The Sniper Questions and Answers
by Liam O’Flaherty

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In the short story "The Sniper" by Liam O'Flaherty, what is the sniper's internal conflict and how is it resolved?

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Liam O'Flaherty's "The Sniper" takes place during the Battle of Dublin and involves a sniper who struggles to survive after being shot by an enemy on the opposite roof. As was stated in the previous post, the conflict between each sniper would be considered man vs. man. However, O'Flaherty does reveal some internal conflict throughout the short story. After the sniper successfully shoots his enemy and watches him fall to his death, the sniper cannot look at the dead man's body on the pavement. He begins to curse the war and himself. O'Flaherty writes that the sniper became "bitten by remorse." The sniper then looks at his revolver and throws it at the roof. Although O'Flaherty never directly comments on what bothers the sniper internally, it is implied that the sniper is sick of killing other Irish citizens. At the end of the story, the sniper looks at the body of his enemy who happens to be his brother. O'Flaherty does not depict the soldier's reaction, but one can surmise that the sniper is sickened to find out he killed his brother. Perhaps the sniper's internal conflict is his inability to come to terms with the fact that he is murdering his fellow countrymen. O'Flaherty leaves no evidence to suggest that the sniper has resolved his internal conflict. 

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Sol Gandy eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In Liam O'Flaherty's brilliant anti-war short story "The Sniper" I do not believe the reader can tell whether the Republican sniper has an internal conflict. The story is told from a detached, almost totally objective perspective. We get very few hints into the psychology of the sniper other than the fact that he is a "fanatic" and gives a "cry of joy" after shooting the opposition sniper.

The only discernible conflict in the story is man vs. man. Two snipers are at war on the rooftops of Dublin and, while we view the action from the Republican snipers vantage point, we know almost nothing about his feelings toward his duty other than he is totally committed to his task and goes about it with cold calculation in killing a woman, a tank commander and the opposing sniper. 

Even at the end of the story when the sniper discovers that the sniper he killed was his own brother the writer reveals no emotion. The story simply ends. If there is an internal conflict within the sniper about fighting on the opposite side from a member of his family O'Flaherty is totally mute on the issue. 

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