The Sniper Questions and Answers
by Liam O’Flaherty

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Analyze the theme of "The Sniper."

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The primary theme of "The Sniper" is a demonstration of how war is a dehumanizing experience. The transformation that the sniper goes through attests to this theme.  While he starts out completely immersed in his task and his responsibility of "taking out the target," his enemy sniper, he comes to realize the futility of such an action.  The theme is best seen when the sniper sees the consequences of his action when he examines the body of the enemy sniper that he has shot down.  Where there used to be a feeling of accomplishment and pride, zeal in its certainty, there is a revelation of emptiness and this hollowness is intrinsic to war, in general:  

The sniper looked at his enemy falling and he shuddered. The lust of battle died in him. He became bitten by remorse.  The sweat stood out in beads on his forehead. Weakened by his wound and the long summer day of fasting and   watching on the roof, he revolted from the sight of the shattered mass of his dead enemy. His teeth chattered, he began  to gibber to himself, cursing the war, cursing himself, cursing everybody.

It is here in which the theme of the story reveals itself. War is a dehumanizing experience.  It is one that severs connections between human beings.  It turns- literally, by the story's end- brother against brother.  The sniper's realization of this is of vital importance and represents the fundamental theme in the story.  Through the characterization of the sniper and his change, this theme can be analyzed in both subjective and historical contexts.

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