Just Lather, That's All

by Hernando Téllez

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Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 340

"Just Lather, That's All" is a short story written by Columbian journalist and writer Hernando Téllez. It is a commentary on the cycle of violence that characterized Columbian society at the time and the way in which the country was often thrown into civil wars that resulted in violence against civilians.

The story that Téllez tells uses an economy of words and a spare style. It is deceptively simple and concentrates on the act of the barber shaving a military man, Captain Torres, who has executed rebels. But the implications of this simple act of shaving a man are much greater and more significant. As the barber shaves the captain, he considers, in the form of a monologue, whether he should kill the man in front of him. The story is an account of his considerations of what he should do and whether violence carried out to stop violence is justified. The story is about larger moral issues. The barber poses the question of whether he should kill a man who he knows has killed others and will go on to kill more.

In the end, the barber decides not to kill Captain Torres. He hopes to end the violence that has plagued his nation by choosing not to perpetuate that violence himself.

The author uses the symbol of a single pore to represent the preciousness and fragility of life. As the barber shaves, he notices that a single pore can pour forth a "pearl of blood." The barber's role is to protect each pore and to prevent it from shedding blood. In contrast to the military captain's disregard for the lives of those he kills, the barber recognizes the preciousness of each drop of blood. The razor that the barber uses can be used to help others (to give them a good shave) or to kill. It is a double-edged sword and a symbol of the way in which life can be turned toward violence or toward nurturing. The barber uses the razor only for peaceful purposes.

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