Just Lather, That's All

by Hernando Téllez

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In "Just Lather, That's All," how does sensory description evoke the barber's job?

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Hernando Téllez's "Just Lather, That's All" contains numerous instances of sensory language that evoke the job of a barber. In order to evoke the job of a barber in a reader, a reader must be familiar with what a barber does.

Much of the sensory language of the text relies upon visual imagery, such as in the following quote:

I was passing the best of my razors back and forth on a strop. . . . I tested it on the meat of my thumb.

This quote relies on one's knowledge of how a barber prepares for a customer's shave. The movement of a razor over a sharpening cloth and the test of the sharpness on a barber's thumb are very visual aspects evoked through the author's use of sensory imagery.

Another aspect of sensory language's ability to evoke something in a reader depends on tactile imagery:

A little more lather here, under his chin, on his Adam's apple, on this big vein.

While not as obvious as the previous examples, this quote refers to a tactile image. For a barber to be good, or "the best in town" as the protagonist states, he must be able to feel the skin under the lather of the soap. He must know if the skin is the skin of the chin, Adam's apple, or over a vein. The pressure the barber applies to the razor differs based upon where the razor is on the skin. Therefore, this tactile imagery evokes the protagonist's knowledge of how a shave should be done over rather sensitive parts of the face. He must know, by touch, how much pressure to apply. The language of the text does not overtly state this, and a reader must be able to bring to mind how a barber functions in order to use this imagery to evoke the job of a barber.

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In "Just Lather, That's All," the author effectively evokes the job of a barber by employing a number of sensory images. Here are some examples:

  • He uses visual images to describe the barber's shaving preparation. In the first paragraph, for example, he describes how the barber holds his razor up to the light to check it and the rising foam which is caused by mixing the soap and water.
  • He uses auditory images to describe the razor's movement along the captain's skin. The razor "rasped," for example, as it moved from the sideburn to the chin.
  • He uses tactile imagery (relating to touch) to portray the result of the shave. The barber's aim, for instance, is to be able to run the back of his hand across the captain's chin so that he cannot "feel a hair." He is successful in this aim: at the end of the story, the captain rubs his hands over his face and feels the "fresh" and "new" skin. This imagery enables us, the readers, to imagine this sensation.

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