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Liam O'Flaherty's short story The Sniper is about an Irish militant's efforts at performing his job -- killing the enemy -- while surviving the efforts of another sniper to kill him. The story takes place during the so-called "Troubles," when Ireland was violently divided between those who sought complete independence from Britain (mainly the Catholics) and those who sought to keep the island-nation a part of Great Britain (i.e., the Protestants). O'Flaherty's story is intended as a microcosm of the fratricidal conflict that pitted Irish against Irish, as most civil wars divide countrymen according to politics, ethnicity, religion, or any other characteristic over which men wage war. Part of this microcosm is the personification of the threat that confronts the Republican sniper in the form of a loyalist armoured car that takes up position near the sniper's rooftop position. O'Flaherty describes the scene as follows:
"Just then an armoured car came across the bridge and advanced slowly up the street. . . The sniper could hear the dull panting of the motor. His heart beat faster. It was an enemy car. He wanted to fire, but he knew it was useless. His bullets would never pierce the steel that covered the gray monster."
That passage pretty much provides all the details the student needs to answer his or her question. O'Flaherty has imbued this inanimate object with the very animate characteristics of a fierce beast. The "dull panting" of the motor and the reference to the armoured car as "the gray monster" suggests the author sought to portray the vehicle's arrival as tantamount to the arrival of a threatening, living, breathing animal. The large, lumbering and threatening vehicle is a monster against which the sniper is helpless, until one of the humans inside sticks his head out and provides an irresistible target.
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