What are some examples of imagery in "The Sniper"?

Quick answer:

In Liam O'Flaherty's "The Sniper," imagery is extensively used to enhance the story's realism. Examples include visual imagery like "twilight faded into night," and "enveloped in darkness," taste imagery in the sniper eating his sandwich and drinking whiskey, sound imagery when a shot rings out and the rifle clatters to the roof, and touch imagery in the sniper's numbness and pain after being shot. These sensory details greatly contribute to the story's effectiveness.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The short story "The Sniper" by Liam O'Flaherty takes place during a civil war in Dublin, Ireland. A Republican sniper, a young man, lies on a rooftop with a rifle, a pistol, and a pair of binoculars. On the opposite rooftop is an enemy rifleman who attempts to shoot him whenever he raises his head. After the sniper shoots two people in the road, he is shot in the arm. The sniper devises a plan to lure his opponent across the street to reveal himself, and when he does, he manages to kill him so that he falls off the roof. When the sniper goes into the street to identify his enemy, he realizes that it is his brother.

Imagery in literature refers to the language used to represent the physical senses of sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell. O'Flaherty uses imagery throughout "The Sniper" to enhance its realism. If you read through the story carefully you will find numerous examples of imagery.

In the first paragraph, visual imagery is used to help readers envision where the action is taking place. The opening sentences place readers into the scene with visual clues.

The long June twilight faded into night. 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.

In these two sentences there are numerous words and phrases that evoke visual imagery. These include "twilight faded into night," "enveloped in darkness," "dim light of the moon," "shone through fleecy clouds," "pale light," "approaching dawn," and "dark waters."

Imagery of taste is evoked as O'Flaherty describes the hungry sniper eating his sandwich, drinking whiskey, and lighting a cigarette despite the danger.

Imagery of sound occurs when the sniper is hit with a bullet by the rifleman across the street. The author describes that "a shot rang out." The sniper drops his weapon and "the rifle clattered to the roof."

The author uses imagery of touch when describing the sensations the sniper experiences after receiving the wound. At first his arm is numb, "as if the arm had been cut off," but then he feels great pain so that he has to grind his teeth, and even greater pain when he pours iodine upon the wound.

A careful reading will reveal many other examples of imagery in this story. We see, then, that the short story "The Sniper" is full of sensory imagery that increases its effectiveness.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial