The Powerful Use of Tone in John Collier's The Chaser

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The Powerful Use of Tone in John Collier's The Chaser "Alan Austen, as nervous as a kitten, went up certain dark and creaky stairs in the neighborhood of Pell Street . . ." From the very outset of John Collier's "The Chaser," the protagonist, Mr. Austen, appears to be very apprehensive. While it may seem that a young man who is venturing into a strange old man's house to buy some sort of love potion is actually quite fearless, it is made clear through Collier's use of tone that Alan is anything but brave. Interestingly, while his situation pertaining to his sweetheart, Diana, never changes, Alan is so taken with the old man's words (which are really nothing more than a sales pitch) that he actually allows himself to let down his guard and be taken advantage of. Collier drastically alters Alan's demeanor over the course of his brief visit; in fact, by the end of the story, Collier's use of tone has changed he who was once "nervous as a kitten" into a man "overwhelmed with joy." He achieves this transition through his physical descriptions of Austen, as well as Austen's own words, and his fading skepticism surrounding the old man and his goods. The very first line of the book provides the most powerful and captivating image of Austen: "nervous as a kitten," slowly walking up "creaky stairs," "peering about for a long time on the dim landing." Collier is creating a clear sense of apprehension right away. This makes the contrast all the more striking when Mr. Austen relaxes later on. For now, he is very nervous. "He pushed open the door, as he had been told to do," Collier writes. This gives the impression that had Austen not been instructed to open the door, he may have just taken the opportunity to turn around and head home. It is clear that Austen is not really sure if he even wants to enter the tiny apartment, let alone do illegal business with the complete stranger inside. Nevertheless, he continues on, as if driven by necessity. Once inside, his attitude begins to change quite rapidly. Though his initial apprehension is evidenced by his stuttering and his incomplete sentences, this quickly evolves into a keen interest, almost an infatuation, with the old man's goods. While he tries to avoid discussion of the poisons ("I want nothing of the sort," he states with an ironic air of finality,) he is consumed with the powers of the love potion.

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