War reduces human beings to mere objects. They have no names and no faces. They are targets, nothing more, to be shot at from a distance. To support this theme, O’Flaherty refrains from naming any of his characters. War knows no boundaries—age, sex, location, time of day, family ties. The theme is brought out through the sequence of events. It gives an insight into the evils of war.
The fighting takes place in the heart of a city after sundown. This atmosphere is the appropriate setting for this kind of action. The dark night, the thin clouds, the dim moonlight and the terrifying gunfire around is sufficient for the reader to visualize the mindless violence, reckless action, remorse and revulsion that is experienced during a war.
Shooting an old unarmed woman is the sniper’s most shocking act. It brings out the brutality of war. It makes the reader realize that war is senseless. It is destructive for both the killer and for the killed.
Shooting the enemy and finding out that he had killed his own brother brings out the horror of war where one does not know who the enemy is. It demonstrates the cruelness and senselessness of war.
War is a very controversial dilemma. The sniper appearing to be the triumphant killer and a lucky survivor brings home the bitter truth that victory in war is only an illusion. The so called victory turns into defeat when a fighter feels empty and guilty. This is exhibited when the Sniper cursing him and the war after he realizes with disgust and guilt that he has killed his brother. This emotional conflict can destroy both the body and mind of a person and have terrible psychological effects.
Liam O’Flaherty reveals his disgust towards the war in the short story “the Sniper”, which was set in a civil war. Stating that even students had to participate in war, through “His face was the face of a student” (O’ Flaherty, 1), O’Flaherty mocks the inhumanity of the war, stating that even students who are barely grown up have to participate in the war and could possibly get killed. Also, through describing how the war had trained students in “the eyes of a man who is used to looking at death”, the author reveals the cruelty of war, forcing people take no other choice to be emotionless while killing and seeing death. Moreover, revealing how betrayal happened in war, through how the old woman who turned out to be an informer betrayed the protagonist by “pointing to the roof where the sniper lay” (O’Flaherty, 2), he suggests that one has to be very cautious during the war and cannot easily trust people, showing that friendship and trust could not possibly exist during the war due to survival. Also, from how the sniper had to be “considering whether he should risk a smoke” (O’Flaherty,1 ), the author reflected how dangerous the war could be, that the sniper could be discovered and get himself killed just by lighting a fire. Moreover, from how the sniper had wanted to kill the opponent and found that he had killed his own brother in the climax of the story through “then the sniper turned over the dead body and looked into his brother’s face” (O’Flaherty, 3), the author stated that the civil war is tragic, that there was a possibility of killing one’s family and friends, revealing the lack of humanity in a war and the pain it could cause, especially in a civil war where one might have to fight against a friend or family member. From how he had described the war, it was clear that Liam O’Flaherty takes a negative position towards war.