Ring Lardner: Haircut

A barber is the narrator in this classic American short story. As a customer sits in his chair, he asks, “You’re a newcomer, aren’t you?” So here is a chance for him to tell his story once again. It is not imaginary but it is of people and incidents in the very town where he is living and working, many of whom walk in and out of his shop.

Jim, a former salesman, is a wastrel. He likes to play pranks on people. One butt of his numerous practical jokes is Julie who has steadily rebuffed his advances to her. And another is Paul, a young and mentally challenged boy, who counts Julie as one of his few friends. Julie’s lover, a doctor who has just come to the town for his practice, swears to take revenge on Jim for having publicly humiliated her. Does he?

The barber narrates a terrible incident in a cool, detached manner.

The story ends and so also the trimming of the head of hair. All the while the customer has been there without a grunt or a nod of his head (which would have disturbed the barber in his work anyway).

The story, coming as it does from a tradesman, is in a conversational, dialectical  style. 

The last sentence is unforgettable.





4 Responses to Ring Lardner: Haircut

  1. Well, a very looooong short story! A very extraordinarily loquacious barber! I being of a serious temperament, which does not preclude enjoying humour, cannot like a character like Jim. An odious creature! Finally it was a clever vendetta!

  2. cgrishikesh says:

    Mrs PP: Thanks for visiting my blog and for your observations made with such alacrity and acuity.

    I do agree that this story is longer than any that I mentioned so far. I wanted to warn my readers about that but later decided against doing that.

    However, this one is actually a short story. Yes, there are stories extending to 25 pages and more but still coming very much under the category ‘short story’. Straightway I recall some favourites of mine. These will come by and by, but not sure if they will be available online.

  3. Ganesh says:

    Had a difficult time reading this short story. Too much of a ‘dialectical’ tone in there..

    A different story compared to the rest of the posts till now.

  4. cgrishikesh says:

    I generally do not like to read such stories where dialect is used but this is an exception. And I talked about in the context of barbers! That last sentence where the barber returns to the mundane task of asking the customer how he wants his just-trimmed hair combed brings us down to earth.

    The story that I have introduced today is in total contrast as you will discover.

    And so will be the one that I mention tomorrow, which you can read over the weekend.

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