The Sniper Questions and Answers
by Liam O’Flaherty

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In "The Sniper", what does the sniper do that makes him a target?

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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At the beginning of Liam O’Flaherty's short story "The Sniper," the Republican sniper sits on a rooftop near O’Connell Bridge and devours his sandwich after a long day of fighting. After taking a short drought of whiskey from his flask, the Sniper takes the risk of smoking a cigarette. As soon as the Republican sniper lights his cigarette, the enemy sniper stationed on the opposite rooftop shoots at him. Fortunately, the enemy sniper misses and hits the parapet. Aware of the Republican sniper's location, the enemy sniper continues to fire from across the street and eventually hits the Republican sniper in the right forearm. The Republican sniper then comes up with a clever plan to deceive the enemy sniper by putting his helmet on the top of his muzzle and barely lifting it above the parapet, where the enemy sniper can see it. The enemy sniper then shoots the helmet and believes he killed the Republican sniper. However, the Republican sniper successfully tricks the enemy sniper and ends up killing him while he is standing on the opposite rooftop.

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Blake Douglas eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The titular sniper has, we may presume, been on the roof of his building all day. When the armored car arrives, he is pointed out by an old woman across the street. This may indicate that the sniper has already been a target because of his activities throughout the day. However, what specifically makes him a target of the enemy sniper is his attempt to light a cigarette.

The story takes place at night, and the sniper hasn't really taken a break all day. He's just finished eating a sandwich and drinking some whiskey, and he pauses to consider whether he should risk having a cigarette too. He knows that striking the match to light the cigarette will give away his position if anyone is looking, but he decides to risk it. 

The match does catch the notice of the enemy sniper, which sets into motion the chain of events that lead to the Republican sniper shooting him, and then discovering that it is his brother.

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