Throughout the second and third decades of the twentieth century, Ring Lardner was one of the most distinguished writers, as well as one of the most popular. He was known first for his sports writing—especially for his love of baseball—culminating in his classic novel You Know Me Al. But his fiction, distinctive in his use of colloquial speech and often presented in monologue, became increasingly satirical and nearly bitter. While Lardner's fiction continued to remain humorous on the surface, it moved toward irony that exposed man's folly and inhumanity in a small-town society of his own making. The entire story is his address to the reader who becomes necessarily introduced to, then involved with, and finally complicit in the barber's narrative: "You're a newcomer, ain't you? I thought I hadn't seen you round before.
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Throughout the second and third decades of the twentieth century, Ring Lardner was one of the most distinguished writers, as well as one of the most popular.
He was known first for his sports writing—especially for his love of baseball—culminating in his classic novel You Know Me Al. But his fiction, distinctive in his use of colloquial speech and often presented in monologue, became increasingly satirical and nearly bitter. While Lardner's fiction continued to remain humorous on the surface, it moved toward irony that exposed man's folly and inhumanity in a small-town society of his own making.
The entire story is his address to the reader who becomes necessarily introduced to, then involved with, and finally complicit in the barber's narrative: "You're a newcomer, ain't you? I thought I hadn't seen you round before. I hope you like it good enough to stay. The barber wants to tell of Jim Kendall, who has recently died, "We ain't no New York or Chicago, but we have pretty good times.
Not as good, though, since Jim Kendall got killed. When he was alive, him and Hod Meyers used to keep this town in an uproar.
I bet they was more laughin' done here than any town its size in America. Kendall is first seen as a wisecracker, although his repartees are always insults. He hangs around the barbershop frequently, and as the barber's recollections unfold—this eulogy that will condemn—it becomes clear that Kendall is both an alcoholic and unemployed.
He was, when he worked, a travelling salesman for a canning factory whose hobby was to note the names and addresses as he rode the train through other small towns; he would then write postcards to these strangers, signed "A Friend," with messages like "Ask your Missus who kept her from gettin' lonesome the last time you were in Carterville" or "Ask your wife about that book agent that spent the afternoon last week," relishing such mean tricks without bothering to know the outcome of them.
Once fired, Kendall takes an occasional odd job, while his wife supports the family—just barely—with dressmaking, not divorcing him in hopes that he will straighten out and get a job again. Instead, he drinks with what money he makes, and when she attempts to garnish his wages, he "get s even" by promising to take his wife and children to the circus and then not showing up with the tickets while they wait endlessly for him. That the barber continues to see such deep anger and cruelty as Kendall's peculiar and absorbing sense of humor characterizes the barber as well.
His life, in fact, increasingly parallels Kendall's, for he too uses narrative as Kendall uses tricks to make fun of others. In fact, they are in collusion, for the barber's ability to share Kendall's escapades elevates them past gossip to town history; that such events are what should attract his audience to move to this town suggests that the reader, too, is being appealed to directly and, should he continue the story, contributes both to further acts of Kendall and further stories of the barber.
Kendall's family is taken to the circus, in the end, by a handsome young Dr. Stair who has just come to town. His treatment of patients is more successful than the two older doctors he finds there, and in due course he is elected town coroner.
He is befriended by Paul Dickson, a retarded youngster who has also been the butt of Kendall's pranks. One of Lardner's superb abilities is to build stories by adding characters so that an entire group contributes to his American portraits at the end.
Thus young Paul is infatuated with Julie Gregg, who lives with her invalid mother and who is at once attracted to the new Dr. Kendall is also interested in Julie Gregg, far more than his own wife, and he confesses this with blustering pride one day before a crowd in the barbershop.
He went right up to her house one evenin' and when she opened the door he forced his way in and grabbed her. But she broke loose and before he could stop her, she run in the next room and locked the door and phoned to Joe Barnes.
Joe's the marshal. Jim could hear who she was phonin' to and he beat it before Joe got there. Again Jim Kendall seeks revenge. Disguising his voice as Dr. Stair's, he calls Julie when he knows the doctor is out of town. While the town laughs at the ruse, according to the barber, young Paul sympathizes with Julie and tells Dr. The barber, who is adept at storytelling, imagines what happened then. But it was kind of a delicate thing, because if it got out that he had beat Jim up, Julie was bound to hear it and then she'd know the Doc knew and of course knowin' that he knew would make it worse for her than ever.
He was goin' to do something,' but it took a lot of figurin. But the ignorant barber who lives on the tricks of others fails to see tricks in the making. When Hod Meyers, who has never really been Jim's friend, although both Jim and the barber think so, refuses to go with Kendall on a hunt for ducks, Kendall turns to young Paul as his only chance for company.
The morning of the hunt, Doc Stair turns up nervously at the barber shop. He is distraught because Paul had told him he would never have anything more to do with Kendall. Moreover, "He said Paul had told him about the joke Jim had played on Julie. He said Paul had asked him what he thought of the joke and the Doc had told him that anybody that would do a thing like that ought not to be let live. He let fire and Jim sunk back in the boat, dead.
But this awful conspiracy of circumstances is lost on the barber. It probably served Jim right, what he got. But still we miss him round here. He certainly was a card! This incremental story, building by association, works on the reader's sense of irony at every turn.
Yet the appeal to the reader is a double one: while we judge the cruelty that motivates action in an isolated, solitary, and repressed, small rural American town, we are nevertheless eager to follow the barber's story and lose ourselves in the power of it, which has an attractive force similar to the barber's enjoyment of the tricks played by townspeople on each other.
The story judges the reader. It also judges the barber in just such a searing way. For all his attraction to Jim Kendall, what this narrative eulogy shows us at the end is that for the barber, Kendall's death, like his life, is important because it is material for yet another story. The barber's stark amorality, contrasted with his unfailing colloquialism, is the basis for much of the story's power and horror.
Throughout the story, however, the fundamental sense of man's inhumanity is directly linked to the actions of people in all strata of small-town America. Lardner thus provided America with some of the most powerful and memorable self-exposures of the uninvestigated fabric of its culture. Cite this article Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography. May 23, Retrieved May 23, from Encyclopedia.
Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list. Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia. Haircut by Ring Lardner, gale. Learn more about citation styles Citation styles Encyclopedia. More From encyclopedia. Nationality: American. Born: Los Angeles, 23 November Born: Jackson, Mississippi, 16 February The Sweet Hereafter.
The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg. Neighbour Rosicky. Mayne, William —. A Small, Good Thing. The Daffodil Sky. Hair Worms: Nematomorpha. Hair Shirt. Hair Loss Syndromes. Hair Dyes and Hair Treatments. Hair Dye. Hair Club for Men Ltd.
Hair and Beauty Culture in the United States. Hair and Beauty Culture in Brazil. Hair and Beauty Culture. Hair Accessories. Hainworth, Henry Charles Hainsworth, Peter R. Hairstyles and Headgear.
Haircut (short story)
I got another barber that comes over from Carterville and helps me out Saturdays, but the rest of the time I can get along all right alone. You can see for yourself that this ain't no New York: City and besides that, the most of the boys works all day and don't have no leisure to drop in here and get themselves prettied up. You're a newcomer, ain't you? I thought I hadn't seen you round before.
Haircut by Ring Lardner, 1925
Thoughts on reading and studying the short story by a guy who's read and written about a lot of short stories. Another good article. Please keep them coming. I just rerea "Haircut" and I like your take on it.
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