What message about the civil war is Liam O'Flaherty trying to convey?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The message of Liam O'Flaherty's story entitled "The Sniper" may well be that civil wars are wars which are never truly won because the losses are those of fellow countrymen, if not brothers. Also, there is devastation in one's own country and resentments that sometimes never die. Interestingly, O'Flaherty himself fought on the Republican side, and he participated in the Four Courts Rebellion in which 1,000 years of public records were lost when the court buildings suffered damage. In his story, O'Flaherty alludes to the sniper’s position that is close to the “beleaguered Four Courts [where] the heavy guns roared.”

It also seems that civil wars do not end animosities. In Ireland, the country is divided into Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, and the Republic of Ireland. (James Joyce writes of the resentment of the British in Ireland and the losses of jobs and land that the Irish people, especially the Catholic Irish, suffered as a result of the changes made in the country.)

To American readers, this story may well be a reminder of the civil war on American soil that cost the lives of 620,000 men, a number that is "more than in all other American wars from the American Revolution through the Korean War combined." Another tragic fact of this war is the suffering that families on both sides underwent. In the South, every single family lost at least one member in the Civil War, and much of the land was devastated. [http://www.history.com/news/civil-war-deadlier-than-previously-thought]

beateach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Liam O'Flaherty's short story, "The Sniper" he conveys the message that war, especially civil war, can divide not only countries but it can also tear apart families in horrific ways. After experiencing the gun fight between two men on opposite sides of civil war in Ireland the reader arrives at the last line; the line of the short story when the sniper creeps up to see who he killed. “Then the sniper turned over the dead body and looked into his brother's face." The message of this story can be applied to any civil war when family members are often pitted against other family members under the guise of fighting for their country, or their country divided. War can create unfathomable misery.

Realistically and metaphorically, when the sniper sees "his brother's face" the reader feels the repulsion that the sniper feels even though we know it was his brother who shot him in the arm. But it can be argued that all men are brothers therefore anytime a soldier kills another man, he is killing his brother. The author conveys the message that is no way to escape the horrific emotions surrounding the taking of another's life, even during war.