What is the role of the Sniper in Liam O'Flaherty's "The Sniper"?

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In "the Sniper" by Liam O'Flaherty, the story depicts the Civil War that took place in Ireland, the sniper is on a rooftop, prepared to shoot the enemy.  The sniper's job is to shoot from a hidden position with great accuracy.  He is not the type of soldier that confronts the enemy in full frontal battle.  The sniper hides, remaining concealed while he shoots his enemy.

In the story, the sniper who is the narrator is a Republican, he is fighting against the enemy, the Free Staters, they are locked in a bloody conflict.  As he waits for a target, he realizes that there is an enemy sniper taking aim at him.  He must now kill his enemy or be killed. 

Hit in the arm, and wounded in such a way that he is unable to lift and shoot with his rifle, the sniper prepares a trick for his enemy.  He puts his cap on top of his rifle and tosses it off the roof, hoping that his enemy, who is at a distance, will believe that he was hit by fire and fell off the roof dead.  This ruse will give the sniper a chance to take aim at his enemy, using his revolver. 

The sniper is successful in killing his enemy, he climbs down from the roof, turns over the dead body of his enemy and looks into the face of his brother.   

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What is the main theme of the short story "The Sniper" by Liam O'Flaherty?

The main theme of 'The Sniper' can be read as commenting on 'Division.' Another word for this in political terms is 'Partition.' We have seen in other countries besides ireland how bloody, painful and divisive political partition of a country can be. India and Pakistan endured a bloodbath after the leaving of the British.

In this short story 'The Sniper' the division is brought home to us in a truly shocking way. Many families had members who took different views, different sides. The rebels were spat at by their own people the morning they were rounded up to be shot, as many Irish could not see the sense in ending British rule. This would have been shouted about in many a home and sons, fathers, grandads, uncles and mothers would come down a particular side - and not always the same one in any given family.

The shock element drives home the disadvantages of division/partition and the sacrifice that many freedom fighrters made when the sniper turns over the body to see its identity.

A fascinating backstory of the bloodshed and struggle is provided for you here:

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What is the main theme of the short story "The Sniper" by Liam O'Flaherty?

The main theme is of civil war in "The Sniper." The story's setting is Dublin, Ireland. It is the Irish Civil War that began in 1922, after the Irish Parliament voted to divide the island of Ireland into the north & south. Before this treaty was passed the Irish were on the same side aginst the British, now they split against each other. They even fought against their friends and family.

The main character of the story is quite distraught and the reader knows that he represents many young men in Ireland, who were hurt by the Civil War. The phrase that  describes the sniper as having "the face of a student, thin and ascetic" suggests his young age. But the reader knows he has experienced too much for his young age byt he following quote about his appearance:"deep and thoughtful" eyes that always are "used to looking at death," and his eyes have "the cold gleam of the fanatic."

Looking at the main character's face we can see the ravages of war.

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What message does the writer give through the story "The Sniper" by Liam O'Flaherty? 

The protagonist in the story, "The Sniper," is a young man, presumably just out of school, who is fighting in the Irish Civil War. Given that he is a young man who had the face of student but who had become "used to looking at death," the first implication is how much war can change a person. Here we have our protagonist, a young student full of hope and promise, becoming used to killing. 

When the sniper eventually kills his enemy, he has the impulse to see his enemy's face. 

When the sniper reached the laneway on the street level, he felt a sudden curiosity as to the identity of the enemy sniper whom he had killed. He decided that he was a good shot, whoever he was. He wondered did he know him. Perhaps he had been in his own company before the split in the army. 

When the sniper sees his enemy, he sees "his brother's face." Given that this is a civil war, this could be taken literally. He literally killed his own brother. If "brother" means something more general, such as brother in country or in humanity, then the meaning changes just a bit, suggesting that he was related to this other young man by nationality, culture, or humanity. The overall implication is to show how war can divide a country, even a family. And with the sniper himself, the story shows how war can change a single young man into becoming used to looking at death. 

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What message does the writer give through the story "The Sniper" by Liam O'Flaherty? 

One of the most distinct messages that emerge from the story is the brutality of war.  The sniper's mission is negation.  His job is to negate the other sniper.  He does not have to look his adversary in the eye and he does not need to know the identity of who "the enemy" is.  There is a job for the sniper to do and he does it with focus and decisive action.  When the sniper reflects on what he has done and becomes "bitten with remorse," one sees the story's message on war.  There is little in way of victory at the end of this conflict.  The sniper does not feel validated with what he has done.  There is little triumph evident in the story.  

The sniper's reflection on war as one where he curses everything and everyone reflects the fundamental emptiness that is part of the war experience in the story.  Once the identity of the enemy sniper has become established, the feelings about the futility of war becomes the central message in the story.  War creates death around the sniper and a sense of emptiness within him.  In this message, the story details a very emotionally horrific statement about war.

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