Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 431
"The Chaser" is a brief and very cynical story about the nature of love and, particularly, of marriage. It says very little, but implies a great deal. The reader must be able to read between the lines of what the old man says—which Alan, of course, is not. Alan is too swept up in his own desire for Diana's love to pay close attention to what he is really being told. Alan is "nervous as a kitten," having never done anything of this sort before, and he does not really understand what is being discussed.
The old man's philosophy of business is this:
Please a customer with one article, and he will come back when he needs another. Even if it is more costly. He will save up for it, if necessary.
This is a salient detail. The old man is suggesting that his potions certainly work—he can therefore be trusted by his customers. Having produced a love potion that works, then, why would people come back to him? But the old man has planted the seed in the young man's mind about the "glove cleaner"—
"If I did not sell love potions," said the old man, reaching for another bottle, "I should not have mentioned the other matter to you."
A very clear connection is drawn, then, between the two things. The old man wants those who purchase his love potions to know that he also sells what is, in effect, an untraceable poison. This implication is continued as the story progresses.
The old man expounds upon the virtues of his love potion to Alan, who responds with delight ("Wonderful!"). It is notable that it is not the old man who says that these things are wonderful experiences. It is Alan who responds to promises of a jealous woman with "That is love!" The old man does not say this. The young men who buy his potions have determined for themselves that this is what love is. As time progresses, the story suggests, they will change their minds.
The old man explains, as Alan is leaving,
"I like to oblige," said the old man. "Then customers come back, later in life, when they are better off, and want more expensive things. Here you are. You will find it very effective."
Alan leaves the room delighted, but the reader is uncannily sure of what the old man is really saying. Those who have bought his love potion, and experienced its effects, will eventually come back because they know the man's potions work—and they want to poison their wives.