“Then round the corner of a side street came an old woman, her head covered by a tattered shawl. She began to talk to the man in the turret of the car. She was pointing to the roof where the...

“Then round the corner of a side street came an old woman, her head covered by a tattered shawl. She began to talk to the man in the turret of the car. She was pointing to the roof where the sniper lay. An informer.” How does this section create suspense? Explain why.

Expert Answers
mercut1469 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Liam O'Flaherty creates suspense from the very beginning of his short story "The Sniper" as he describes an idyllic summer night in Dublin. The problem, however, is that a war is raging as "heavy guns roared" and "machine guns and rifles broke the silence." The reader is then introduced to the Republican sniper who is hiding on a rooftop overlooking the streets below. He has to be cautious with every move he makes as he is in constant fear of being discovered. The simple act of lighting a cigarette is dangerous as the light draws gunfire from an enemy sniper. 

The tension builds as the sniper hears an armored car in the streets below. O'Flaherty uses short, direct sentences to describe the scene:

His heart beat faster. It was an enemy car. He wanted to fire, but he knew it was useless. His bullets would never pierce the steel that pierced the gray monster.

The short sentences mimic the quick heartbeat of the sniper. He knows he is in serious peril if discovered. The car is described as a monster and that adds to the suspense. When he sees the old woman pointing to his position he knows he has only seconds to act before the armored car commander can react to his position. It is literally a life or death situation as the sniper must summon all his resolve and skill to avoid his own destruction. He ultimately kills the woman and the commander, but the shots reveal his position and he is wounded by the enemy sniper. 

Read the study guide:
The Sniper

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question