Who are the central characters in "The Sniper"? What details, or lack of details, does the author provide to develop these characters?

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pmiranda2857 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "The Sniper," the author does not give very much definition to the characters in the story.  The Republican sniper who is the main character is never given a formal name.  The only details that are provided are the location of the conflict, Dublin, Ireland, the time, June, in the evening. 

We learn in the first couple of paragraphs that this war is between Republicans and Free Staters.  It is a civil war, therefore it is very difficult to know who the enemy is, which I believe is why Lian O'Flaherty does not give his characters names.

Another reason why the author does not provide details is because a lack of knowledge regarding the identity of the sniper and his opponent allows for the shock and surprise of the ending.  The ending is key in expressing the author's feelings about war.

O'Flaherty uses the shock of discovery that two actual brothers have been poised and ready to kill each other throughout this warm summer evening.  One brother has succeeded, and the other lies dead in the gutter.  The Rebpulican sniper, curious to see who the enemy is, turns him over and looks into the face of his brother, not just his brother as in fellow countryman, his actual brother, who shares the same mother and father as he does.

The author deliberately leaves out the identities of the sniper and his enemy, the woman, the tank driver, all are the sons and daughters of Ireland.  It does not matter who they are, civil war is the most tragic, cruel form of war.  It is self-defeating, destroying from within the very fiber of a country, its people.

The story is designed to draw the reader into an emotional understanding of the nature of war, therefore, the impact of the discovery at the end of the story allows the reader to contemplate the horrors of war 100 times over. According to Liam O'Flaherty, the price is too high.