The Sniper Questions and Answers
by Liam O’Flaherty

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Describe the setting of the short story "The Sniper" by Liam O'Flaherty.

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Thomas Mccord eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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There are a couple of important points to note about the setting of the story. Firstly, it takes place in Ireland during the civil war of 1922–1923. Specifically, the story is set in Dublin, and O'Flaherty uses imagery to demonstrate to the reader just how violent and chaotic the city was during this period. He talks about the noise of "machine guns" and "rifles," for example, which destroy the quiet of the night.

Looking deeper into the setting, the story's events take place on a rooftop near to O'Connell Bridge in central Dublin. It is June and night is just setting over the city. Except for the gunshots, the city is quiet.

The two main characters of the story reflect the turbulent setting: one is a Republican sniper, the other a Free-State sniper. These men are enemies, divided by the treaty which Great Britain has offered Ireland.

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Sol Gandy eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Liam O'Flaherty's short story "The Sniper" takes place in Dublin during the Irish Civil War. The author tells us it is specifically set on the rooftops near the Four Courts, an important government building. The Liffey River, which runs through the city, is also nearby. It is an otherwise peaceful urban setting that has been rocked by war. O'Flaherty writes:

Dublin lay enveloped in darkness but for the dim light of the moon that shone through fleecy clouds, casting a pale light as of approaching dawn over the streets and the dark waters of the Liffey. Around the beleaguered Four Courts the heavy guns roared. 

In the summer of 1922, a street battle broke out in Dublin between the Irish Republican Army, who disagreed with the recent treaty that the Provisional Government had negotiated with Britain, and Free State troops of the Provisional Government. The treaty made Ireland a free state within the British Commonwealth. The Republicans wanted to eliminate any ties with Britain. That summer, members of the Republican Army barricaded themselves inside the Four Courts. Eventually a large explosion, which destroyed important historical records, ended the stand off.

The story centers on a Republican sniper on a rooftop near the government building, probably there to help protect the men inside the Four Courts. The plot centers around his battle with a Free State sniper who turns out to be his brother. The war divided families and it was not uncommon for men from the same family to fight on opposing sides. 

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