Señor Payroll by William E. Barrett
In Señor Payroll by William E. Barrett we have the theme of control, power, determination, connection and acceptance. Narrated in the first person by an unnamed man the reader realises after reading the story that Barrett may be exploring the theme of control. The Main Office of the company seems to want to rein in the Mexican workers and stop them from getting paid so irregularly and frequently. However no matter what they try to do they ultimately fail in their task. This could be important as Barrett may be highlighting not only the ingenuity of the Mexican workers when it comes to getting paid early but more importantly he could be suggesting that the real power in the company rests with the workers rather than with the employer or Main Office. It is also interesting that the narrator throughout the story performs his duties without really taking sides. Though it might be true that he feels some empathy for the Mexican workers he still nonetheless implements each change in policy that the Main Office issues. This too could be important as it might suggest that the narrator is somewhat disconnected from the plight of the Mexican workers. Though it could also simply be a case that the narrator wishes to remain in employment and as such does not involve himself with the plight of the Mexican workers.
Despite the Main Office’s attempts to exert control over the Mexican workers it is clear to the reader that the real power in the company rests with the workers. Without them there would be no work done. Which at the end of the day will only end up costing the company money. The ingenuity of the Mexican workers has to be admired as they show a level of determination when it comes to getting paid. Simple things like resigning and looking for employment the next day may be considered ridiculous. However due to the lack of foresight by the Main Office this practice works. It is a simple yet affective way of ensuring that the workers remain in control. It might also be important that the narrator never questions any of the workers when it comes to emergency payments. He accepts what they have told him and informs the Main Office. It is as though the narrator does not wish to been seen as a stumbling block to the workers. He admires their ability to work and as such may not wish to challenge them in any way.
It is also possible that Barrett is looking at the relationship between American companies and their foreign workers. Though the narrator might have admiration for the workers. The Main Office themselves would view the workers as problematic. Hence so many changes in policy. It is as though the Mexican workers are a means to an end. Their labour is valued but nothing else is respected. There is no mention in the story of the workers having any rights and it is also noticeable that many of the workers in the company are employed on a daily basis. The issue of whether the workers are in a union does not seem to be important. The company appear to have one goal and that is to make money. Which Barrett may be suggesting is the true goal of many American companies. With profit being the primary focus and everything else including workers’ rights being secondary. Larry’s role is also interesting as he remains silent throughout the story. It is as though he is non-committal. He will do what he is employed to do but will not rock the boat by commenting on the plight of the Mexican workers.
The end of the story is also interesting as it becomes clear to the reader that the Main Office is admitting defeat. Despite their changes in policy nothing has worked and they are forced to go back to their original policy. Something that suits the workers but does not suit the company. This could be important as it is only at the end of the story that the reader senses that the Main Office is putting the Mexican workers first. Through their ingenuity and the realisation by the Main Office that things have gotten out of control. The status quo that was in place at the beginning of the story is reinstated. The company may not be happy but the workers have won. Which may be the point that Barrett is attempting to make. He may be suggesting that should a worker or a group of workers incur difficulty with their employer. Through determination and never losing sight of their goal (getting paid) they too can claim a victory over their employer. The final line of the story is also interesting as it suggests that the Main Office have accepted they have been beaten by the ingenuity of the Mexican workers. Rather than the Main Office being in control at the end of the story it is the Mexican workers who are dictating the direction of policy when it comes to getting paid.