In "Just Lather, That's All," what does Captain Torres want in the barber's shop? 

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In the short story, "Just Lather, That's All," Captain Torres goes into the barbershop to see if the barber will attempt to kill him. The barber is a rebel, and the Captain has just returned from an expedition searching for the rebel troops.

The barber faces a moral and cultural dilemma; he has the Captain, literally, at his mercy as he could kill him in an instant with his razor. As he shaves the Captain, he ponders that he is "a revolutionary, and not a murderer." The barber does not kill the Captain; instead, he simply gives him a shave. The barber's morality wins as he thinks, "You are an executioner and I am only a barber."

On the other hand, the Captain walks into the shop and asks for a shave. He does not let on throughout the process that he knows the barber is his enemy and could easily kill him. He shows no fear. The Captain acts out of machismo and is willing to risk his life to see if the warning was true that the barber would, indeed, kill him. He tells the barber at the end of the story that he went in for the shave to confirm the rumor but " . . . killing isn't easy. You can take my word for it."

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Initially, in "Just Lather, That's All," it appears that the Captain simply wants a shave: it is very hot outside and he has not had a shave for about four days, according to the barber's observations.

When we reach the final paragraph of the story, though, we realize Captain Torres's real motivation for going to the barber shop. This is made clear in his final line of dialogue:

"They told me that you'd kill me. I came to find out."

In other words, the Captain had been informed that the barber wished him dead and he came to see if the barber would carry out these intentions. (The two men belong to opposing political factions and are enemies.) The Captain's visit to the shop is, therefore, a test to determine the truth of this rumor.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial