What is your opinion about the short story of "Haircut" by Ring Lardner?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As a literary work, "Haircut" has some interesting merits. First, the narrator is an interesting one as he can tell a long narrative in a dialect without seeming to preach or pass moral judgement as a third-person narrator might do. Also, the judgement Whitey does pass is of a merciful sort and mercifully applied to all, from Jim to Julie with Milton and Paul in between. Second, Whitey can represent Lardner's theme that protests against condoning brutal behavior while at the same time representing a merciful attitude to the brutal wrong doers.

I said I thought he was all right at heart, but just bubblin' over with mischief.

Another interesting point of merit is that in Whitey's embedded narrative (embedded because on the surface, "Haircut" is about Whitey; the story he tells is about Jim) the central character is the antagonist of the story: Jim is the one who causes conflict. This is interesting because the antagonist is cast in the central role usually occupied by the protagonist. This creates an unusual balance to the story and casts the heroine (Julie) and hero (Doc Stair) as minor characters. It is a strange structural reversal but is successful, partly because Whitey's character equalizes the balance, and effective in conveying Ladner's theme, which is ironically (and mistakenly) summed up by Whitey in the end paragraph:

It probably served Jim right, what he got. But still we miss him round here.