In Liam O'Flaherty's "The Sniper," what does the woman symbolize?

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ajreads eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Liam O'Flahtery wrote "The Sniper" as a means of showing the harsh realities and complexities of war. "The Sniper" exhibits the theme that war turns humans into objects and friends (or brothers) into enemies. As the sniper is hiding from enemy fire, he spots the old woman speaking to the man in the armored car. The old woman reveals the sniper's hiding spot to the man in the armored car and the sniper then realizes that the old woman is actually an informer. When the sniper shoots and kills the old woman, he is not thinking of her as a human being; the sniper is only thinking of her as being his enemy and a threat to his safety. The old woman is symbolic of war's ability to dehumanize people and turn them into objects and enemies. The sniper, being in immediate danger, was not able to take into account that the old woman was a human being like himself. The sniper's decision to kill the woman was fueled by his immediate need to protect himself from his enemy. The sniper does not view the woman as a person; he only views her as an enemy and a resource for the opposing side.