Summary (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
In a barbershop in a small Colombian town, the proprietor, the narrator of the story, is shaving a man. This is no typical customer, however; the barber recounts that he began to tremble when he recognized him. The barber’s detailed description of Captain Torres hanging up his military cap, bullet belt, and holster highlights the man’s authority and his potential for violence. During the course of the shave, the two men engage in brief but revealing dialogue. The captain has just returned from capturing a band of revolutionaries and takes pride in his success on a difficult mission. The barber encourages Torres to give details on the number of men apprehended and their fate, because he is a clandestine member of that faction. To add to the barber’s anxiety, Torres asks for acknowledgment of his treatment of revolutionaries. His brutality is confirmed when he reminds the barber of the previous week’s event when he summoned the town to view target practice on the bodies of hanged rebels.
The barber’s monologue reveals the moral dilemma that he faces while shaving the captain. On one hand, he is an informant for the revolutionary party and has the opportunity to kill his enemy. Allowing the man to leave unharmed would compromise the barber’s credibility as a rebel. Given his expertise with a blade, the barber contemplates how easy it would be to slit Torres’s throat while he reclines, with his eyes closed, and his face covered with lather....
(The entire section is 484 words.)
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