to broach the topic—certainly he is horrified when the old man mentions, obliquely, that he also offers a variety of poison. However, as the old man admits that he can offer a love potion and begins to describe its effects, Alan is increasingly delighted. He very much wants his beloved, Diana, to be jealous of him, to want to know everything about his life, and to resent his associations with other women. Upon hearing that the love potion is only a dollar, he expresses his gratitude, buys it, and leaves.
2. The old man. The old man is a salesman, and a canny one. He seems to offer two main potions: a love potion, and what he calls a "glove cleaner," which is really a poison. He explains to Alan that love potions are cheap because those seeking love potions generally have little money, but that the poison has to be saved up for. He says no more about this one except that early customers often return. We can interpret that the old man sells love potions cheaply to young men because he wants to be able to charge them five thousand dollars for untraceable poison, once the attractions of marriage have worn off.
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