Define the characterization of the main character in Liam O'Flaherty's "The Sniper"    

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vmoriarity eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The main character in O'Flaherty's "The Sniper" is characterized as a rugged soldier who is hardened to the horrors of war. In the beginning of the story, the sniper is described as an expert at his job.  He has "the cold gleam of a fanatic" in his eyes and "is used to looking at death."  His movements are those of a well trained sniper.  He eats his sandwich "hungrily" hinting at an animalistic nature, a person who is running more on instinct.  The sniper does ponder whether to smoke and does so "hurriedly". Again, this is training taking over.  Even though this puts him in danger, the action is done cautiously.

Later when the old woman points him out to soldiers who arrive in an armored car, the sniper deftly kills the man at the turret and then kills the woman. 

When shot in the arm by the other sniper, the main character dresses his woulnd, impervious to the pain caused by the injury and then shrewdly devises a plan to cause his enemy to reveal his whereabouts. When the opportunity strike, the sniper kills him.

It is only then that the sniper reveals a softer side.  Realizing he has killed the other sniper, he is "bitten by remorse."  The realization that he is no longer in immediate danger gives way to a softer side that sets up the ironic ending causing the sniper to wonder who his enemy was.  When he makes his way to the body, that is when he realizes he has killed his own brother.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The sniper is a proud, determined Irishman who loves his country and wants its independence. He is a man of steely nerves with a disciplined and ingenious mind.

With his mind trained upon his objective of eliminating his enemy, the sniper allows no emotions or personal feelings to enter into his job. For instance, when he perceives that an old woman who points up to the roof is telling the man in the turret of an armored car the position of this Republican sniper, he does not hesitate to shoot her along with the soldier in the armored car. Even when he is shot in the arm, the sniper stays focused upon his job. With great discipline, he methodically opens an iodine bottle, pours the liquid onto the wound, wraps his arm, and ties the cloth with his teeth. 

Then he lay still against the parapet, and, closing his eyes, he made an effort of will to overcome the pain.

When he is finally successful in killing the sniper on top of the other building across from him, the sniper "uttered a cry of joy," the first emotion he has demonstrated, perhaps because he has managed to fulfill his assignment. The terrible irony, of course, is that he feels his strongest emotion—"bitter remorse"—when he discovers that the other sniper was his brother.