In what ways the author creates suspense in the short story "Just Lather, That's All"?

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lit24 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

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Shaving with a long  open razor blade is a highly skilled job  requiring intense concentration:"taking pains to see that no single pore emitted a drop of blood." After lathering  his customer's beard with soap, the barber  begins to shave the beard with the sharpened razor. As the soap lather and the shaven hair collect on the long razor blade the barber will often pause and remove the lather  by stroking the razor on his own bare forearm and will continue shaving. If he pauses every now and then to wash the razor he will take a longer time and more importantly he will lose his concentration.

Although, the narrator-barber is "secretly a rebel, he was also a conscientious barber, proud of the preciseness of his profession."  So, the dilemma he faces now is whether to slit Captain Torres' throat or to give him a clean shave without nicking his skin. After quite a struggle within his mind he decides :"I don't want blood on my hands. Just lather that's all."

He puns on the word "blood" to ironically emphasise the fact that "he is a good barber. The best in town." Blood could either mean the blood when he nicks Torres's skin and collects it alongwith the lather on his forearm in which case he would not be regarded as an expert barber or the blood if he murders Torres by slitting his neck, in which case he would be branded a murderer. The narrator is keen to be known only as an expert barber-only lather on his hands.

Throughout the story the suspense is whether the narrator-barber will or will not slit open Captain Torres's throat. This  intense mental struggle of the narrator-barber is well maintained till the last word of the short story.

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