What idea does Hernando Tellez develop regarding choices and consequences in "Just Lather, That's All"?

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teachsuccess eNotes educator| Certified Educator

'What idea does the author develop regarding choices and consequences?'

Hello! I would say that on account of their professions, both Captain Torres and the barber possess competing interests: one is a military man who hunts revolutionaries and executes them mercilessly and the other is a barber who is also a secret revolutionary. So, both are enemies of the other. The setting is the revolutionary's barber shop. Captain Torres has come for a shave. He nonchalantly relates to the barber that his soldiers have caught fourteen rebels. While the barber has sharp blades poised above his face, the inimitable Captain Torres is coolly confident; he slyly reminds the barber that the town will not likely forget the lesson of the other day. The barber knows he is referring to the day Captain Torres ordered the whole town to witness the four mutilated bodies of rebels who have been hung.

The barber is not happy that he has to wait on Captain Torres. What a tragicomedy, for his professional interests are in conflict with his rebel loyalties. Yet, he insists that, as a professional, he will not be shamed with a shoddy shaving job.

Yes, I was secretly a rebel, but I was also a conscientious barber, and proud of the preciseness of my profession. And this four-days' growth of beard was a fitting challenge.

One of the tiny pores could be opened up and issue forth its pearl of blood. A good barber such as I prides himself on never allowing this to happen to a client.  And this was a first-class client.

The barber makes the choice to be steady and calm: he is not interested in letting Captain Torres know that he is a secret revolutionary, for he knows the consequences of any imprudent revelation on his part.

It was a secret shared by very few, precisely so that I could inform the revolutionaries of what Torres was doing in the town and of what he was planning each time he undertook a rebel-hunting excursion.

The barber knows he will have a hard time explaining how he could have had Captain Torres in his hands and yet not taken the logical step of executing him. He reasons that Captain Torres came to see him in a professional capacity and that he is not a murderer (even though he fantasizes about murdering the captain). The appellation of 'murderer' seems to hint of cowardly connotations, and he is not interested in the label. Furthermore, if he had to run for his life after the murder, he is doubtful as to whether the rebel side would do anything more aside from acknowledging that they did not know he was a defender of their cause. The barber reasons that he is a man who performs his work honorably and that

Each person has his own place in the scheme of things.

The last words of Captain Torres intimates that even though he knew about the barber's loyalties, he was not afraid to trust himself to the barber's services:

They told me that you'd kill me. I came to find out. But killing isn't easy. You can take my word for it." And he headed on down the street.

So, your question is: what idea does the author develop from the choices and subsequent consequences of each man's decision? The idea he develops is that honorable warriors have no need for cowardly stealth; they may fight brutally for their cause, but they will do so openly. The barber does not want to taint the purity of his cause by murdering a man who puts himself into his power trustingly. Captain Torres knows this; he has no fear. From the very beginning of the exchange, he establishes his efficacy as a merciless warrior and a formidable foe. He is quite equal to any challenge the barber might present him. Tellez portrays the humanity of both warriors admirably; despite their tough exteriors, the vulnerabilities of both are made evident in their choices. The idea is that honor is paramount to preserving the humanity of warriors, brutal though war may be.

Hope this helps. Thanks for the question.

aura4 | Student

Here you have to answer what were the thoughts that were going on in the mind of barber when he was shaving torres.

At first he wanted to kill him.He knew with that barber's knife, one deep incision would kill Torres but at the same time he was trembling in fear by even thought of killing someone and was fearful of disposing off the dead body.

Lines below from the text explain this : 

"I could cut this throat just so, zip! zip! . . . But I’m trembling like a real murderer. . . . I’m sure that one solid stroke, one deep incision, would prevent any pain. . . . But what would I do with the body?” 

Secondly the barber was thinking if he let go off Torres like that only,his fellow rebel captivated by the captain will be slaughtered in front of whole town and what is the meaning of being a rebel if he let  the ones whom he is rebelling against,go unharmed.

But at last the barber came to a decision that murdering Torres here will be cowardly and as criminal as Torres.

Excerpt from the text depicting this: 

"I don't want blood on my hands.Just lather, that's all."

Read the study guide:
Just Lather, That's All

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