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Examine the significance of the loss of innocence theme  conveyed in "The Sniper."

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jeaheiko | Student, College Freshman | eNotes Newbie

Posted December 19, 2012 at 9:24 AM via web

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Examine the significance of the loss of innocence theme  conveyed in "The Sniper."

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akannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted January 4, 2013 at 2:24 PM (Answer #1)

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I think that a unique take on this theme is presented in O'Flaherty's story.  On one hand, it can be argued that the loss of innocence is evident in the fact that the sniper is a soldier whose cold function of being is killing.  “The cold gleam of the fanatic" is where one can see the loss of innocence as being evident.  Yet, I think that the real loss of innocence is that the sniper's actions are meaningful to the cause, without much in way of personal sacrifice.  There seems to be a clinging to the isolation of the sniper throughout the narrative.  He sojourns through the war in an isolated manner, focused only on his function as a sniper.  There is little in way of emotional reflection or even rumination about his function and purpose.  The loss of innocence does not happen in the entry in to the war.  Rather, it happens at the point where the sniper has completed his mission that the loss of innocence happens.  The sniper's loss of innocence falls upon him when he is done with his mission:

The sniper looked at his enemy falling and he shuddered. The lust of battle died in him. He became bitten by remorse. The sweat stood out in beads on his forehead. Weakened by his wound and the long summer day of fasting and watching on the roof, he revolted from the sight of the shattered mass of his dead enemy. His teeth chattered, he began to gibber to himself, cursing the war, cursing himself, cursing everybody.

It is here where I think that the loss of innocence is most evident.  The reflection of the costs of war on the soldiers is where the sniper's innocence has disappeared.  The clinging to function and execution of duty cannot conceal the pain of war, the loss of innocence.  This is enhanced with the ending that the sniper has killed his own brother.  Being his own brother's murderer is the culmination of the loss of innocence.

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