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Most people tend to categorize a hero as a pure person and a murderer as a horrible being. They say it is as obvious as day and night, but sometimes they are wrong. Some heroes have to kill people to achieve their means, and a few murderers have heroic intentions, especially in times of war. In the short story, “Just Lather, That’s All,” the barber refuses to kill Captain Torres because he sees the differences and similarities between being a hero and a murderer.

The barber, at first, views murder as something ugly. Horrified by the hanging of the revolutionaries, he ponders on whether the man should die or not: “And how easy it would be to kill him. And he deserves it. Does he?” (pg. 126) The barber also claims he is a revolutionary and not a murderer, but he eventually considers the choices given to him. Knowing he will eventually be hunted down when he takes refuge, the barber does not kill Captain Torres, saying he is only a barber and he does his work honorably. His effort to resist the urge to kill makes him pale and nervous, showing how hard it is to send away such a bad choice.

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On the other hand, the barber does not have a clear idea of what a hero is. When he starts to shave the captain, he believes killing the man would result in him becoming a hero to the rebels: “And then on the other side. ‘The avenger of us all. A name to remember. (And here they would mention my name.) He was the town barber. No one knew he was defending our cause.” (pg. 127) Because the barber is part of the revolutionaries, any action against Torres’ army would be considered heroic. However ,it is only a fleeting thought; the barber immediately realizes the consequences of murder and is trapped between the choice of murder and the choice of letting Torres go (which, of course, is unforgivable to the revolutionaries). After shaving the captain, the barber is slightly relieved of his burden, as he is no longer waiting to kill him.

 

It is only when he is near finished shaving that the barber understands the similarities between being a hero and a murderer. He understands one side, the captain’s army, would hunt him down for the death of the captain, whereas the revolutionary side would praise him for his efforts. He does not go through with it because it would stain his hands with the enormity of the situation. At the end of the story, it is told that Torres used to have trouble deciding whether to kill or to be a savior: “But killing isn’t easy. You can take my word for it.” (pg. 127) He spares the barber and leaves him in his shop, showing that the captain does have a heroic side to him despite being an executioner.

 

It is never easy to call a murderer a hero. It is not easy to compare a hero to a murderer, either. To those who view things in both perspectives, it might be easy to link the two together. In, “Just Lather, That’s All,” the barber is able to spare the life of Captain Torres because he is able to see the similarities and contrasts between being a hero and a murderer.

 

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