What risk does the sniper take in "The Sniper"?

Quick answer:

In “The Sniper” by Liam O'Flaherty, the sniper takes three risks. He lights a cigarette, which draws enemy attention to his position. He then opens fire on a car and an informant, which again draws enemy fire. Finally, he performs a ruse and fakes his death. This time he kills the enemy sniper.

Expert Answers

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

In Liam O'Flaherty's short story “The Sniper,” the title character takes a risk as he waits on a rooftop, watching for a target. He wants a cigarette, but he knows that even such a small light can draw unwanted attention. He decides to take the risk anyway. At once, a bullet flies past his head, then another. The enemy has noticed his position, and the sniper quickly rolls over behind a chimney. He cannot see the enemy sniper.

As the story continues, the sniper takes another risk. Knowing that the enemy sniper is watching his position, he decides to open fire on the car and informant below. He kills a man in the car and the woman informant but is hit by a bullet from the other sniper, who again has discovered his position.

The sniper is now determined to take out his enemy counterpart, and yet again he takes a risk. He reveals his position by pushing his rifle up over the edge of the roof. The other sniper fires immediately. The sniper then allows the rifle to fall to the street below and hangs his left hand over the roof, pretending to be dead. The enemy sniper, thinking he has done his job, shows himself, and the sniper fires his revolver. His enemy drops. This time the risk pays off. He has won, but his sense of victory quickly diminishes when he descends to the street, turns over the body, and realizes that the enemy sniper is his own brother.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What risk does the sniper decide to take?

Although the Republican sniper knows it is a risk because the flash of his match might be seen in the darkness, he decides to have a cigarette anyway. It is a poor decision. He is young, and perhaps this is why he makes the error in judgment. Though he lights the cigarette as quickly as he can and blows out the flame, the sniper on the rooftop opposite his own sees the flash and quickly fires at him. He takes one more drag on his cigarette and then puts it out. He crawls away to the left because he has given away his exact position to his enemy. When next he peeks over the edge of the rooftop, another bullet whizzes over his head.

Just then, an armored car comes down the street, and a little old woman comes out to speak to the man in it. She points at the sniper's location on the rooftop; by lighting his cigarette, he really put himself in danger. It was a terrible risk to take for something so small and useless, and the sniper has actually endangered his life as a result. The sniper fires at the man in the car, and then at the old woman, but he is shot by the other sniper in the process.

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
Last Updated on