What was the author's style of writing in "The Sniper"?

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mercut1469 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In his short story "The Sniper," Liam O'Flaherty uses a third person narrator to build suspense in a story about a soldier on a rooftop in war torn Dublin during the Irish civil war. The narrator is totally detached and the story is mostly without emotion. Even at the end when the sniper discovers he has killed his own brother, the narrator does not comment on the sniper's feelings.

Instead, the style of the story tries to build on the tension surrounding the sniper's struggle to survive with enemies all around him. We learn very little about the sniper other than he is a "fanatic" and is quite willing to kill without remorse. The narrator concentrates on the action rather than any editorial comment about the war or the sniper's mentality. In this example the narrator puts the sniper in a life or death situation:

The turret opened. A man's head and shoulders appeared, looking toward the sniper. The sniper raised his rifle and fired. The head fell heavily on the turret wall. The woman darted toward the side street. The sniper fired again. The woman whirled round and fell with a shriek into the gutter.

The narrator utilizes short, abrupt sentences and action verbs to intensify the suspense of the situation. It is much like the prose created by Ernest Hemingway in his early short stories about World War I. Hemingway eschewed adjectives and you'll notice the narrator here abandons too much description in order to simply present the action.

The narrator is also good at providing memorable imagery of a city under siege, as Dublin was in the 1920's:

Dublin lay enveloped in darkness but for the dim light of the moon that shone through fleecy clouds, casting a pale light as of approaching dawn over the streets and the dark waters of the Liffey. Around the beleaguered Four Courts the heavy guns roared. Here and there through the city, machine guns and rifles broke the silence of the night, spasmodically, like dogs barking on lone farms.

He also paints an interesting picture of the sniper:

On a rooftop near O'Connell Bridge, a Republican sniper lay watching. Beside him lay his rifle and over his shoulders was slung a pair of field glasses. His face was the face of a student, thin and ascetic, but his eyes had the cold gleam of the fanatic. They were deep and thoughtful, the eyes of a man who is used to looking at death.