Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 698
The Enemy Sniper
The Enemy Sniper is the Sniper’s main opponent in the story. A member of the Free State army, he still shares similarities with the Sniper. The two men are engaged in the same role. The Enemy Sniper, too, is a good shot, enough so that he wins the respect of the Sniper by the end of the story. His physical presence, on a rooftop across the street, further reinforces the idea that he is a mirror image for the Sniper.
The Enemy Sniper wants to kill the Sniper. He appears to have the advantage after shooting and injuring the Sniper. He makes a fatal error, however, when he falls for the Sniper’s ruse. Once he thinks he has killed the other man, the Enemy Sniper stands up on his rooftop, thus making himself a clear mark. The Sniper shoots him, and he falls to the street below, dead. After that, the Sniper—along with the reader—discovers that the two snipers are brothers.
The Old Woman
The Old Woman points out the Sniper’s location on the rooftop to the Soldier in the Turret. The Sniper shoots and kills her.
The Sniper is the main character of the story. This young man is a member of the Republican army and his eyes have “the cold gleam of the fanatic.” A hardened fighter, the Sniper has become a man “used to looking at death.” In his role as a soldier, he functions efficiently and automatically. For instance, when he gets shot, he applies his own field dressing despite the excruciating pain. Only occasionally does he allow himself to make poor decisions, notably when he decides to risk lighting a cigarette, which alerts the enemy soldiers to his location on the roof. He also runs into the street to find out the identity of the Enemy Sniper, drawing machine gun fire upon himself.
The Sniper has been positioned atop a roof in Dublin. His role in the battle is not clear, but the streets of Dublin are awash with fighting, and he likely has been assigned to shoot enemy targets in the streets below. Once the Free State soldiers learn of his presence, the Sniper becomes involved in a standoff with the Enemy Sniper on a rooftop across the street. The Sniper cannot leave his rooftop since the Enemy Sniper has him covered. Nor can he risk staying on the roof until morning, which assuredly would lead to his death at the hands of Free State soldiers. Injured by the Enemy Sniper, the Sniper devises a clever plan to draw fire and make the Enemy Sniper think he is dead. Once his ruse succeeds, the Enemy Sniper lets down his guard and stops keeping his cover, so the Sniper is able to fatally shoot him.
Once the Enemy Sniper is dead, the battlehardened Sniper undergoes a transformation. The excitement of the battle fades. Looking over the rooftop at the three people he has just killed—the Soldier in the Turret, the Old Woman, and the Enemy Sniper—the Sniper feels remorse. His disgust for the civil war manifests itself physically, as his teeth begin to chatter, and he starts cursing both himself and the war. When the Sniper recovers his senses, his fear dissipates so much that he even risks being shot at to learn the identity of the Free State soldier he has just shot. Only then does he realize that he has killed his own brother.
Throughout the story, the Sniper remains a somewhat mysterious, one-dimensional character. The narrative reveals little of his feelings about what is happening around him, nor does it even share his reaction to the knowledge that he has become his brother’s murderer. Instead, the story directs the Sniper’s actions and thoughts to the battle. The Sniper’s only identity is that of a solider.
The Soldier in the Turret
The Soldier in the Turret is a member of the Free State army. He learns of the Sniper’s location on the rooftop from the old woman. Before he and his men can go after the Sniper, the Sniper kills him with a rifle bullet.
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