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Liam O’Flaherty depicts how war desensitizes individuals and devalues human life, and he illustrates the absurdity and futility of fighting against other humans. The characters in the short story lack identities and individual names, which emphasizes how war and violence devalue human life. The sniper does not view the opposing soldiers as individuals or human beings, but simply perceives them as enemies. O'Flaherty is essentially depicting how war distances people from each other, which makes it easier for soldiers to kill their apparent enemies, who are in the same dire situation. The sniper is described as a young man who is used to looking at death. He is initially excited about the battle but quickly loses his lust for war after shooting the opposing sniper. O'Flaherty illustrates the psychological effects of war by describing the sniper's reaction to killing his enemy. O'Flaherty writes:

The sniper looked at his enemy falling and he shuddered. The lust of battle died in him. He became bitten by remorse...His teeth chattered, he began to gibber to himself, cursing the war, cursing himself, cursing everybody (3).

The sniper's reaction reveals how war and violence emotionally harm those involved in conflicts. The fact that the sniper discovers that he has killed his brother illustrates the absurdity and futility of war. Overall, O'Flaherty's short story examines how war desensitizes those involved, emotionally harms people, destroys families, and is essentially futile.

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I think a moral of the story is about the dehumanizing effects of war.  War itself removes the humanity from people and turns them into mere targets to be eliminated.  Liam O'Flaherty helps sell this idea of war being impersonal by never naming any of the characters.  They are simply described as this sniper, that sniper, an old woman, etc.  

In addition to characters having no names, the war dehumanizes the characters by making them all equal targets of opportunity.  To the sniper, it doesn't matter if his target is young or old.  It doesn't matter if his target is man or woman.  It doesn't matter if his target is armed or not.  Each person that he sees through his scope is a target of opportunity.  The real shock to the young sniper is that his desensitized attitude causes him to kill his own brother.  

I would say that a moral message in the story is to be aware of how war tends to create an attitude of impersonal distance from your fellow man.  

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