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David's Haircut by Ken Elkes: Theme & Analysis

Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

It starts simply with a haircut, but there's a deeper meaning. In this lesson, you'll learn more about the deeper implications of 'David's Haircut' by Ken Elkes and the theme of growing up present in the short story.

At the Barbershop

So many things happen at the barbershop: new looks, first haircuts, gossip, conversations, and apparently... growing up?

A story about a haircut shows readers a much deeper meaning.
david, haircut, childhood, ken, elkes

In this story, the author uses the barbershop as a symbol of time marching on and a childhood blossoming from reliance on a parent to independence. Let's break down the story.

Looking at ''David's Haircut''

When the story begins, we're introduced to David and his father, and we immediately see the innocence of childhood. After all, one of the very first sentences tells us that David ''reaches instinctively for his dad's hand'' after stepping outside into the bright sunlight. It's a natural gesture of a child toward a parent.

The ritual of the pair going to the barbershop has been going on for years. ''Always, the routine is the same,'' the author tells us. We learn that when David was young, he used to cry over the fear of losing his ears, but he's grown out of that behavior now.

Throughout history, barbershops have been places where families experience ''firsts'' (such as a first haircut), engage in conversations, and make memories. The author details the history of the barbershop by explaining old photos hanging on the walls and the character of the shop.

In the Chair

Once David gets his turn, he is greeted by a barber who comments about how tall he's getting, telling him that he won't need to sit on the board soon but will be able to sit in the chair like a grown-up. It delights David; his father remembers a time when he had to hoist David up onto the board.

''They don't stay young for long do they, kids,'' Mr. Samuels says, and everyone in the shop nods in agreement.

While David's hair is being cut, his mind wanders to more grown-up ideas such as sitting alone in the chair and more childlike concerns such as losing his strength after his haircut, like Samson in the Bible. David considers gathering the loose hairs that have fallen to the ground under the chair, but he does not. It's symbolic of letting go and growing up.

As the haircut concludes, and the father and son leave the barbershop, David grabs his father's hand. Inside of it, he finds a lock of his own hair. David's father's actions remind us that he's trying to hold on to the boy's childhood, if only through the memory of a haircut.

Theme of ''David's Haircut''

Ken Elkes' short story about a boy going to a barbershop with his father focuses primarily on the theme of growing up.

David is both childlike-- grabbing his father's hand, worrying about losing his strength, being excited for the time he will no longer have to sit on the board-- and showing physical signs of maturing. The barber comments about his height and says he will soon be sitting in the chair like a man.

We can see the barber, and even the customers in the shop, relating to the notion of the barber's quote, ''They don't stay young for long do they, kids.'' It's really the central sentence at the heart of the entire story. Childhood is fleeting, and every moment should be savored.

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