Shaving by Leslie Norris

8 August 2016

The short story “Shaving” is a coming-of-age piece that stresses the need for a family to have a strong and responsible leader. In the short story Barry, the main character, is in a position where his father is dying and he has the responsibility of taking care of him. One day after school Barry comes home to shave his father because he is too sick to do it himself. Through this the reader is able to comprehend the idea that Barry is ready to take over his fathers spot in the family.

Leslie Norris illustrates that Barry is ready to become patriarch of the family through direct characterization, contrast with weather and symbolism. In “Shaving” Leslie Norris portrays that Barry is ready to become the leader of the family through direct characterization. Barry is mature and strong, yet his father is weak and now has to rely on Barry for everything.

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Norris begins implementing this message by describing Barry as how “He walked solidly now and often alone. He was tall, strongly made; his hands and feet were adult and heavy.

The room in which all his life he’d grown had become to small for him” (Norris 1). This promotes the idea that Barry is not just mentally but physically ready to become patriarch of the family. He has grown up and is able to function without depending on someone such as his father. As the story progresses the reader then gets characteristics of “His father’s face was fine-skin and pallid carried a dark stubble of beard” (Norris 2) that needed to be shaved. The reader can infer that Barry’s father is weak and he is ready to let Barry take over his position in the family.

This is justified when Barry’s father lets him shave his face. His father is letting go of himself and is relying on Barry to pick up where he is leaving off. Leslie Norris uses contrast with weather to portray that Barry is ready to become the head of the family. Norris begins indicating this message when the end of the story approaches with “An overnight frost had still been thick on the roads, but the brisk April sun had soon dispersed it and now he could feel the spring warmth on his back through the thick tweed of his coat” (Norris 1).

This demonstrates a change in season but also has the more profound meaning of a change from boy to man. Manhood is approaching quickly and is hanging over Barry, as it will soon engulf him once his father passes away. As the story reaches its conclusion Barry’s by the window in his parents bathroom when “The window was full in the beam of dying sunlight and Barry stood there illuminated in it’s golden warmth for a whole minute, knowing it would soon be gone” (Norris 1). The idea of golden warmth helps emphasize that his dad is present and Barry’s standing looking out knowing that the end will soon come for his father’s life.

This exhibits that Barry is mentally mature enough for his dad to soon pass away. Leslie Norris uses symbolism often throughout the short story “Shaving”, to represent that Barry is ready to become the patriarch of the family. She uses symbolism to bring out important ideas and points throughout the text. When Barry is in his parent’s bathroom preparing a tray of tools to help him shave his father, there is a cup sitting there that he notices. Since “The cup was much older than Barry.

A pattern of fine translucent cracks fine as a web had work itself haphazardly, invisible almost through the white glaze” (Norris 2). This cup represents Barry’s father and how old and decrepit he is becoming. The cracks symbolize the weakness and defeat that his father is feeling and experiencing as he deteriorates himself. As Barry continues to assemble the tray “His father’s razor was in a blue leather case, hinged at the broad edge was one hinge broken” (Norris 2). The blue leather case symbolizes Barry’s father being sick.

The broken hinge also represents the same meaning. This supports the idea that Barry’s father is breaking down and dwindling. He continues to get worse as time goes on and needs Barry to help put back together the pieces. Through direct characterization, contrast with weather and symbolism Leslie Norris illustrates that Barry is ready to become the patriarch of the family. Barry isn’t just mentally but physically ready to take over his father’s position. His father is weak and is ready to let Barry occupy his spot in the family.

Norris portrays this through direct characterization of Barry and his father. The use of contrasting with weather also amplifies the idea that his father is willing to relinquish his position in the family to Barry. He is mentally able to conquer the tasks that his father’s position entails. Finally Norris uses symbolism to express the idea that Barry’s father is deteriorating and Barry’s job is to pick up where his father is leaving off. It’s a parent’s job to look after their child but in some cases it’s the child’s job to look after the parent.

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Shaving by Leslie Norris. (2016, Aug 30). Retrieved May 21, 2019, from
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