The Sniper Critical Overview
by Liam O’Flaherty

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Critical Overview

(Short Stories for Students)

“The Sniper” was O’Flaherty’s first published short story, and as it would turn out, was different from the main body of his short fiction. O’Flaherty became most known for his stories about nature, animals, and Irish peasants, not for the stories he wrote about urban Ireland. Of his numerous stories, only four stories deal with the Irish civil war, while another handful are set in Irish cities. However, according to James M. Calahan, author of Liam O’Flaherty: A Study of the Short Fiction, O’Flaherty’s political stories cannot be separated from the others, for “politics permeate all of his works.” In a story like “The Sniper,” politics are simply more obvious.

Generally, O’Flaherty’s urban stories present a bleak view of humankind. A. A. Kelly, writing in Liam O’Flaherty: The Storyteller, noted that such stories “contain much despair and any humour is at man’s expense.” The protagonist in “The Sniper” might well fall into the role of an urbanized character “imbued with various forms of self-interest based on . . . fear.”

The few critics who have directly explored “The Sniper” tend to disagree over a crucial aspect: O’Flaherty’s position on the Irish civil war. In his 1929 essay “The Position of Liam O’Flaherty,” which was published in Bookman , William Troy commended “The Sniper,” along with the short story “Civil War,” both of which deal with the “real and imagined circumstances” of the Irish civil war. Troy wrote that these stories “constitute the most remarkable record of the period which we are likely to receive: the most complete because derived largely from personal observation and participation; the most reliable because written without any other bias than that of artistic selection.” Years later, A. A. Kelly contradicted parts of Troy’s statement. Kelly did agree that O’Flaherty drew upon his personal experiences to write “The Sniper.” However, she believed that O’Flaherty’s “reason for writing is to damn warfare...

(The entire section is 496 words.)