Please discuss the theme of both "The Sniper" by Liam O'Flaherty and "Anthem for Doomed Youth" by Wilfred Owens.  

Both the poem "Anthem for Doomed Youth" and the short story "The Sniper" convey the idea that war is personal. It may take place far away or at home. Battles may involve thousands of people or just a few. Regardless of circumstance, we tend to overlook the individual human cost to every soldier and every soldier's family in fantasies of glory or the drums of patriotism.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In "Anthem for Doomed Youth," Owen draws attention to the way young men who go off to war "die as cattle." This simile emphasizes the great number of those who die as well as their apparent namelessness as they are slaughtered. They seem dehumanized. Most of them do not get proper funerals; no bells or choirs ring for them, only the sound of the terrible guns and gas shells wailing. They get no candles and no pall or flowers. Often, soldiers in World War I had to be buried overseas, or their remains may not even have ever been recovered or identified. Families waited at home for their loved one, missing a son, father, brother, or husband. Soldiers may die in droves, but they are missed as individuals.

In "The Sniper," an Irish Republican sniper is seriously wounded by an enemy sniper just across the street from where he hides, and he tricks that enemy into believing that he has died. When the enemy sniper reveals himself, the Republican sniper shoots him dead, pleased that he has saved himself even though it cost another man, a stranger, his life. When he goes to the dead sniper's position out of some strong, unexplained desire to see that man's face, he sees that he has actually killed his own brother.

Both Owen's poem and O'Flaherty's short story show the real brutality of war rather than glorifying it as something dutiful and patriotic. They show the human cost, the cost to individuals and families, and the real human sorrow of losing someone we love. Thus, they convey they idea that war is personal.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team