What does the brother symbolize in "The Sniper"?

In "The Sniper," the brother symbolizes the idea that all men should treat one another as brothers and the idea that violence is self-destructive.

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At the end of the short story "The Sniper," the eponymous main character discovers that the man he has just killed, and whose body he has reduced to a "shattered mass," is in fact his own brother. This dramatic twist is especially shocking because it is only revealed in the very last line of the story, when the sniper turns over the dead body and looks "into his own brother's face."

The sniper's brother symbolizes the idea that we should all treat our fellow men as brothers and not as enemies. As God might have replied to Cain, in the biblical story of Cain and Abel, all men are their brothers' keepers. The brother's body in "The Sniper" is a very literal reminder of this message.

The sniper's brother also symbolizes the idea that violence is always self-destructive. Indeed, the violence that the sniper inflicts upon his brother, who at the time he thought of merely as an anonymous "enemy," comes back to hurt the sniper also. The story does not continue beyond the aforementioned revelation to describe the sniper's reaction upon discovering that he has killed his brother, but we can assume that the sniper will be distraught and devastated. He will feel tremendous guilt and pain for killing his own brother, and this guilt and pain will have been self-inflicted. In this way, the violence that the sniper commits is self-destructive.

The idea that violence is self-destructive, as symbolized by the sniper's brother, may also be linked to post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD for short. Many soldiers who return from war suffer debilitating forms of PTSD as a result of the violence that they have committed and witnessed. The sniper in the story will likely also suffer some form of PTSD after discovering that he has killed his own brother.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
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