In the story “The Sniper” by Liam O’Flaherty the conflict revolves around an Irish Republican Sniper caught in a battle of wits against an enemy sniper on the other side of the street. Both snipers are excellent shots, and it requires trickery on the part of the Republican sniper to get the better of his enemy.
He puts his hat upon his rifle and then fakes his death by dropping both to the street below. When the other sniper lets his guard up, the Republican sniper shoots him and kills him. He feels some remorse in the immediate aftermath of the shot, but then he almost shoots himself on accident and collects his wits.
When he goes down to get back to his commander, he thinks about seeing who the man was—because he might know him. When he finally finds the body, he turns it over and “looked into his brother’s face.” The ending is a twist, but it fits very well into the rest of the story. In any civil war, there is a likelihood that families and even brothers will fight on different sides of the conflict.
The remorse he feels then is genuine, something that people should feel. So a possible theme from this text could be: war can cost more than a guilty conscience. The war makes him feel guilty for shooting the opposing sniper when his guard is down—but then he realizes the real cost of the war, the life of his brother. The real cost far outweighs the guilt he feels at shooting a faceless enemy, but at the same time it shows that the guilt we feel is not only natural, but it is correct. We should feel guilty for shooting another person, and we can see this lesson taught by the death of the sniper’s brother.