What are the themes of "Just Lather, That's All"?

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One theme of this brief story is that just because an action may feel justified does not mean it is easy to complete . The barber admits that when he heard the story of his rebel compatriots killed by Captain Torres, he "was upset." He describes the "mutilated bodies" of...

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One theme of this brief story is that just because an action may feel justified does not mean it is easy to complete. The barber admits that when he heard the story of his rebel compatriots killed by Captain Torres, he "was upset." He describes the "mutilated bodies" of several others who were hanged and then used for "target practice." He knows that he is shaving the face of a killer, and he wonders, "How many of us had he ordered shot? How many of us had he ordered mutilated?" He also knows that he would be counted a hero among the rebels, with whom he is allied and who he supports, if he simply let the razor sink into the captain's neck; it could all be done so quickly that the captain would not even suffer. However, the barber cannot, will not, do it; he cannot end the conflict, save his brethren, and make himself a murderer. He doesn't want blood on his hands, "just lather." He thinks, "No one deserves to have someone else make the sacrifice of becoming a murderer." He cannot dishonor himself by committing such a murder, and no one, he thinks, can rightly expect it of him. He would have to sacrifice everything he knows to be true about himself, personally and professionally. This idea, then, presents another theme. He could end this monster's life, but the barber would make himself a monster in the process.

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The conflict of this story is the barber's conflict with himself.  He has to decide whether or not he should take the chance to kill his customer, the captain of the military police force who has captured the barber's friends - a group of revolutionaries.  The theme here is one of morality.  Should he avenge his brothers, even if it means committing murder?  He would be considered a hero by many, but he would think of himself as a coward and as a cold-blooded murderer.  He even fears that this murder will corrupt his soul, even if for a good cause:

“Others come along and still others,” the rebel in barber's gown thinks to himself, “and the first ones kill the second ones, and they the next ones and it goes on like this until everything is a sea of blood.”

He decides to rise above the captain, to be morally better:

“You are an executioner and I am only a barber.”

It is the right choice, as the captain was prepared for an attack.  H e tells the barber as he leaves that he [the captain] was told of the barber's affiliations.  In the captain's words, the theme of morality is emphasized:

"But killing isn’t easy. You can take my word for it.”

Despite the captain's careless story about hunting down the rebels, he makes it clear that these deaths haunt him.

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