In his short story, “Haircut,” Ring Lardner employs an atypical point of view style. Although the story is told completely from the point of view of a barber, what makes it unique is that the reader is a part of the story as the barber’s customer. Lardner makes use of the stereotype that barbers are very talkative while they do their work, and one can learn all the town gossip from them.
The barber himself is very talkative by nature, inferred from when he says that he does not mind shaving corpses, except that he gets “kind of lonesome” with them because he cannot talk to them. He also seems unaware of his gossiping nature because, once, he actually stops himself by saying that he “shouldn’t ought to be gossipin’” even though he had been gossiping the entire time. This barber goes on with his stories with no input needed from the customer/reader, and so seems to skip from one topic to another, similar to the pattern of idle chatter.
This random jumping of topics is actually essential to the story. Lardner builds his characters using little background stories that expose their personalities. This style involves so many characters and so many stories that a straightforward third-person story would not have been nearly as effective. One other importance of the barber’s point of view is that he makes no judgments as he tells his stories. He talks about Jim Kendall, who he has a “good ole boy” type of relationship with.
From the stories, the reader can tell that Jim, the recently deceased funny barbershop patron, was in fact a rather bad man. Jim did not give his wife enough money to live on and cheated on her repeatedly, knowingly broke his children’s hearts, made fun of a mentally ill person, and almost assaulted a woman. Even knowing all these things, the barber still insists that Jim was a “good fella at heart. ” Lardner uses the idle chatter of a friendly barber to tell the story of what was, most probably, a murder of a very unpleasant man.
Courtney from Study Moose
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