There are a couple of ways to consider the words and phrases the author uses to describe the Republican sniper and what he is doing. We can discuss what he is doing and his reaction to what is happening to him.
The Republican sniper’s face is described as “thin and aesthetic,” which perhaps suggests a young, attractive man, with eyes that are “used to looking at death.” The sniper is depicted as a young soldier who has grown accustomed to his military responsibilities.
We get a good sense of what he is doing from the phrases “a bullet whizzed over his head” and “the sniper raised his rifle and fired.” The sniper is involved in warfare. He is in the dark, lying on a roof and shielding himself from bullets fired from other snipers shooting at him.
Another way to describe what he is doing would be to draw attention to his response to what is going on around him. The Republican sniper is initially calm as he eats his sandwich “hungrily,” takes a “short drought” of whisky, “place[s] a cigarette between his lips,” and “[strikes] a match.” His decision to light the cigarette, knowing that it could expose his position, lends some further insight into his callous, nonchalant disposition. Later in the story, the sniper is struck by a bullet and “drop[s] his rifle with a curse.” The pain is described as a “deadened sensation, as if the arm had been cut off.” Then, the pain in his right arm begins to feel like “a thousand devils.” One could argue that as the adrenaline from being shot wears off, the agonizing pain begins to set in.
Yet the Republican sniper’s sentiment about what he is doing changes. The author notes that the “lust of battle died in him.” The sniper begins “cursing the war, cursing himself, cursing everybody.” The sniper’s sentiment likely changes due to the “long summer day of fasting and watching over the roof” and of being under the “influence of the spirit,” suggesting that he may have grown frustrated due to lethargy and intoxication. Yet the inadvertent firing of his gun gives him a reality check that brings him back to focus.
In conclusion, a weary and drunken soldier seeks to escape to refuge but finds himself in another, more troublesome predicament.