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The protagonist is the main character and the focal point in a piece of literature. In contrast, the antagonist is the character set up in conflict with the main character. After the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1922 which made Ireland a part of the British Commonwealth, the Irish Republican Army split into two factions. The Republicans vehemently opposed the treaty while the Free-Staters were in agreement with the British that Ireland should fall under British hegemony.
Liam O'Flaherty's short story "The Sniper" is a snapshot of the war which ensued between the Republican and Free-State troops. O'Flaherty makes a Republican sniper the protagonist and focus of his story. The protagonist, who goes unnamed, is described as "thin and ascetic" with "the cold gleam of the fanatic." He is positioned on a Dublin rooftop during the Battle of Dublin in June and July of 1922. He inevitably comes into conflict with a Free-State sniper who is positioned on a nearby rooftop. This Free-State sniper is considered the antagonist in the story. Ultimately, the protagonist kills the antagonist but later discovers, in an extreme example of irony, that the enemy sniper was really his brother.
In the story The Sniper by Liam O'Flaherty, the characters are in the middle of the Irish Civil War where families divided over the issues much like they did in the American Civil War. The protagonist is the main character, the one who learns something, the one who carries the weight of the story. In this case it is the Republican sniper waiting on the rooftop who is the protagonist because he is the main character which the story is about who learns the sorrow of war, and who carries the story to the end. The antagonist is usually thought of as the opposing person or force which fights against the main character or the protagonist. In this story the antagonist is the sniper who fights against the main character by trying to kill him. Instead he gives away his position by the flash of his rifle, is shot and killed by the other man who in a moment of curiosity, gets off the roof, turns over the dead man, and discovers that he has killed his own brother.
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