“The Sniper” emphasizes one of the greatest ironies of civil war: Brother is pitted against brother. In this story, Liam O’Flaherty deals with a strife that has divided Ireland for more than sixty years and still shows few signs of moderating. The Republican sniper in the story is young, and his youth is emphasized. However, under conditions of war, this youth is growing up fast, probably too fast. He has the look of a fanatic, and he is forced to develop the cunning of a seasoned warrior. If he fails to develop that cunning, he will not live.
In the course of two hours, the young sniper kills three people, one his own brother—who, ironically, is poised to kill him if he is given the opportunity. The Republican sniper outwits the Free Stater into being careless, and this carelessness costs the Free Stater his life.
In a sense, carelessness also costs the man in the turret of the armored car his life. He should not have responded to the old woman who came to give him information. Had he not exposed his head, he could not have been killed, because the car’s armor would have protected him. In a moment of relaxed security, he makes himself vulnerable and loses his life. In the next instant, the sniper kills an old woman.
O’Flaherty demonstrates the impersonality of war: One shoots the Enemy, not people. When the sniper is doing his killing, it is the Enemy at whom he is firing. The Enemy, however, becomes a person when the protagonist sees the opposing sniper’s body fall to the ground. He is sickened at the thought of what he has done, and one can only speculate on the implications for him of discovering, ultimately, that it is his own brother he has killed.
O’Flaherty is saying that soldiers grow up fast or not at all. There is no question that the sniper does what he has to do, and at the beginning, there is a great adventure in what he is doing. The adventure, however, depends on anonymity. No one in this story has a name, and everyone, even, to an extent, the protagonist, is seen from a distance. Once one is killing people, the whole impact of what war is about crowds in on the killer.
Although one perhaps cannot go so far as to call “The Sniper” a pacifist tract, certainly it depicts several of the worst horrors of war. It shows that war makes life seem cheap. It shows that war also hardens the hearts of those who participate in it. In the end, the story shows the absurdity and futility of fighting against individual human beings.
Both snipers in this story are pawns of forces larger than themselves, and these forces split families, shatter loyalties, and pervert the very causes that they purport to be fighting to preserve. The first irony is that men will kill other men. The second and greater irony in the O’Flaherty story is that in this case the two men are of the same parents.
The Sniper Essay
933 Words4 Pages
"The Sniper" places a strong emphasis on the evils of war, and yet paints a vivid image of mankind's qualities and their society. Employing the technique of describing one particular sniper to symbolise a general subject, readers are able to gain a deep insight into the evils of war. In this story, the assembly of setting, contrasting characters and themes of fanaticism and division of loyalties are vital to conveying the horror of war. On the other hand, "The Sniper" also discusses the power of war, depicting it as the decider of life and death for men. Its force is further emphasised when neighbours are turned into enemies under war's influence.
The setting of the story, Dublin, has been written in such a way that only…show more content…
Characters in ¡§The Sniper¡¨ are limited in terms of type and variety to show that war brings out only people who possesses a passion to kill and have the courage to be killed. The story focuses on only one sniper and we, the readers use the incident from his point of view. The only characters that are mentioned are the sniper, another sniper, his enemy and an old woman. Apart from the old woman, all other characters are men who represent figures of war and are present to do nothing but kill. They are seekers of death and bring about a web of deaths. The manner in which these men ¡§reign¡¨ over the city by killing, and that ordinary dwellers are imprisoned within their homes for fear of death shows the evil impacts of war.
The theme of death and violence is another important segment in indicating the evils of war. Each individual is engaged in killing their enemies and struggling for their own lives. As seen through the view of the sniper, the people¡¦s lives are centred around killing and death. Lifestyle, even to the extent of lighting a cigarette becomes risky and could lead to death. Citizens are forced to be locked in their homes for fear of being shot. The incident, where an old woman is hot by the sniper, who is then injured by his enemy is an example of war¡¦s destructive nature. The loss of innocent