Just Lather, That's All Questions and Answers
by Hernando Téllez

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What is the mood of the story, "Just Lather, That's All?"

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Olen Bruce eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The mood of "Just Lather, That's All" is suspenseful. A military man arrives in the barber shop of the unnamed narrator and asks for a shave. The man in the barber's chair is revealed to be Captain Torres, who has ordered rebels hanged naked and has commanded that target practice be aimed at their bodies. The narrator begins to shave the captain, and it is revealed that the narrator is in league with the rebels. The captain almost begins to taunt the narrator, as the captain goes on to describe in vague details the plan he has for killing the rebels he has just captured. The narrator's hand is poised on the captain's neck with a blade, and it is not clear whether he will kill him or not. The narrator feels anguished as he weighs his responsibility as a barber against his fealty to the rebels. Until the last moment, the reader does not know whether the narrator will kill the captain or not. He does not, and the captain reveals at the end that he came to test whether the narrator would kill him.

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Thomas Mccord eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In the opening paragraph of "Just Lather, That's All," the mood is fearful and tense. This is established, primarily, by the description of the trembling barber and the reference to the Captain's clothing. These items, particularly the "gun holster" and "bullet-studded belt" evoke images of war and murder and suggest that violence might occur at some point in the story.

This tense mood continues as the story progresses. The images of the hanging soldiers, the oppressive heat and the barber's internal dilemma over whether to kill the Captain all contribute to this atmosphere.

Relief comes in the final lines of the story when the writer employs an image of rebirth to describes the Captain's skin:

He rubbed his hands over his skin and felt it fresh, like new.

The barber decides not to kill the Captain, and his inner peace is emphasized through his physical description: his shirt is "soaked," for instance, but he is no longer actively sweating. His conflict has, therefore, come to an end.

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