Why is the barber's relationship with the rebel cause kept secret in "Just Lather, That's All?"

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "Just Lather, That's All," by Hernando Téllez, the barber is a member of a revolutionary faction in Colombia. He is an informant, and who other than Captain Torres, the military leader wiping out the rebels, comes and sits in the barber's chair! The barber and the captain have a discussion and the details of Torres' recent success in killing and/or capturing rebels gives the barber pause. To kill the captain might save lives, and the barber would certainly be a hero; but the barber also believes that this killing would not be noble, and in doing so, he would become a murderer much like Captain Torres. The barber does not want to be like him. And, after all, if he kills the captain, he will be dead, too—captured by the military and killed.

The barber takes the higher road and does nothing:

"I don’t want blood on my hands,” he says to himself. “Just lather, that's all."

The captain, as he turns to leave, tells the barber that other men said the barber would kill him, and he wanted to see for himself. He says...

They told me that you’d kill me. I came to find out. But killing isn’t easy. You can take my word for it.

The barber's relationship with the rebel cause is meant to be secret so that he can work for the rebels without suspicion from the army. However, even as this is said, the closing of the story indicates that Captain Torres knew it all along and was simply testing the barber. The barber has done nothing, so he is left alone—which would make one believe that the captain has his own code: he could have killed the barber simply on his suspicions and no one could have stopped him.

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Just Lather, That's All

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