The Sniper Questions and Answers
by Liam O’Flaherty

The Sniper book cover
Start Your Free Trial

What idea is O’Flaherty trying to get across in The Sniper?

Expert Answers info

Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2015

write10,304 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Law and Politics

O’Flaherty's primary message explores the impersonality of war and the destructive nature of civil conflicts throughout his classic short story "The Sniper." In the short story, the Republican sniper is not given a name and his objective is to kill the enemy sniper stationed on the opposite rooftop. The sniper proceeds to shoot and kill a man driving an armored vehicle as well as an old woman, who was acting as an informant. After being wounded by the enemy sniper stationed on the opposite rooftop, the Republican sniper creates a ruse and successfully kills the enemy sniper. When the Republican sniper finally identifies the enemy sniper, he discovers that he has killed his brother.

By not providing any of the characters' names, O'Flaherty emphasizes the anonymity of war and illustrates how soldiers neglect to view their enemies as people. This perception makes it easier for young soldiers to engage in brutal violence. However, O'Flaherty reveals that killing anonymous individuals negatively impacts a soldier's mindset and also emphasizes the destructive nature of civil war, where family members fight and kill each other. The psychological impact of killing his brother is jarring and the Republican sniper expresses extreme remorse for his actions.

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial