The short story 'Haircut' by Ring Lardner takes the form of a one-way 'conversation', a story or sequence of stories told by a narrator who expects his 'listener' (readers) to listen to it but not necessarily to make any comment, as he would if he were in the barber's chair. The tone is of course, conversational and informal and this is emphasised by the heavy use of the vernacular or slang idioms in commons use at this period in history. The tone is also friendly and even conspiratorial - as if the teller is gossiping or imparting secrets. The length of the story (when read aloud) would probably equate to much the same time it would take for a haircut! The narrator puts himself on an equal footing with the characters in his stories, as if they are buddies - indeed, he even helps one of them out in hiding his wages from his wife. The story has a very interesting last sentence when everything comes to an abrupt end 'comb, wet or dry?' giving the effect of downplaying the significance of all that has gone before - and reminding the reader where he is - and that he is next to impart his secrets and have them retold!
In the short story "The Haircut" by Ring Lardner, the narrator is the town barber. He is telling his customer about the town and the exploits of the now deceased Jim Kendell. Jim had a place of honor in the shop where he would plant himself on Saturday evenings. Initially Jim seems like a nice fellow but the reader soon learns that Jim does not provide support for his ex-wife and children. He is a heavy drinker as well.
"He spent pretty near all of it on gin, and his family might of starved if the stores hadn't of carried them along."(Lardner)
Jim is a joker who likes to play cruel mean jokes on others. On one incident he writes a card indicating to a man that his wife is cheating on him. He does not even know the man. He copies the man's name and business down as he passes through a town while on a business trip. He is a vengence seeking person who even lies to his ex and his children by telling them he is going to take them to the circus. He does not show and they have waited at the circus for nothing. He makes fun of a boy in the town who bumped his head and had brain damage after falling out of a tree. He is spurned by a girl he likes who likes the town Doc. He roughs the girl up when she refuses him. To get revenge he calls her pretending to be the Doc. She goes to the office where Jim and his gang chase her home while mocking her.
The story demonstrates irony. The reader at first believes that the barber liked Jim and that Jim was a nice man, but the more the reader learns about Jim the more the reader realizes Jim is the opposite and that his keeping the whole town always laughing was at the hand of his cruel jokes.
There is also some question as to whether Paul killed Jim on purpose or by accident. After all, an investigation was never conducted.
In the end the barber says:
"But still we miss him round here. He certainly was a card!" (Lardner)
Once again we have the idea that Jim was a man worthy of being missed. His behavior clearly indicates that the townspeople are probably more appreciative that he is gone.