How does the resolution of the conflict of "The Sniper" help reveal the theme?

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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.

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Excellent question. Clearly any discussion of the "main theme" of a work of literature is going to be debatable precisely because any work of literature can have a multiplicity of meanings and themes. However, the setting of the conflict that the sniper faces during the civil war of Ireland, which was notorious for setting community against community, street against street and even families against each other, suggests that the horrors of civil war are being commented upon. This is clearly supported by the shocking revelation at the end of the tale that the unnamed and unidentified adversary of the sniper that he eventually triumphs against is actually his brother:

The sniper turned over the dead body and looked into his brother's face.

Note the abrupt and concise manner in which the author ends the tale. This clearly adds emphasis to the ending, which, combined with the element of foreshadowing that came before, indicates the theme of the tale: civil war is a horrendous thing that breaks up and destroys communities and even families, pitting us one against the other and forcing us to commit unthinkable crimes.

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How do the resolutions of the conflicts in "The Sniper" by Liam O'Flaherty help reveal the theme?

In Liam O'Flaherty's short story, "The Sniper," there are several conflicts. First, the "main sniper" is fighting on the side of the Republican army in Ireland. This is a war that has divided friends and families, and cost the lives of innocent bystanders. The conflict has been raging for many years, through many generations.

The two sides fighting this civil war are the Free Staters and the Republicans. The other major conflict is presented when the Republican sniper is fired on by a Free Staters sniper. Having taken out a military tank and an informer, the only conflict left rests with the enemy sniper, who has wounded the Republican sniper.

Suddenly from the opposite roof a shot rang out and the sniper dropped his rifle with a curse. The rifle clattered to the roof. The sniper thought the noise would wake the dead. He stopped to pick the rifle up. He couldn't lift it. His forearm was dead...He muttered, "I'm hit."

The Republican sniper knows that by the time the sun comes up, he cannot be found wounded on the rooftop, but his enemy is standing in his way.

Morning must not find him wounded on the roof. The enemy on the opposite roof covered his escape. He must kill that enemy and he could not use his rifle. He had only a revolver to do it.

The Republican sniper decides the best move is to trick the other sniper into believing he has killed the Republican sniper. He puts his hat on his rifle and raises it: the other man shoots at the hat and the sniper pretends he has been hit, flinging his arm over the parapet's edge, and then dropping it out of sight as if he has died. The other sniper believes he has taken out his enemy and stands up. The Republican, struggling with the pain from his wound, uses his revolver to shoot at the Free Staters sniper, and he hits him. The man falls over the wall, flipping over until he hits the ground below. Quickly exiting the rooftop, the Republican sniper cannot resist looking into the face of a "worth adversary." When he turns the body over, he sees his dead brother's face.

The resolution of the story speaks to the conflict between members of opposite sides in a civil war: here is one "victory" for the Republicans. Killing his adversary resolves the Repulican's conflict with a man determined to kill him. Without knowing it, it also resolves what we know now was a conflict between two brothers in one family; it ends with the death of the sniper's brother.

The theme I see in this short story is that in war, there are no winners, and that is the case in this story. Paradoxically, the Republican sniper wins the fight with the other sniper, but loses in terms of the family's conflict: he kills his own brother.

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