What happens after the sniper puts his cap on his rifle in "The Sniper" by Liam O'Flaherty?

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caledon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"The Sniper," a short story, describes a conflict between two unnamed snipers during the Irish Civil War in 1922. The main character is the Republican sniper, who has been camped out on a rooftop for hours, covering the street below him. He takes the risk of lighting a cigarette, knowing this will give away his position to anyone watching. The fire from the match is seen by another sniper, who manages to hit the Republican sniper in the arm, pinning him down behind cover on the rooftop. He is faced with a few choices. If he waits for daylight, he may succumb to his injury, or lose the advantage of darkness to cover his position. If he attempts to escape, he will be seen immediately, and probably killed. His injury also renders him unable to use his rifle. He still has a revolver with him, so he decides (unannounced to the reader) to trick the enemy sniper into revealing himself, so the Republican sniper can kill his enemy with the revolver.

To do this, the Republican sniper places his hat on top of his rifle, and raises the cap into view, so it will look as if he is attempting to peer out from behind cover. The enemy sniper takes the bait and shoots at the cap, hitting it, and the Republican sniper pretends to die, even dropping his (useless) rifle off the roof, in order to mislead his opponent. The trick works; the enemy sniper believes the Republican is dead, and stands up, revealing himself. The Republican sniper then kills him with the revolver, leading to the story's tragic ending; on inspecting the dead sniper's body, the Republican discovers the sniper was his own brother.