American Sniper

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American Sniper Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Chris Kyle 's American Sniper. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Chris Kyle

Chris Kyle was born and raised in Texas. As a young man, he signed up for the military, and trained to be a Navy SEAL—an elite branch of the military whose members are skilled at fighting in the sea, land, and air. Kyle married shortly before deploying to Iraq in 2003. During his subsequent tours of the Middle East with the SEALs, Kyle became the deadliest sniper in American history, shooting well over one hundred alleged insurgents. After many years of arguing about it with his wife, Kyle decided to retire from the SEALs in 2009. Afterwards, he penned the memoir American Sniper, wrote a history of guns in America, American Gun (2013), founded a sniping training school, and became an active participant in programs aimed at helping veterans with serious PTSD. Kyle was murdered by a mentally disturbed veteran in 2013.
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Historical Context of American Sniper

The one overarching historical event in American Sniper is the War on Terror, the term often applied to America’s involvement in fighting terrorism around the world, especially in the Middle East, in the 2000s. On September 11, 2001, terrorists flew airplanes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon; afterwards, an anti-U.S. terrorist group called al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the attack. In response, the American government, at the time presided over by President George W. Bush, sent troops to the Middle East. However, the Bush administration faced wide criticism for sending troops primarily to Iraq and Afghanistan, countries whose connection to the 9/11 attacks was, to say the least, vague. In Iraq, U.S. forces overthrew the dictator Saddam Hussein, and installed a democratic government. The War on Terror remains a highly controversial topic: some have argued that it was partly a “smokescreen” for the Bush administration’s true priority: gaining access to Iraq’s lucrative oil reserves. Others have argued that the War on Terror created more terrorists than it killed, since U.S. military action in the Middle East polarized the region and pushed moderate people to join anti-U.S. and terrorist causes.

Other Books Related to American Sniper

Kyle’s memoir doesn’t allude to many other books, but it’s worthwhile to compare it with several other memoirs about the U.S. military. In 2007, Kyle’s close friend Marcus Luttrell wrote a book called Lone Survivor about his own experiences in the Middle East in the 2000s; it’s likely that Kyle read Luttrell’s book and modeled his own memoir after it in some ways. Kyle’s memoir also bears comparison with Dispatches by Michael Herr, a memoir about Herr’s time as a war correspondent in Vietnam in the early 1970s. However, Kyle’s memoir glamorizes war and the act of killing, while Kerr’s memoir is highly critical of America’s involvement in the Vietnam War, and gives a fuller account of the trauma and mental problems that soldiers experienced after fighting in Vietnam.
Key Facts about American Sniper
  • Full Title: American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History
  • When Written: 2011-2012
  • Where Written: Texas
  • When Published: January 2, 2012
  • Literary Period: Contemporary
  • Genre: Autobiography
  • Setting: Texas, California, various cities in Iraq during the War on Terror
  • Climax: Kyle’s decision not to reenlist in the military
  • Antagonist: The “savage” terrorist insurgency in the Middle East
  • Point of View: First-person (Kyle)

Extra Credit for American Sniper

A controversial man. Chris Kyle remains a hero to many people; however, many regard him as a brutal, bloodthirsty, racist killer who enjoyed murdering Iraqis, whether they were insurgents or not. After Kyle’s death in 2013, there were several independent reports that Kyle had boasted of shooting at black looters during the Hurricane Katrina disaster of 2005. Kyle claimed that the U.S. government had sent him down to New Orleans to preserve order, and that he’d enjoyed shooting thieves. While there’s absolutely no evidence that Kyle was ever in New Orleans at the time of Hurricane Katrina, the fact that Kyle would brag about shooting (mostly black) looters suggests a disturbing propensity for lying and exaggerating, and an even more disturbing racist worldview.

Would you pick a fight with a professional wrestler?. One of the more bizarre aspects of American Sniper’s publication was the lawsuit launched against Kyle by Jesse “The Body” Ventura, a former professional wrestler and governor of Minnesota. In the initial copies of Kyle’s memoir, there was a passage suggesting that Kyle had gotten into a fistfight with Ventura at a Navy SEAL’s funeral. Kyle claimed to have punched Ventura after Ventura suggested that the SEALs deserved to “lose a few.” Ventura successfully sued Kyle for nearly 2 million dollars, and subsequent copies of the memoir omitted the passage in question.