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In Liam O'Flaherty's short story, "The Sniper," there are several conflicts. First, the "main sniper" is fighting on the side of the Republican army in Ireland. This is a war that has divided friends and families, and cost the lives of innocent bystanders. The conflict has been raging for many years, through many generations.
The two sides fighting this civil war are the Free Staters and the Republicans. The other major conflict is presented when the Republican sniper is fired on by a Free Staters sniper. Having taken out a military tank and an informer, the only conflict left rests with the enemy sniper, who has wounded the Republican sniper.
Suddenly from the opposite roof a shot rang out and the sniper dropped his rifle with a curse. The rifle clattered to the roof. The sniper thought the noise would wake the dead. He stopped to pick the rifle up. He couldn't lift it. His forearm was dead...He muttered, "I'm hit."
The Republican sniper knows that by the time the sun comes up, he cannot be found wounded on the rooftop, but his enemy is standing in his way.
Morning must not find him wounded on the roof. The enemy on the opposite roof covered his escape. He must kill that enemy and he could not use his rifle. He had only a revolver to do it.
The Republican sniper decides the best move is to trick the other sniper into believing he has killed the Republican sniper. He puts his hat on his rifle and raises it: the other man shoots at the hat and the sniper pretends he has been hit, flinging his arm over the parapet's edge, and then dropping it out of sight as if he has died. The other sniper believes he has taken out his enemy and stands up. The Republican, struggling with the pain from his wound, uses his revolver to shoot at the Free Staters sniper, and he hits him. The man falls over the wall, flipping over until he hits the ground below. Quickly exiting the rooftop, the Republican sniper cannot resist looking into the face of a "worth adversary." When he turns the body over, he sees his dead brother's face.
The resolution of the story speaks to the conflict between members of opposite sides in a civil war: here is one "victory" for the Republicans. Killing his adversary resolves the Repulican's conflict with a man determined to kill him. Without knowing it, it also resolves what we know now was a conflict between two brothers in one family; it ends with the death of the sniper's brother.
The theme I see in this short story is that in war, there are no winners, and that is the case in this story. Paradoxically, the Republican sniper wins the fight with the other sniper, but loses in terms of the family's conflict: he kills his own brother.
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