At The Barber's (A Review)
At the Barber's is a short story by the Russian writer Anton Chekhov. It portrays the story of Makar Kuzmitch, a hard-working and unwashed barber, and his encounter with Erast Yagodov, his godfather. Chekhov starts the story with a detailed description of the setting and Makar.
The shop is described in a poor condition as small, narrow and unclean. This is not something to be taken lightly as we get to know later that the reason behind Erast's rejection of Makar is his poverty. Makar is a well-mannered boy as we can see from the way he greets Erast and speaks with him politely.
However, Erast Yagodov seems to be a greedy and stingy old man, who walked a far distance to have a free haircut despite his illness. He actually comes for a haircut just when the doctor said that he must shave his hair, and then he chooses Makar just because he has always done it for free.
When Makar asks about Erast's daughter, Anna Erastovna, the whole atmosphere changes as Erast informs Makar that Anna is geting married. Anna and Makar love each other, but her father does not care about it; all he cares about is that the groom is a rich boy, unlike Makar. Erast rejected the good boy just because he is poor. Despite the shocking news, Makar behaves like a gentleman and tells his godfather that he cannot finish cutting the man's hair now. The man decides to come the next day as his head was long on one side and short on the other. But when Makar asks for money the next day, Erast goes out and keeps his hair in that style.
The mirror Makar uses with his clients is distorted, which is symbolic; it is like the expectations of Makar versus the harsh reality; and like the way Erast saw the alliance for his daughter.
"Glance into the looking-glass which hangs on one of the walls, and it distorts your countenance in all directions in the most merciless way! The shaving and haircutting is done before this looking-glass."