Imagine if everyone around you considered you a hero, but in order to become a hero, you had to murder somebody. Not just anybody either, but Captain Torres. A murderer, who has killed many of your people. Given the option, would you kill them? This is the same scenario a Barber faces. In the story “Later and Nothing Else” by Hernando Tellez, the protagonist faces a moral dilemma in which he must decide to either kill, or not kill, Captain Torres. He must weigh the pros and cons of his reputation as a barber, or whether he is willing to commit murder to become a hero.
Tellez develops the barber’s character and reveals that his sense of moral integrity, his ability to logically rationalize his dilemma, and his realistic outlook on what can be considered justifiable, are traits that enable him to determine that the use of violence to bring about change is futile. The first character trait Tellez reveals about the character is his moral integrity. The barber understands that it is morally incorrect to kill another human being, no matter what the circumstances are. He knows that “no one deserves the sacrifice others make in becoming assassins” (pg 345. This shows that the barber’s moral integrity is telling him murder is murder, and even if it appears that more good is being done then hard, that is never the actual case. Also, Torres is the one creating this moral dilemma, and the morally correct thing for the barber to do is nothing. He is fighting against his moral conscience on what is the morally correct thing for him to do. The barber was not aware that Torres was provoking him, and at the time, was under the preconceived notion that all Torres wanted was a shave.
If he had known the same information about the situation as Torres did, it could have swayed the barber’s moral integrity, and he could have chosen differently. However, even if the barber had chosen to kill Torres, he and Torres are not on equal terms, and it would be unfair to kill Torres while Torres was unequipped and the barber had the upper hand. Therefore, the barber should follow his moral integrity and treat Torres as an ordinary customer, who receives no ‘special’ attention. He “would have to shave [Torres’] beard just like any other…as though he were a good customer” (pg 344. This would affect the barber’s life because if he had killed Torres at an advantage, by “[slitting] his throat while [he was] shaving him…” it would be considered “…a cowardly thing to do” (pg 345. ) This leads into the barber having to rationalize the situation and weigh the pros and cons of murdering Torres. The barber’s ability to rationalize logically within a given amount of time is his second character trait. The entire story takes place inside the barber’s head within a matter of minutes. A person’s decisions at a given moment in time, has a strong influence over one’s future.
The barber must consider that if he decides to take Torres’ life, he will be forced to live with the guilt of knowing he is responsible for taking the life of another person, and becoming a murderer. But the barber decides “[he does not] want to be a murderer… [does not] want to stain [his] hands with blood” (pg 346. ) He realizes that he would lose his title as “the best [barber] in [the] town” (pg 345,) and have to live life always in fear of being caught. He would have to leave everything behind and flee the town, always on the run from Torres’ followers.
The barber knows “they (Torres’ followers) would follow until they caught up with [him]” (pg 345) though, and even if he managed to get away, “others [would] keep coming…” and would not stop killing “…until everything became a sea of blood” (pg 345. ) This shows that the cycle would just continue. Somebody would replace Torres’ position and keep killing revolutionaries. All of this information went through the barber’s brain as he was logically weighing the pros and cons while still shaving Torres’ beard.
The final character trait Tellez reveals about the character is his realistic outlook on the fact that it is not his duty to kill Torres. He has too much pride in his job to risk losing his reputation as the best barber in town, and commit murder, just to be recognized as a hero. “[The barber] was secretly a revolutionary, but at the same, [he] was a conscientious barber, proud of the way [he] did [his] job” (pg 344. ) This shows that although the barber is a revolutionary, and Torres is his enemy, he should not mix his job with his beliefs by killing Torres while shaving him job.
However, not until the end of the story does the barber’s realism show, when he realizes that Torres is simply doing his job. Torres is “an executioner…” and “… [he] is only a barber. Each one to his job. That’s it” (pg 346. ) He also realizes that Torres knows “it’s not easy to kill” (pg 346,) and learns that, in fact, Torres does not enjoy murdering people, but is just doing his job. It is now that the barber gains some insight into Torres’ life. Realizing that Torres put him through this scenario to show him how hard it is the kill.
The barber is being realistic and looking at both points of views. In short, the barber’s moral integrity puts him in the situation of choosing whether or not it is morally correct to murder someone under certain circumstances. If he had decided to kill Torres, it would affect how the barber lives the rest of his life. This leads into the barber having to rationalize the situation and weigh the pros and cons because his decision at that given moment in time, would affect the rest of his life.
He is able to think logically while under a lot of pressure. If he killed Torres, he would have to spend the rest of his life in hiding, and the cycle would just repeat itself. Finally, the barber must also remain realistic about the situation and realize that it is not his job to kill Torres in the first place. He was simply a barber “proud of the way [he] did [his] job” (ph 344,) and not a murderer. In the end, violence to solve problems can never be justifiable, under any conditions.