In "The Sniper" what is the effect on the reader of the surprise ending?

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Of course, much of the power and strength of this tale lies in its ending or the shock in the final sentence that the enemy that the sniper has been fighting against was actually his brother. Key to the way that this story is so successful in building suspense and in particular in foreshadowing the grim end is the detailed description of both the setting and the conflict, which place us from the very first sentence into the middle of urban civil war and allow us to see first hand the results of warfare and how it negatively impacts humanity. For me, the description of the sniper is a key point to focus on:

On a rooftop near O'Connell Bridge, a Republican sniper lay watching. Beside him lay his rifle and over his shoulders was slung a pair of field glasses. His face was the face of a student, thin and ascetic, but his eyes had the cold gleam of the fanatic. They were deep and thoughtful, the eyes of a man who is used to looking at death.

Here we see a direct impact of the war on humanity - a normal student who should be studying and partying like any other student has been transformed into a "fanatic", and had a "cold gleam." He, although of a young age, is already used to looking at death.

This impression of the effects of warfare is what is highlighted of course at the end of the tale. The stark sentence that closes the short story shows the stark reality of a civil war that places brother against brother and destroys both the winners and the losers in this terrible war.