Personification is the practice of assigning human traits to inanimate objects. Often, it involves objects that are described as behaving in a manner similar to humans. There are several instances of personification in the short story, “The Sniper” by Liam O’Flaherty. Set during the Irish civil war, O’Flaherty describes the conflict between the soldiers who fought on the side of the Republic and those who designated themselves in favor of a Free State. As the sniper awaits the next opportunity to fire upon the enemy, the author describes the scene around the building:
“Around the beleaguered Four Courts the heavy guns roared.”
The “Four Courts” are described as beleaguered, suggesting that they are worn down, stressed and tired. These characteristics are typically descriptive of humans. Likewise, in this statement, the guns are said to “roar” as if they could wail or yell in opposition to the enemy gunfire.
Other instances of personification include a description of a bullet desperately clinging to a parapet, the motor of a vehicle “panting,” or breathing heavily, a cloud of fear “scatter(ing)” away, and a machine gun that viciously tears the ground:
“Almost immediately, a bullet flattened itself against the parapet of the roof.”
“The sniper could hear the dull panting of the motor.”
“The cloud of fear scattered from his mind and he laughed.”
“A machine gun tore up the ground around him with a hail of bullets, but he escaped.”