Just Lather, That’s All: principles vs. actions In Hernando Tellez’s Just Lather, That’s All; despite given the opportunity to greatly help the revolutionists, the Barber cannot murder Captain Torres because the act goes against his moral beliefs. Even killing an evil man is beyond his personal principles. On the other hand, Captain Torres is more than capable of killing the Barber, but his arrogance prevents him. His intentional provocation of the Barber tests the revolutionist; he knows the potential danger, but refuses to accept the possibility as he believes he cannot be killed by such a simple man.
Morality and arrogance prevent both characters from killing each other; their principles mean more to them than their duties. The Barber cannot kill Captain Torres, because he finds murder ethically ugly. After the horrible hanging of the revolutionists by Captain Torres, he becomes horrified and contemplates killing the man: “And how easy it would be to kill him. And he deserves it. Does he? No! ” (par. 12) The Barber is certain that murdering Captain Torres is “easy” for him, but his morality puts him in hesitation, which is clearly shown as he contradicts himself: “[Torres] deserves [to die].
Does he? No! ” The Barber thinks that “no one deserves to have someone else make the sacrifice of becoming a murderer” (par. 12), even if that “one” is a ruthless executor like Captain Torres. The word “sacrifice” emphasizes the Barber’s hate for murderers, as it shows that someone must give up his moral principles and turn into a monster in order to become a murderer. The Barber has to sacrifice the joy of perfecting his job by committing the most shameful mistake a Barber can make – opening a customer’s pores and emitting blood. Blood” is the word that the Barber doesn’t like: “out of his neck a gush of blood would spout onto the sheet… the blood would keep inching along the floor…ineradicable…like a scarlet stream. ” (par. 12) The Barber’s disgust for blood, which symbolizes guilt, is manifested as he describes how once “blood” spouts, it will spread and never stop: “ineradicable”. In other words, the feel of guilt will be in him forever. The Barber thinks that killing Captain Torres while he is shaving for him and his eyes are closed is cowardly of him: “Captain Torres’ murderer.
He slit his throat while he was shaving him a coward. ” (par. 12) The Barber clearly hates blood and murder; he does not even kill the most brutal man. He realizes he will be called a “murderer”; an awful word that will always haunt him. He will be perceived as a “coward” for killing a brutal but defenseless man. However he claims that he is “a revolutionary and not a murderer” (par. 12) which is ironic since revolutionists are known to do anything even if it threaten their lives, in order to stand up for their beliefs.
But the Barber is not willing to become a villain like Captain Torres: “I don’t want to be a murderer, no sir…I don’t want blood on my hands. Just Lather, that’s all. ” (par. 13) The repetition of the word “blood” emphasizes how “blood” (guilt) is the first image that comes to the Barber’s mind when he thinks about murder. His morality makes him take the decision and that is to let the captain go. The Barber doesn’t want guilt or blood. He only wants to do his job: “just lather that’s all. ” Simultaneously, Captain Torres can easily kill the Barber but his conceit tempts him to test the Barber.
He can’t stand the idea of a normal man being able to kill him. He taunts the Barber by talking about the people he has captured and how they will all be executed soon. He wants to provoke him to find out if the revolutionist can kill him or not. “Not one of them comes out them comes out of this alive, not one,” (par. 5) says Captain Torres, knowing that the Barber is sympathetic toward the rebels. Captain Torres repeats “not one” to indirectly threaten the Barber; he tries to scare the Barber to find out if the man is brave enough to commit the murder or not after this threat.
At the end, Captain Torres telling the Barber that he knows his secret shows how arrogant he is; instead of killing or capturing the man after exposing him, he walks away Captain Torres and the Barber fail in killing each other because of the Barber’s ethicalness and Captain Torres’ vanity. The Barber killing someone is out of question even if it is someone ruthless like Captain Torres. Captain Torres’ pride controls his actions to make him not help but test the Barber instead of killing him.