Nine years later, Lardner would feature the same character, “mindless chatter and all,” in his most well-known and anthologized story, “Haircut.”. The Library of America’s “Story of the Week” this week ( org/) is Ring Lardner’s famous “Haircut,” a kind of dramatic. Haircut has ratings and 21 reviews. Lemar said: If you’ve ever stuck up a conversation in a small town diner with a seemingly innocuous local telling.

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Updated 19 January Publishing History Summary Characters Criticism. He wanted what he couldn’t get. They lay a whole lot stiller than live customers. The only thing is that you don’t feel like talkin’ to them and you get kind of lonesome. Publishing History Liberty I 28 March The Love Nest and Other Stories A fictitious town in Michigan. Benton is a neighboring small town.

Carterville seems to be the nearest “big” town. Whitey, the barber, is giving a haircut and talking to an out-of-towner. He tells the following story:. Jim and Hod Meyers are the town’s jokesters. From Whitey’s stories it seems most of their “jokes” are either focused on their targets’ physical features like a big adam’s apple or are what many would consider “practical jokes.

Still, Whitey characterizes Jim as a “card. Julie Gregg is infatuated with the new doctor, Doc Stair.

According to Whitey, Stair doesn’t share any romantic feelings for Julie. Jim publicly declares that he lusts after Julie and tries to force himself on her–literally. Julie escapes his advances by locking herself in a room and calling the marshall.

Jim flees and is later warned by the marshall to cut it out. The incident becomes public knowledge and Hod Meyers jokes about it at the barbershop. Jim vows to get revenge on Julie. For his revenge, Jim disguises his voice as Doc Stair and phones Julie Gregg, summoning her to the doctor’s office. Jim knows that the doctor is out of town and that the office will look occupied because of a night light.

Jim rounds up a bunch of drunk rowdies from the pool hall and brings them to the doctor’s office. There they all witness Julie ringing the doorbell and calling for “Ralph. Julie is so embarrassed that she stays away from people for a while. Everyone knows about the story except Doc Stair. Paul Dickson suffers from some form of brain damage. Paul seems to have a crush on Julie and follows her around on her errands.

Doc Stair and Julie are his only companions. Paul overhears the story about Jim’s humiliation of Julie and reports what he knows to Doc Stair. Doc finds himself in a difficult position. He wants to make Jim pay, but if he beats him up, Julie will find out. If Julie knows that Doc Stair knows, that would further her embarrassment. Doc Stair decides to do some thinking on the matter.

He initially reacts, though, to Paul by telling him that “anybody that would do a thing like that ought not to be let live. Jim comes to the barbershop looking for Hod Meyers so the two can go duck hunting. Hod is out of town.


Study Guide to Ring Lardner’s “Haircut”

Paul volunteers to go with him instead. He tells Jim that he has never shot before, but that he would like to go anyway. Jim agrees to take him and says he may let him shoot a couple rounds. Whitey theorizes that Jim agreed to take him because he could play jokes on him. Jim and Paul go duck hunting. Jim gives him the gun and Paul shoots him. Whitey attributes the accident to Paul’s nervousness over never handling a gun before. Doc Stair, acting as the coroner, declares it an accidental shooting.

Whitey says Jim should have never “leave a new beginner have his gun” and that it “probably served Him right. Immediately after telling the story, Whitey asks the person in the barber’s chair “Comb it wet of dry? She tries her hand at dressmaking, but there isn’t much money in that. She has traveled and been to school.

Haircut (short story)

She is attracted to Doc Stair. He came to town about a year and a half before the story is related. He is “a mighty handsome young fella and his clothes always look like he has them made to order. He fell out of a tree at ten years of age and suffered some sort of brain damage.

Whitey describes him as harmless and “silly”; Jim teases him for being “cuckoo” and sends him on prank errands. He associates only with his mother, Doc Stair, and Julie Gregg.

Doc says that at times he is “as bright and sensible as anybody else. Jim’s friend and fellow town jokester. He is able to make jokes at Jim’s expense without arousing his anger. He is summoned to Julie’s house when Jim forces his way in.

Later he warns Jim not to try such things. Jim pretends to be Mrs. John Scott and reports to Whitey that John has died and needs a shave. It is the coldest day of the year and John’s house is seven miles out in the country, but Whitey goes to their house, only to find John at the door. It is at his farm that the shooting takes place.

He calls Doc Stair to report the accident. The jokes revolve around the similarity in appearance of his adam’s apple to a mushmellon. Doc Gamble and Doc Foote: Criticism Donald Elder writes: Ring was exposing the witlessness of a whole vein of the American comic tradition–the small-town wag who is a degenerate descendant of the frontier hell-raiser, and is degraded and perverse; but there are still innumerable jackasses to laugh at him.

Not even what commonly passes as a ‘sense of humor’ has much saving grace in it, offers any release or any leavening of the soridness of the small, meager, impoverished world that Ring evokes so skillfully in the barber’s monologue.

Practical jokes are the basis of much of the humor in Ring’s baseball stories; Jack Keefe is almost always the dupe of them. But these are harmless, they are even sometimes funny, and in any case Jack Keefe is too thick-skinned to be hurt by them.


This kind of humor is fairly shallow at best, as Ring knew; but in ‘Haircut’ it is not funny any more. Humor itself has become corrupt. It is a bitter and appalling story. A Biography of Ring Lardner. It may have seemed to readers of a popular magazine to have been a brutal portrait of small-town hypocrisy and callousness, but those readers probably were unfamiliar with Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio, lardne six years earlier and far superior.

In the story, a vicious, jealous practical joker, Jim Kendall, is tolerated and envied by his more cautious confederates in the town’s barber shop.

The moral standards of decency and responsibility, which small towns had embodied in Lardner’s earlier fiction are in ‘Haircut’ only enforced when the town half-wit murders Kendall for exposing the gentle and virtuous Julie Gregg to public ridicule.

Maxwell Perkins of Scribner’s writes in a letter to Ring: There’s not a man alive who could have done better, that’s certain. Everyone will tell you this, or something like it I guess, so there’s little use in lardmer doing it.

Orchises,page The response in total is as follows: Ring Lardner and the Portrait of Folly. Hal Blythe and Charlie Sweet: The article analyzes cinematic allusions, especially those to the movie Wages of Death found in the story “Haircut” and asserts that the plot of that movie is the hidden plot of this story.

In this article, unlike the next, Blythe still supports the view that the narrator of “Haircut” is innocent and unaware of the real circumstances surrounding Jim’s death. From Blythe, Hal and Charlie Sweet.

The Chief Conspirator of ‘Haircut. Blythe and Sweet posit that Whitey, the narrator, is not only aware of what is going on in the story and that he condones the killing of Jim, but that he is “the chief instigator of the town’s deadly conspiracy” They methodically prove their thesis, using many examples from the story to establish motive, means, opportunity, and indirect admissions of guilt.

Such a reading requires that one considers the barber’s comments about Jim like his being a “card” ironic. The “motive to kill” may also be overstated. Whitey has a kardner for revenge or a motive to dislike Jim, but the motive to kill is difficult to prove. Their earlier suggestion that “hubris” is the motive is dismissed; “guilt” causes the barber to “confess” his story.

They posit that Lardnrr tells his story out of guilt.