The Deadly Irony of “The Chaser”

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The Deadly Irony of “The Chaser” John Collier’s “The Chaser” creates a sense of irony, that when discovered by readers, sends a chill to the spine. This short story compares and contrasts beautiful and energetic youth, versus the almost evil and scary old age. Collier places the tale between two individuals: Alan Austen and an old man. Austen is a lustful youth, who loves his companion, yet he yearns for more. The nameless old man plays an important role by being one who refuses to believe in romance and love. This situation forms a feeling of irony that only very in-depth readers can identify. Collier also uses symbolism, tone and setting to mold an evil and twisted tale. The irony that Collier uses in “The Chaser” can be identified by most critics as situational irony. This is a form that a majority of authors tend to shy away from. It is obvious to even the untrained eye that situational irony involves the characters and the situation that they are in. For example, when the old man says: “Please a customer with one article, and he will come back when he needs another,”(Collier 1), the reader can find it ironic how he is already enticing young Alan Austen to return and buy the so-called life-cleaner. This “The Chaser” is referred to as the follow-up potion, or the life-cleaner. Another instance is the cost of the life-cleaner compared to the cost of the love potion. To explain further, this would be like water after whiskey. How is that for irony? The tone and setting of this short story reveals how Collier feels about the old man and his methods of making money. The old man’s cynicism and the Alan Austen’s desire foretell a disastrous ending for the both of them. However, it lasts forever, according to the old man. Symbolism also plays an interesting role in the order of the potions that are bought by victims. Once again, irony can be tied into the setting, for the audience can find it ironic how an old man who makes thousands of dollars, can live in such a repulsive place. Also, the story talks of “dirty buff-colored walls with shelves, containing in all perhaps a dozen bottles and jars” (Collier 1). Obviously, John Collier does well to show how symbolism is important to the meaning of his story. If a sequel is written by Collier, readers could guess that Austen might realize what will happen if the love potion is given to his sweetheart and change his mind, or he might give it to her and be happy until the end of his days. For example, his concluding words, “Au revoir” (Collier 3), symbolize an ironic double meaning. The old man knows from experience that Alan will grow weary of this, so he will regret what he has done and will look for a method of escape. This proves to readers that the old man expects the young Alan Austen to return to buy the poison for his wife.

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