What is the main theme of the short story "The Sniper" by Liam O'Flaherty?

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The main theme of 'The Sniper' can be read as commenting on 'Division.' Another word for this in political terms is 'Partition.' We have seen in other countries besides ireland how bloody, painful and divisive political partition of a country can be. India and Pakistan endured a bloodbath after the leaving of the British.

In this short story 'The Sniper' the division is brought home to us in a truly shocking way. Many families had members who took different views, different sides. The rebels were spat at by their own people the morning they were rounded up to be shot, as many Irish could not see the sense in ending British rule. This would have been shouted about in many a home and sons, fathers, grandads, uncles and mothers would come down a particular side - and not always the same one in any given family.

The shock element drives home the disadvantages of division/partition and the sacrifice that many freedom fighrters made when the sniper turns over the body to see its identity.

A fascinating backstory of the bloodshed and struggle is provided for you here:

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The main theme is of civil war in "The Sniper." The story's setting is Dublin, Ireland. It is the Irish Civil War that began in 1922, after the Irish Parliament voted to divide the island of Ireland into the north & south. Before this treaty was passed the Irish were on the same side aginst the British, now they split against each other. They even fought against their friends and family.

The main character of the story is quite distraught and the reader knows that he represents many young men in Ireland, who were hurt by the Civil War. The phrase that  describes the sniper as having "the face of a student, thin and ascetic" suggests his young age. But the reader knows he has experienced too much for his young age byt he following quote about his appearance:"deep and thoughtful" eyes that always are "used to looking at death," and his eyes have "the cold gleam of the fanatic."

Looking at the main character's face we can see the ravages of war.

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