What are some of Captain Torres's character qualities in "Just Lather, That's All"?

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Captain Torres is rather imperious . He expects for his authority and commands to be obeyed without question. When he enters the barbershop, he issues an imperative, "Give me a shave." No ceremony or small talk, no greeting or niceties; he is a man who is used to other people...

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Captain Torres is rather imperious. He expects for his authority and commands to be obeyed without question. When he enters the barbershop, he issues an imperative, "Give me a shave." No ceremony or small talk, no greeting or niceties; he is a man who is used to other people submitting to him.

Torres is also merciless. He has been in the woods for several days catching his opponents, and he says that "Not one of them comes out of this alive, not one." Torres hanged and mutilated four rebels in public, having ordered the entire town to come and watch. He clearly wanted to make an example of these four, and so he showed them no mercy at all.

The barber also calls Torres a "man of imagination" because he had the rebels stripped naked and used various parts of their bodies for his troops' target practice. Torres seems quite callous and lacks compassion for his enemies; he invites the barber to come back to the site where the four rebels were mutilated for something "better" later on; Torres says that he doesn't know what he'll do with this next group but that his troops will "amuse [them]selves." To discuss the violent deaths of human beings as "amusing" or in any way entertaining is certainly callous.

In the end, we find out that Torres is brave, as he has allowed the barber to shave him "With his eyes closed" when he'd been told that the barber would certainly murder him. Torres must be pretty confident in his ability to read the character of other people! He is discerning, it seems.

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Captain Torres comes across initially as a vengeful and violent man. The barber is intimidated by him when he comes in for a shave. He remembers Torres executing four rebels and then using them for target practice. The barber understands this as both an ingenious and sadistic act.

Captain Torres shows his vengeful streak when he says he and his men have captured fourteen rebels and notes:

we'll get even. Not one of them comes out of this alive, not one.

But Torres reveals himself to be a calm and a brave man too. Despite the responsibilities weighing on him, he seems steady and unconcerned while sitting in the barber's chair. The barber learns at the end of the visit that the captain came to him for the shave because he was told by others that the barber would kill him. It shows that Captain Torres has steely nerves and is a risk taker to be able to sit so placidly, putting his life into the hands of a man who might have murdered him before he could get away.

Torres also reveals that he can read character well: He assumes from the start that the barber won't be able to kill him, saying "killing isn't easy." He says he knows this from experience, suggesting that the many murders he has committed might weigh on him—and that he thinks the barber lacks his nerve.

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Since the story is told completely from the barber's point of view, there is not much information about the captain we have that is firsthand. We know from the barber's questions that the captain has been in the jungle for days hunting rebels; we know that he compelled everyone in the town to watch the bodies of four revolutionaries be strung up at the school. We also know that the captain made the town watch when his men used the bodies for target practice. So it is fair, I think, to describe the captain as ruthless and sadistic. 

The captain stands in contrast to the barber, who reflects on the violence of the captain ("a man of imagination," he says) while also contemplating cutting his throat. The barber feels a certain obligation to do his job as a barber faithfully. It is possible that he really does feel that way; his decision not to kill the captain could be an expression of honor, or a calculation so that he can continue to inform the rebels about the Captain's actions, or it could be that he is afraid of what will happen to him after. All this thinking differentiates the barber from the Captain, however, who -- apparently -- acts without remorse or a second thought.

The ending comment by the captain, which shows that he was both aware of the barber's connection to the rebels, and his own danger, is a bit of a twist, but does not really clarify what we know about him. It does seem, on the face of it, that the captain was courageous to have the shave knowing what he did. There is also a great deal of arrogance in his remark, suggesting as it does that perhaps he knew he was safe because the barber would not dare do anything. His final admission that "killing isn't easy" highlights this ambivalence. This could mean that the captain does feel some remorse about his killing; it could also mean that killing "isn't easy" for men like the barber who have a conscience (or who are not brave), and that it is a task the captain has mastered. Either way, the captain is showing the barber that he knows the barber is a rebel. One can only imagine the barber's fate. 

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In "Just Lather, That's All," Captain Torres is a hardworking person who is dedicated to his career. At the beginning of the story, it is revealed that he spent the last four days in pursuit of some rebel soldiers. His dedication to the job is reinforced through his description: he has a four-day beard and his face is "reddened" by the sun.

From his description in the text, it is also clear that the Captain can be cruel and violent. He allows his soldiers to use some dead rebels as target practice, for example, and he describes the rebels' hanging bodies as a "fine show." At the time of his shave, the Captain is also planning a suitably violent and gory punishment for the rebels he has most recently caught.

Finally, the Captain is also brave, as shown in the final line of dialogue in the story:

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

The Captain knew the barber wanted to kill him, but he was brave enough to test the barber's nerve. 

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