What is the theme of "The Sniper"?

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The themes of "The Sniper" include danger, carelessness, and the devastating effects of war.

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I would argue that there are three themes in Liam O’Flaherty’s “The Sniper.” One is danger, another is carelessness, and the third is the devastating effects of war.

The danger of war comes up early on, when the Republican soldier gives away his position by lighting a...

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cigarette and is immediately dodging bullets. Even this does not deter him from his goal, and he shoots at a man in an armored car and a civilian without thinking twice. His character is that of a hardened soldier, rather than that of a man in agony from having just taken a bullet to the arm.

The theme of carelessness relates to the sniper’s victims: his brother, the old woman, and the man in the armored car. All three are careless in various ways, and their carelessness costs them their lives. The man in the car should have known better, but he stops anyway to listen to what the woman has to say and loses his life. The old woman, who thought she was doing the right thing by being an informer, is killed before she could get back to safety. The sniper for the Free Staters fails to realize that he has been tricked and gives away his position, allowing his murderer (who also turns out to be his brother) a clear shot.

The theme of the devastating effects of war is left largely to the reader’s imagination, as it is in the last line of the story that the most significant horror comes. The sniper realizes that he has shot and killed his own brother. No matter how their differing political ideologies had driven them apart, it is hard to imagine the toughest of soldiers enduring this moment without significant pain.

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Liam O’Flaherty explores the theme of the impersonality of war in his celebrated short story "The Sniper." The story is written from the third-person limited perspective and chronicles an eventful, violent evening during the Irish Civil War from the vantage point of a Republican sniper. Liam begins to examine the impersonality of war by leaving the young Republican sniper unnamed. The Republican sniper must avoid the enemy Free-Stater sniper stationed on the opposite rooftop. The Republican sniper also shoots an enemy Free-Stater, who is manning a turret, and proceeds to kill an old woman acting as an informant.

Unfortunately, his shots gain the attention of the sniper stationed on the opposite rooftop, and he is forced to create a ruse to defeat his enemy. The Republican sniper ends up shooting his enemy and leaves the rooftop to look into the man's face. When the Republican sniper looks into the dead man's eyes, he discovers that he has killed his brother.

By leaving the characters nameless, Liam illustrates the impersonality of war, where everyone is reduced to either an ally or enemy. The Republican sniper is shooting at "enemies," not people, which psychologically allows him to continue fighting and hardens his heart. Despite feeling remorse and regret for his actions, the Republican sniper convinces himself that he is simply carrying out orders by killing anonymous enemies. It is only when the Republican sniper stares into the eyes of his enemy that he views him as a person. Ironically, he discovers that he has killed his brother, and the impersonal war becomes personal.

Liam is suggesting that war desensitizes individuals to the point that people are reduced to anonymous enemies while hardening the hearts of those engaged in conflicts. He also illustrates the absurdity and futility of fighting against individual human beings at the end of the story.

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"The Sniper" by Liam O’Flaherty is a story written in the third person, closely following the viewpoint of a sniper on the Irish Republican side in the Irish Civil War. The narrator, although using the third person, is limited to the sniper's viewpoint and has full access to his thoughts and emotions. 

The theme of the story is only fully revealed with the surprise ending. Through the story we get an increasing sense of the similarities between the two snipers, the viewpoint character and his enemy. At first, we think that the similarity and even empathy has to do with their identical roles leading to similar ways of thinking and building a bond between the two men. The sniper, after killing his enemy:

revolted from the sight of the shattered mass of his dead enemy. His teeth chattered, he began to gibber to himself, cursing the war, cursing himself, cursing everybody.

This suggests that the central theme of the story is the cruelty and senseless violence of civil war. When the sniper shoots from a distance, he can separate himself from this reality, but when he draws physically close to the anonymous "enemy" he can no longer shield himself from its reality. The final revelation of the story makes us realize that people with whom we disagree should not be characterized simply as anonymous "enemies". 

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The main theme of "The Sniper" is the tragedy of warfare. This story is about the Irish Civil War, so it makes a more specific comment on war by showing how soldiers can become desensitized to violence and, in turn, how nations can except war as a rational solution. At the end of the story, the protagonist approaches the man he's just killed, turns him over and "looked into his brother's face." Civil wars have often been described as "brother against brother." This could imply that actual brothers can fight on opposing sides of the war, but it also could imply that citizens of the same country are symbolically brothers, stating that any civil war is violence against one's own family. Taking this a step further, any war at all is violence against one's own species. Taken quite literally, any war is violence against your own kind. When the protagonist sees "his brother's face," this might be a moment when he once again becomes sensitized to death. 

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What is the message the author is sending in the story "The Sniper"?

Interpreting the message of a story isn't always a straightforward process. The reason for that is that all writers are put into a rhetorical situation in which they are trying to send a message to readers; however, any number of things can cause that intended message not to be received or received incorrectly. Interpretation is an unfortunate part of the rhetorical situation, and the message that one reader believes is being sent could be different than the message another reader interprets.

Based on the wording of the question, it is asking for you to defend your subjective opinion of what the story's message is. More than likely, you received the author's message that war is brutal and violent. The sniper wastes no time eliminating enemy targets, and we see just how visceral and painful combat is. More importantly, I think the author's message is to show how dehumanizing war and combat can be to individuals. Notice how the story doesn't give any characters a name. They are objects, tools, and/or targets. Both snipers are referred to as exactly that. They are weapons to be wielded. The old woman on the street is not someone's mother, wife, or sister. She is a simply threat to be eliminated by the sniper's bullet. War has caused the sniper to become cold and indifferent to death and suffering.

The other message within this story deals with civil war. Certainly, the story shows us that war is violent and traumatic, but it is the realization that the protagonist has killed his brother that causes readers to see just how awful something like civil war is. War not only divided these two because of political opinions, but also caused the permanent destruction of their relationship. One of the brothers is dead. There will be no chance for reconciliation, and the protagonist is going to live out the rest of his life knowing that his attitudes and actions ultimately led to the death of a family member.

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What is the message the author is sending in the story "The Sniper"?

The central message of "The Sniper" lies in the agonizing middle of the story and is illustrated by the blood chilling conclusion of the story. The message is that war dehumanizes people. It dehumanizes people to such an extent that they completely overlook their unity of human fellowship.

We know from the introduction that at the time of the action the Republican sniper is tired and hungry, having spent all day in the hot sun on the rooftop--hidden--watching. He knows smoking a cigarette is a safety risk: in the dark, the flash of the match will be seen. Exhausted, he chooses to take the risk. Immediately a bullet "flattened itself against the parapet." The sniper's life takes an unquiet turn because of it.

He is wounded by the opposing sniper's--the Free Staters'--next bullet. To save himself, because morning "must not find him wounded on the roof," he tricks the other sniper into shooting again but this time at a false target. He is successful. The opposing sniper exposes himself and is killed by the Republican sniper.

Seeing him "crumple up," fall "over and over in space" then hit the ground takes the fight out of the sniper. He loses the "lust of battle": "The lust of battle died in him." He is "bitten by remorse." He sweats. He's weakened. He'd been fasting. He'd been scorched in the sun on the rooftop all the "long summer day." He "revolted from the sight" of his enemy shattered: "he revolted from the sight of the shattered mass...." His teeth chattered, he gibbered, he cursed. He abandoned his post to return to his unit, to his moral support, to his war lust support. As he ran, he detoured to see the dead enemy: he had a "sudden curiosity as to the identity" the man he had killed.

The message of the story meets the Republican sniper when he confirms in his brother's face what he has already begun to feel in his chattering teeth, that he has surrendered his humanity to murdering war: "The woman's corpse lay still in the gutter."

The sniper looked at his enemy falling and he shuddered. The lust of battle died in him. He became bitten by remorse. The sweat stood out on his forehead. Weakened by his wound and the long summer day of fasting and watching on the roof, he revolted from the sight of the shattered mass of his dead enemy. His teeth chattered, he began to gibber to himself, cursing the war, cursing himself, cursing everybody.

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What is the message the author is sending in the story "The Sniper"?

The ending of O'Flaherty's short story certainly presents a message which focuses on the cruelty and familial divisiveness of civil wars.  When the sniper discovers that he has killed his own brother, the author clearly shows how Ireland's war with itself pitted brother against brother (much like the American Civil War).  Most critics consider this to be the primary message of the story.

However, the beginning and middle parts of the story also allow the author to illustrate the mind and nature of a warrior. His almost mechanical description of the sniper demonstrate the effects of war and combat on an individual.

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What is the message of the story "The Sniper"?

In "The Sniper," the eponymous sniper kills another man. The man who is killed is described as suffering "agony" in the moment of his death. The dead man then falls several stories until he hits the ground beneath him with "a dull thud." After the sniper realizes that his "enemy" is dead, his "lust [for] battle" fades, and he feels as if "bitten by remorse." The sniper's remorseful reaction indicates that he realizes that he has done something wrong. This idea that violence is wrong, immoral, and inhumane, is the simple but fundamental message of the story. This is confirmed when the sniper looks at the dead body of the man he has killed. The body is described as a "shattered mass," and the sniper is described as "revolted from the sight."

At the end of the story, there is an unexpected twist when the sniper discovers that the man he has killed is his own brother. The sniper realizes this when he turns the body over and finds himself looking "into his brother's face." The message implied by this dramatic ending is that we should treat all men like our brothers. This message harks back to the biblical story of Cain and Abel. In this story, Cain kills his brother, Abel, and then when God asks after Abel, Cain replies, "Am I my brother's keeper?" The moral of this biblical story, and the moral of "The Sniper," is that all men are brothers and that every man should protect his brother and be his brother's keeper.

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What does the title suggest in the story "The Sniper"?

The title of Liam O'Flaherty's short story is basically straight forward. A sniper is a sharp shooter who might perch on high ground in order to overlook the terrain below for enemy activity. In this story, the sniper is protecting Dublin's Four Courts government building which is close by. In the process, he kills two people below him, a woman who is pointing out his position and an armored car commander who foolishly comes up out of his protective cocoon.

The title also suggests a lone and anonymous soldier who carries out his duty in isolation. He is battle hardened and ready to kill in an instant. It is a lonely existence for a sniper who must move in stealth in order to avoid detection. Even lighting a cigarette is dangerous. The sniper's life is described as ascetic, which means he goes without luxuries. He is virtually anonymous. All we know about him is that he is a Republican set against his Free-State opponents. Some of his anonymity, however, is lost at the end when he shows emotion over killing the opposing sniper. This emotion carries over for the reader as it is revealed in the last lines that the enemy sniper was really his brother.    

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In "The Sniper," what is the author attempting to portray?

O'Flaherty attempts to portray how there is nothing civil in "civil war."

"The Sniper" takes place in a civil war.  The sniper's singular mission to eliminate his target drives him.  Throughout the narrative, the reader sees that this mission causes him to endure hunger and injury.  He sees and thinks of nothing else except what he must do.  He kills others in the name of this mission, believing that its successful completion will represent his contribution to the civil war.  When he accomplishes his mission a "cry of joy" escapes from him.

However, O'Flaherty is deliberate as he constructs the climax and resolution to his story.  As the sniper is shown having accomplished his mission, there is a specific sadness evident:

The sniper looked at his enemy falling and he shuddered. The lust of battle died in him. He became bitten by remorse. The sweat stood out in beads on his forehead. Weakened by his wound and the long summer day of fasting and watching on the roof, he revolted from the sight of the shattered mass of his dead enemy. His teeth chattered, he began to gibber to himself, cursing the war, cursing himself, cursing everybody.

O'Flaherty enhances this when the sniper realizes that he has killed his own brother.

O'Flaherty wants to explore how war is dehumanizing. It severs bonds between human beings and even siblings.  In showing war in this manner, the author communicates its painful reality.  While the sniper was committed to the Republicans mission in the civil war, he comes to see war as far from "civil."  "The Sniper" shows that only elements that exist after war are loss and resentment.  In the experiences of the titular character, O'Flaherty portrays the true and revolting nature of war.

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What are the main messages in "The Sniper"?

One main message in "The Sniper" is to showcase the futility and destructive nature of war and how it changes people.

The story follows two brothers who stand on opposing sides of the Irish Civil War; as so often happens in war, the two forget who they truly are and what they truly believe in and simply get "used to looking at death." They care little about human life—their goal is to kill the enemy, to survive, and to hopefully win the war.

One of the brothers, a Republican sniper, finally hits his target—a sniper on the opposing rooftop—killing him. A sudden curiosity comes over the Republican sniper, who wishes to know the identity of the man whom he's just killed. He leaves his rooftop and runs across the street below, risking being shot at to get a glimpse of the corpse. The sniper looks into the man's face and realizes that he has just killed his own brother.

Though the story ends here, O'Flaherty demonstrates how destructive war is, with brother killing brother, emphasizing all the precious life that is wasted.

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