“The Sniper” 

Liam O’Flaherty                                                                                                      Short Story     

My perception on the nature of civil war changed because of Liam O’Flaherty’s short story “The Sniper”. I would like to discuss the time and place where the war was set, the style of his writing and the ending.

Firstly, I will discuss the time and place. This is another text where they are very important. The action takes place over one evening, at dusk in Dublin during the Easter Uprising in 1916. A Republican sniper is set up on a rooftop near O’Connell Bridge, and on the other side of the road, another sniper who he regards as the enemy, is also on a rooftop. The sniper was too excited to eat and pumped up so he took a drink of whiskey and lit a cigarette. “… There were enemies watching. He decided to take the risk” but was seen and his enemy fired a shot at him. When an armoured car appeared in the street, an old woman came out in a tattered shawl, to give the snipers location away. He killed both the old woman and the gunner in the armoured car, they could have been his neighbours. This was the civil war.

The atmospheric metaphor of “… the dim light of the moon that shone through fleecy clouds” has evocative imagery, this sets the scene.  “Machine guns and rifles broke the silence of the night, spasmodically, like dogs barking on lone farms”. 

In the third paragraph, there is repetition of the very short sentences that shows the build of up his excitement. “He was eating a sandwich very hungrily. He had eaten nothing since morning” 

Throughout the text, there is a constant feeling of darkness “He ground his teeth to overcome the pain”, “… the machine gunners head hanging lifeless over the turret. The woman’s corpse lay still in the gutter”.  

Thirdly, I will discuss the ending, which is foreshadowed the minute he kills his enemy. “…His teeth chattered, he began to gibber to himself, cursing the war, cursing himself, cursing everybody”. He was curious about who the shooter was, from his impressive shots, he admired him, and wondered if he knew him. And all of this leads to the terrible conclusion in the very last sentence when he turns him over “and looked into his brothers face.” This is the reality of the civil war, but a surprise ending like this still comes as a shock.

After reading this short story I now realise how devastating civil war is because you could end up fighting your own neighbours or killing your own family. This has changed my perspectives completely. My preference had been action movies and now I seem to be uninterested. “The Sniper” changed my views on action movies, and I didn’t even realise it. 

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Writing