In "Just Lather, That's All," what is a symbol that has been used?

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accessteacher's profile pic

accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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A very important symbol in this excellent short story that is used to explore the character of the barber himself is of course the razor that he is holding and currently using to shave the neck of Captain Torres. Throughout the story the meanings that the barber gives to the tool of his trade change and show his conflicting emotions, on the one hand being something that he uses to "rejuvenate" Captain Torres, but on the other hand, being something he could use to end his life. Note what the barber says about his razor:

My destiny depends on the edge of this blade. I can turn my hand a bit more, press a little harder on the razor, and sink it in. The skin would give way like silk, like rubber, like the strop. There is nothing more tender than human skin and the blood is always there, ready to pour forth. A blade like this doesn't fail. It is my best. But I don't want to be a murderer, no sir.

The razor is thus a very complicated and important symbol to the barber whose importance determines the ending of the story and the decision that the barber eventually makes regarding his responsibility and what he should do.

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kmj23's profile pic

kmj23 | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted on

In addition to the razor, there are a number of other important symbols in "Just Lather, That's All." Here are a couple of examples:

  • The Captain's military items—his cap, bullet-studded belt and gun holster—symbolise his "authority" and "potential for violence." (See the first reference link provided). These items also symbolise the political crisis in Colombia which provides the conflict between the two men (as they represent the opposing sides) and establishes the story's context. 
  • The heat symbolises the pressure that the barber feels as he decides whether or not to murder Captain Torres. The barber comments on the heat, for example, as he mulls over the pros and cons of committing murder ("How hot it is getting!"). In addition, at the end of the story, the barber mentions his "soaked" shirt and this emphasises both the anguish of the dilemma and his relief in deciding not to kill him.
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