The Sniper by Liam O’Flaherty
In the short story “The Sniper” the author, Liam O’Flaherty explores the theme of war that does not recognize any borders or limits and even family ties. This can be illustrated by the story where the author represents different people within different age bracket, gender and even kinship ties. Additionally, it does not recognize the time of day, place and opponents. Every person can become a target. This theme is shown in several ways within the text. Different people in the story are described, but none is assigned a name, while a person without regards to gender age or even kinship ties is not recognized by the war and all of them in terms of war are targets.
The story shows that the war does not recognize the age of the victims or even those who fight in it. At the start, the writer describes the sniper, “His face was the face of a student, thin and ascetic, but his eyes had the cold gleam of the fanatic. They were deep and thoughtful, the eyes of a man who is used to looking at death,” (O’Flaherty, 2007). This is the description of a young man whose feelings and remorse has been hardened by seeing many people dead probably in the war. On the other hand, an old woman is involved, the least likely character in war. She acts as the informant to the soldiers of the opponent side. Within the war, age is not an issue since anybody could play a role. It is also clear that the war does not recognize gender considering that a woman is involved, playing as an informant that is killed at the war.
More so, the war does not recognize kinship ties where brothers are opponents and either has to kill the other to survive. This is shown at the end of the story where the protagonist turns the body of the opponent sniper he just killed only to find himself staring at his brother. “Then the sniper turned over the dead body and looked into his brother’s face,” (O’Flaherty, 2007). One may wonder how this is possible, but it is explained by the fact that the war was between two groups of the army that separated and took different sides depending on which one wished to join. Again, the author depicts another ugly truth about war where one kills his own brother without remorse due to the difference of opinion where they take the opposite sides.
Additionally, it is no wonder that war does not know locations, time of day or where to happen. It is after sunset in a town, where one would least expect to find a war taking place. In most cases, wars between soldiers happen in forests and other remote areas. However, from this story it is obvious that war can happen in any place at any time. The war happens through the night where the sniper has to be patient to survive but has to make a move as well to avoid being found in daylight while injured.
Human beings within this war are considered targets or objects. This is explained by the fact that none of the character is given a name. They are only described as sniper, soldier and the old woman. No one has a name in the story. In terms of war, human beings are just targets and nothing else. Every character in the story is targeting a person. The sniper is targeted by the opponent sniper while the armored vehicle approaches. The soldier in the armored vehicle targets the sniper as well as the old woman. All the other characters are targeting the sniper while the sniper is targeting them, as well. The old woman becomes a target immediately after pointing at the sniper. They are targets to be hit from some distance. If one does not hit or misses, cover is blown, and one becomes vulnerable. It is either you hit me, or I hit you game. “Then when the smoke cleared, he peered across and uttered a cry of joy. His enemy had been hit,” (O’Flaherty 2007).
From the story, it can be concluded that war does not recognize anybody and affects all irrespective of age gender and relationship. War is about hitting your opponent, which in this case happens to be another human being and probably a brother. This makes people objects of killing without remorse. Additionally, war happens anywhere as long as there are people. This can be proven b the fact that it was happening on roofs. “He rolled over the roof to a chimney stack in the rear, and slowly drew himself up behind it, until his eyes were level with the top of the parapet,” (O’Flaherty 2007).
O’Flaherty, Liam. The Sniper. 24 May 2007. Web. 19 December 2012.
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