The Sniper Questions and Answers
by Liam O’Flaherty

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

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coachingcorner eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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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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kimfuji eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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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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sak-venom1997 | Student

The Sniper brings home the point that violence is useless and often self consuming .Those who find pitted against their fellow human beings on a war -front get confused at times.They are filled with the feelings of remorse and guilt when they kill complete strangers who happen to be on the other side.Sometimes they are shocked whey they find the enemy related to them in some way.They realize the futility of their actions, though they cannot do much . They are either puppets in the hands of war-mongers or are blindly commited to a cause.

In the story,the sniper is not only dedicated to his cause but is also an expert shot .He is not overtly worried when he finds himself on a housetop at the target of an enemy soldier .He cannot escape .The enemy soldier on the opposite housetop has made his escape impossible.

He kills the enemy who happens to be his brother.The writer seems to convey that violence against our own brothers on any pretext cannot be justified or cordoned,and at times,turns out to be counter-productive.