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Why does the sniper kill the old woman in "The Sniper" by Liam O'Flaherty?

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In "The Sniper" by Liam O'Flaherty, the sniper kills the old woman because she is an informer for the Free State troops, posing a direct threat to his safety. She reveals his position to a soldier in an armored car, prompting him to eliminate both to protect his life. This incident occurs amidst the Irish Civil War, reflecting the harsh realities of conflict where loyalties are divided and survival becomes paramount.

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The old woman is an informer for the Free State troops.  Because she is an informer, she poses a threat to the sniper.  Early in the story, an armored vehicle shows up near the sniper's position.  It pulls up next to the old woman, and a soldier sticks his head out of the armored car in order to talk to the old woman.  The sniper sees the old woman point up toward his position, which means that she knows where he is.  

Then round the corner of a side street came an old woman, her head covered by a tattered shawl. She began to talk to the man in the turret of the car. She was pointing to the roof where the sniper lay. An informer.

The sniper, in order to protect his own life, shoots and kills the soldier in the armored car.  He quickly follows that shot up by killing the old woman.  Unfortunately, in order to shoot both targets, the sniper exposes himself enough to be shot in the arm by the enemy sniper.    

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The old woman is most certainly a sympathizer of the Free State troops who are fighting Republican troops during the Irish Civil War. The war broke out when the Irish Republican Army splintered after the signing of the Anglo-Irish treaty which made Ireland a part of the British Commonwealth. Republicans opposed the treaty and were soon fighting men who had once been part of their army. The old woman is in the process of pointing out the Republican sniper's position to the armored car commander, who is probably not police, but rather a soldier from the Free State army. The sniper kills both the commander, who foolishly sticks his head out of the armored car, and the old woman. The sniper seems cold and calculating in mechanically killing the two people. Later, of course, we find out that he also kills his own brother, who had been fighting as a Free State sniper. 

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In this story, the sniper shoots the old woman because she is an informer.  He shoots her because she is trying to get him killed.

At the point in the story where he shoots her, an armored car has just appeared, carrying police.  The old woman talks to one of the men in the car.  She points up to where the sniper is.  The man looks out, the sniper shoots him.  Then he shoots the woman.

Even though the woman is from his neighborhood, she is an enemy if she is going to tell the police where he is.

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In Liam O'Flaherty's short story "The Sniper," why does the sniper shoot the man in the armored car and the old woman? 

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There are two factions fighting in Dublin sometime around 1922 in the Irish civil war. The two opposing sides are the Free Staters and the Irish Republican Army. The sniper that the author features in the story is from the Irish Republican Army. He is on the rooftop to shoot anyone who serves in the Free Staters' army or who is a sympathizer. The Republican sniper has an excellent vantage point. As he waits, the armored truck has crossed the O’Connell Bridge and comes into the section known as Four Courts.

Just then an armored car crossed the bridge and advanced slowly up the street. It stopped on the opposite side of the street, fifty yards ahead. The sniper could hear the dull panting of the motor. His heart beat faster. It was an enemy car.

The sniper very much wants to open fire, but he knows that he will make no headway because his bullets will not be able to penetrate the car's steel casing. By now the reader understands that the Republican sniper has spotted the enemy. It is his job to kill anyone that is fighting against the IRA. So when the old woman appears, the sniper is watching carefully.

Then round the corner of a side street came an old woman...She began to talk to the man in the turret of the car. She was pointing to the roof where the sniper lay. An informer.

The driver of the armored car is the enemy. Because the woman feels safe speaking to the driver, and then because she points toward the sniper's location, it is obvious that this woman is a sympathizer with the other side. As the driver comes out of the car's turret, he places himself in the sniper's rifle sights.

The turret opened. A man's head and shoulders appeared, looking towards the sniper. The sniper raised his rifle and fired. The head fell heavily on the turret wall.

At this point, the woman is instantly aware that she also is quite vulnerable and turns to run away.

The woman darted toward the side street. The sniper fired again. The woman whirled round and fell with a shriek into the gutter.

While the sniper's murder of the two supporters of the Free Staters seems almost a casual behavior, it is not until the story's end that the reader realizes how divided the country really is. It is not until the Republican sniper learns the identity of the dead sniper in the street that the author's point is driven home for the reader. Like the American Civil War, this ongoing war exacts a cost most dear from many of its participants—one's life is obviously not the worst thing one can lose. While the Republican sniper is killing Free Staters, a Free Stater sniper has been trying to kill him. We understand that there is nothing casual about the sniper's actions at all, but that this is the face of war. There is really no way in which war can be anything but ugly.

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What happened to the old woman in "The Sniper" by Liam O’Flaherty?  

A sniper's bullet hits and kills the old woman from Liam O'Flaherty's short story "The Sniper." 

The old woman in question is actually an informer working for the Free Staters.  While the Republican sniper is under fire from the opposing Free Stater sniper, he sees an armored car pull up near his position.  The Republican sniper sees an old woman in a shawl approach the vehicle.  She begins talking to the soldier in the vehicle, and then she points toward his own position.  

Then round the corner of a side street came an old woman, her head covered by a tattered shawl. She began to talk to the man in the turret of the car. She was pointing to the roof where the sniper lay. An informer.

This puts the sniper in a very tough position.  He is now pinned down by another sniper, and ground forces have been alerted to his position.  In order to get out of his predicament, the Republican sniper needs to kill everybody that knows his position.  That means he must kill the man in the armored vehicle, the old woman, and the other sniper.  The Republican sniper does exactly that, and he does so in that order as well.  

The turret opened. A man’s head and shoulders appeared, looking toward the sniper. The sniper raised his rifle and fired. The head fell heavily on the turret wall. The woman darted toward the side street. The sniper fired again. The woman whirled round and fell with a shriek into the gutter.

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Why does the sniper kill the old woman?

The sniper is fighting on one side (Republican) of the Irish Civil War. From a rooftop, he foolishly lights up a cigarette. The smoke signals his position and the enemy sniper fires at him. On the street below, an armored car approaches. The old woman signals to a soldier from the armored car and points out the position of the sniper. She is an "informer." The sniper is trying to avoid being killed. It is a war zone. So, he fires and kills the soldier looking out of the turret. Then he kills the woman, even though she is running away. The sniper reasons that the woman would simply tell another enemy soldier of his position. He kills her in order to keep the enemy from knowing exactly where he is. 

The other, more fundamental, reason the sniper kills her is that he has become accustomed to killing. The narrator describes him as having the face of a student, but one who has become used to violence, war, and death. In this, his adopted mentality of the soldier, he does not hesitate in killing her. His automatic thinking is "kill or be killed." 

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