The short story "One of These Days" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez has a seemingly simple plot. A dentist wakes early and goes about his work. Although he does not possess a degree, he performs his work skillfully and with dedication. When the mayor arrives to have a tooth pulled, the dentist does not want to help him, knowing that the mayor has been responsible for the deaths of many people. He sees that the mayor's condition is serious, though, and he changes his mind. However, he informs the mayor that the procedure has to be performed without anesthetic, and as he begins to pull, he states: "Now you'll pay for our twenty dead men." He pulls the tooth, and the mayor leaves.
It would be simple to say that the theme of the story is revenge. However, the revenge element is secondary to the more important themes of the use or abuse of power, and the adherence to professionalism by the dentist. If revenge were the main theme, it would have been more fitting if the dentist had shot the mayor with the revolver he had in his drawer. Instead, he closes the drawer and agrees to perform the procedure.
One of the main themes in the story is the way that power is used by the two main characters. Overall, the corrupt mayor obviously has far greater power in his ability to use his office to justify the threat of violence. In this situation, though, he is helpless before the dentist. There are limits to the mayor's power. He cannot pull his own tooth. Despite all the power he wields in his office, he must sit in the chair and make himself vulnerable to the dentist. He must also accept the conditions under which the dentist performs the procedure. He has no way of knowing if the dentist's explanation of the abscess is accurate or not. For this reason, he allows the dentist's moment of revenge without retaliation, but as soon as the tooth is pulled, the mayor is back in control.
The dentist's adherence to professionalism is another important theme. Marquez touches on this early as he describes the dentist working on false teeth, gold teeth, and bridges. The dentist has an opportunity to shoot the hated mayor, but he does not take it when he sees the man's condition. His professional ethics cannot allow him to turn away a patient in need. However, he uses the brief period in which the mayor is under his control to inflict at least some pain in return for the atrocities the mayor has committed. In the overall exchange, the dentist comes out as the far better man.