What is the theme of “The Sniper”?

Updated 21 March, 2023
The theme of "The Sniper" is the destructive nature of war and the dehumanization of soldiers. Through the story, the author highlights the brutal consequences of war and the loss of individual identity. The theme is conveyed through the protagonist's realization that he has killed his own brother, which illustrates the senseless nature of war and how it can turn even family members into enemies. The story also shows how war forces soldiers to dehumanize themselves and their enemies in order to survive, leading to a loss of humanity and empathy.
Detailed answer:

The theme of "The Sniper" by Liam O'Flaherty is the brutal and dehumanizing effects of war on soldiers and civilians alike. Through the story's depiction of a single night in the life of an Irish Republican Army (IRA) sniper during the Irish Civil War, O'Flaherty illustrates how violence and conflict can strip people of their humanity and compassion.

The theme is particularly evident in the sniper's realization at the end of the story that his enemy, whom he has just killed, was actually his own brother. This revelation highlights the indiscriminate nature of war and the tragic loss of life that it entails. As the story's narrator explains, "The sniper looked at his enemy falling and he shuddered. The lust of battle died in him. He became bitten by remorse."

Throughout the story, O'Flaherty also highlights the dehumanizing effects of war on the people who participate in it. The sniper is described as feeling "numb" and "cold-blooded" as he carries out his duties, and even when he is wounded himself, he is more concerned with hiding his injury from the enemy than with seeking medical attention. The story's vivid descriptions of the sniper's physical and emotional pain underscore the devastating toll that war can take on soldiers.

Overall, "The Sniper" is a powerful commentary on the human cost of war, and a reminder of the importance of peace and compassion in even the most difficult of circumstances. As O'Flaherty himself noted in an interview, "War is a terrible thing, and it's important to remember that it affects not just soldiers, but everyone caught in its path."

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