Lather and Nothing Else (Just Lather, That’s All) by Hernando Téllez
In Lather and Nothing Else (or Just Lather, That’s All) by Hernando Téllez we have the theme of duty, violence, honour, loyalty and conflict. Narrated in the first person by an unnamed man (the barber) the reader realizes after reading the story that Téllez may be exploring the theme of duty. The narrator feels as though he has a duty to shave Captain Torres. He considers himself to be an honourable man and a barber first before he is a revolutionary. Torres himself also feels as though he has a duty to kill revolutionaries as they are against the regime he is part of. In fact Torres appears to find joy in torturing and killing the people that the narrator supports. What is interesting about both men is the fact that they are loyal to their individual causes. The narrator first and foremost is a barber, that’s his job and livelihood and Torres as a soldier has a loyalty to the regime.
The theme of conflict is self-evident in the story but there is both and external and internal conflict for the narrator. He supports the revolutionaries and does not wish to be a murderer or a hero. Both directions would end up in the loss of life, including possibly his own. This is important as it suggests that the narrator is conflicted internally. He is unsure of which direction to take. However the direction he takes is a practical one and supports and allows for him to reason his decision to just shave Torres. He knows he would have to clean up the mess if he kills Torres and that he would have to close his shop and dispose of Torres’ body.
There may be some symbolism in the story which might be important. The chair that Torres sits in is comfortable and does not move. Like both characters in the barber shop. Neither man moves until the end of the story after the narrator has shaved Torres. This state of paralysis between the men suggests that the conflict between the revolutionaries and the regime will be a long one. There will be no shifting in either side’s ideology. The razor that the barber delicately uses on Torres’ beard is his weapon of choice. Just as the pistol is Torres’ choice. So the narrator is very much a soldier, albeit for a different side, as Torres is. However he appears to be a soldier with a conscience. Something that Torres does not have. He as mentioned enjoys killing the opposing side.
The end of the story is interesting as despite the narrator thinking that Torres doesn’t know who he is aligned to (the revolutionaries). Torres does in fact know and expected to be killed by the narrator and wanted to see for himself if what he had been told by others was true. This suggests both naivety and bravery on Torres’ part. If the narrator had not got a conscience, though some critics might suggest he is afraid of Torres, he would have killed Torres. Most likely the narrator knows that both sides are losing good men for an ideology which may not necessarily be worth fighting for. Like all conflicts there is always an amiable resolution for both sides once they are prepared to put down their weapons and use dialogue as their weapons of choice.