Chekhov, “Chez le barbier” (“At the Barber’s,” 1883)

Makar Blyostken is a poor barber keeping a shabby shop. East Ivanitch Yagodov is his godfather. He gets his haircuts free. He walks in after an illness, when his hair fell out unevenly. He wants his hair shaved. Maker begins. They chat. Catch up. The barber asks about Anna, Yagodov’s daughter. Yagodov wonders why Maker did’t come to her engagement party. Maker is stunned. He was in love with Anna, thought he and she had agreed to marry, he’d spoken to his aunt, she’d agreed to the marriage. Yagodov, without a hint of compassion, is dismissive, tells him he’s not worthy of his daughter, he has a poor trade, tells him it’s done, tells him he can find another fiancee—one lost, ten found. Maker is crushed. He can’t keep cutting. He cries. Yagodov says he’ll return the next day and leaves, his head half cut. When he returns, Maker tells him he’ll have to pay for the job to be finished. Yagodov walks out. He considers paying for haircuts a luxury. He goes to his own daughter’s wedding with his head half shaved: the man of means, stomping on his own relation, reinforcing his poverty.

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