What is the tone and mood in "The Sniper?"

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In "The Sniper," the tone and mood are characterized by darkness, tension, and violence. The story, centered on a young soldier in the Irish Civil War, paints a bleak and foreboding picture with the frequent use of words such as "dark," "night," "faded," "dim," and "silent," broken only by the sounds of gunfire. The sniper's emotions and reactions further emphasize these feelings. The tone fluctuates between pessimistic and hopeless, reflecting the distressing nature of the civil conflict and its horrific consequences.

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As for tone and mood, consider that the story is centered around a lone sniper, a very young soldier trying to survive in the Irish Civil War. Now look at the opening paragraph and note the repetition of the word "dark" and "night" as well as words such as "faded,"...

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"dim," "silent," and guns "barking." The scene is dark, creepy, and silent; that silence is broken only by gunfire. The mood is dark, foreboding, and always filled with tension in the anticipation of violence. 

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 Liffey. Around the beleaguered Four Courts the heavy guns roared. Here and there through the city, machine guns and rifles broke the silence of the night, spasmodically, like dogs barking on lone farms. Republicans and Free Staters were waging civil war. 

As the story progresses, the mood and tone follow the sniper's emotions and reactions to his situation. Initially, he is described as having the appearance of a young man (a student) but with the eyes of a fanatic. He is young enough to be innocent but has been conditioned to be a soldier. Just like the description of the opening scene, the sniper experiences loneliness, tension, and violence. He is initially desensitized to the violence required of war, re-sensitized, desensitized again, and finally he faces his ultimate fear: staring into the face of his victim/brother. The mood fluctuates between these feelings: darkness, tension, and violence (and lastly, reflection). 

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What is the tone of the story, "The Sniper"?

Consider this definition of the literary term tone:

tone: suggests an attitude toward the subject which is communicated by the words the author chooses. Part of the range of tone includes playful, somber, serious, casual, formal, ironic. Important because it designates the mood and effect of a work.

Now consider these quotes from the story:

"darkness but for the dim light of the moon that shone through fleecy clouds"

"machine guns and rifles broke the silence of the night, spasmodically, like dogs barking on lone farms."

"The sniper could hear the dull panting of the motor"

"her head covered by a tattered shawl."

"There was no pain--just a deadened sensation"

Based on these descriptions of darkness and distressed situations (tattered, panting, deadened), the tone is at best pessimisstic, at worst hopeless.  This is important to O'Flaherty's theme, which is to illustrate the horrors of the Irish civil conflicts.  For years, the Irish people had been fighting each other over the issue of remaining British citizens are having a free state.  The fight had become - and would remain until recently - a terrorist civil war.  He wanted to show the hopelessness of the terrorist attacks at solving any of the issues and the horrific consequences of those attacks.

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What is the tone of the story, "The Sniper"?

The tone in this story is one of action and suspense. The reader feels as though he or she is sitting right next to the sniper on the roof trying to outsmart the other sniper. The climactic point in the story is when the one sniper finally kills the other. He feels elated and sick at the same moment and then he feels horror when he peers down into the face of his kill only to learn that it's his brother! This story has us on the edge of our seats in the midst of a civil war and is suspenseful right up to the surprise ending. 

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