American Sniper

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Guns Symbol Icon

Chris Kyle uses many different kinds of guns over the course of American Sniper, and his role and subsequent fame as a sniper (a highly skilled soldier and marksman who shoots enemies from a concealed position) is essentially defined by guns. In general, guns symbolize maturity, machismo, and masculinity in the book. Kyle would even go on to write another book called American Gun: A History of the U.S. in Ten Firearms.

Guns Quotes in American Sniper

The American Sniper quotes below all refer to the symbol of Guns. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The War on Terror Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the HarperCollins edition of American Sniper published in 2013.
Prologue Quotes

It was my duty to shoot, and I don’t regret it. The woman was already dead. I was just making sure she didn't take any Marines with her.
It was clear that not only did she want to kill them, but she didn't care about anybody else nearby who would have been blown up by the grenade or killed in the firefight. Children on the street, people in the houses, maybe her child. She was too blinded by evil to consider them. She just wanted Americans dead, no matter what.

Related Characters: Chris Kyle (speaker)
Related Symbols: Guns
Page Number: 4
Explanation and Analysis:

In the opening section of American Sniper, Chris Kyle prepares to take his first shot as a sniper in Iraq. He sees a woman walking down the streets, toward a group of American soldiers—suddenly, he notices that the woman is carrying a brightly colored grenade. Kyle hesitates to shoot the woman; he’s naturally reluctantly to kill her. But with the encouragement of his commander, Kyle takes his shot, kills the woman, and saves the lives of his fellow soldiers.

The passage is important because it marks the first and last time in the book that Kyle shows any hesitation to kill an enemy. Kyle insists that he has no regrets for his actions—even though he doesn’t like killing a woman, he maintains that he did so for the greater good, protecting his friends.

The subtext of this passage—apparent in the way Kyle attacks the woman and accuses her of being utterly evil—is that snipers have to replace all sympathy with hatred in order to do their jobs. In other words, Kyle sincerely believes that the insurgents he shoots are utterly, irredeemably evil—they’re trying to kill Americans, and don’t care who else dies in the process. As a result, he feels no compunction about ending their lives.

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Chapter 4 Quotes

Fuck, I thought to myself, this is great. I fucking love this. It’s nerve-wracking and exciting and I fucking love it.

Related Characters: Chris Kyle (speaker)
Related Symbols: Guns
Page Number: 88
Explanation and Analysis:

During Chris Kyle’s first tour of the Middle East, he accumulates a lot of experience firing a gun in combat. While many soldiers in the Middle East later reported being deeply traumatized by the experience of discharging a weapon in the line of duty, Kyle says just the opposite: he claims to love the feeling of firing a weapon, and the overall experience of being in battle.

It’s difficult to write about American Sniper, in part because it’s hard to decide whether to take Kyle at his word, or to assume that his swagger and machismo conceal trauma and stress. In other words, does Kyle really “fucking love” warfare, or does he just say so because he thinks it’s his duty as a SEAL to act tough at all times? On one hand, Kyle insists again and again that he enjoys the thrills of war; on the other, Taya reports that Kyle shows many signs of PTSD, including heavy drinking, screaming in his sleep, etc. So it’s not entirely clear how we should interpret passages like this one—and, by extension, it’s unclear how much sympathy we should feel for Kyle, or how much sympathy Kyle would want us to feel.

Chapter 13 Quotes

It was a kid. A child.
I had a clear view in my scope, but I didn't fire. I wasn't going to kill a kid, innocent or not. I'd have to wait until the savage who put him up to it showed himself on the street.

Related Characters: Chris Kyle (speaker)
Related Symbols: Guns
Page Number: 387
Explanation and Analysis:

In this chapter, Kyle describes shooting an insurgent carrying a dangerous RPG (i.e., a rocket-powered grenade launcher). After Kyle kills the insurgent, he waits for another insurgent to pick up the weapon, so that he can shoot again. However, Kyle sees a young Iraqi child picking up the RPG and carrying it away from the dead insurgent’s body. Rather than kill the child, Kyle allows the child to walk away (and, possibly, return to the RPG to another insurgent).

Kyle seems to intend for this passage to be an illustration of his mercy and humanity; however, his wording betrays his true beliefs about the Iraqi people. Notice that Kyle boasts that he wouldn’t kill a kid, “innocent or not”—strongly implying that he believes it’s possible for a young Iraqi child to be guilty, and even guilty enough to be deserving of immediate execution. It’s very hard to imagine Kyle passing such harsh, sweeping judgments about a young American child, suggesting his bigoted view of Iraqis.

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Guns Symbol Timeline in American Sniper

The timeline below shows where the symbol Guns appears in American Sniper. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Prologue: Evil in the Crosshairs
The War on Terror Theme Icon
Machismo Theme Icon
...named Chris Kyle—the narrator and author of the memoir—stares through the scope of his sniper rifle. He sees a woman step out of her house with her child and walk down... (full context)
The War on Terror Theme Icon
Machismo Theme Icon
...and he’s been training to fight for more than three years. His weapon is a rifle, a .300 WinMag. As of now, he’s the “new guy” in Iraq. He’s guarding the... (full context)
Chapter 1: Bustin’ Broncs and Other Ways of Having Fun
Country vs. Family Theme Icon
Machismo Theme Icon
...had a strong sense of justice, and has always considered himself a Christian. He’s loved guns for his entire life—even as a child, he hunted deer with his father. Kyle’s father... (full context)
Country vs. Family Theme Icon
Machismo Theme Icon
...As a teenager, Kyle worked as a ranch-hand, tending bulls. As a boy, his “first gun” was the Daisy multi-pump BB rifle. At the age of seven or eight, Kyle received... (full context)
Country vs. Family Theme Icon
...a real cowboy, working on a ranch. During this period, Kyle continued to hone his rifle skills by shooting raccoons and other pests. He also learned how to train horses, a... (full context)
Chapter 3: Takedowns
Country vs. Family Theme Icon
Machismo Theme Icon
Trauma Theme Icon
...where the captain tries to attack him. Kyle says, “I took the muzzle of my gun and struck the idiot in his chest. He went right down.” (full context)
The War on Terror Theme Icon
Machismo Theme Icon
...War of the 1990s. In Kuwait, Kyle is assigned to carry an M-60, a machine gun built for lightness and convenience. His cohorts nickname him “Tex.” (full context)
The War on Terror Theme Icon
Machismo Theme Icon
Trauma Theme Icon
...Kyle enjoys riding his DPV through the sand, and notes that firing his “big machine gun was fun!” (full context)
Chapter 5: Sniper
The War on Terror Theme Icon
Country vs. Family Theme Icon
Machismo Theme Icon
While he’s back in the U.S., Kyle goes to sniper school. Guns have fascinated Kyle since he was a small child, and he knows that the SEAL... (full context)
The War on Terror Theme Icon
Machismo Theme Icon
...a moment to talk about the weapons he uses in Iraq. Sometimes, he uses the Mk-12, a gun that’s easy to handle and assemble. On other occasions, he prefers the Mk-11,... (full context)
Chapter 6: Dealing Death
Machismo Theme Icon
...about the gear he carried with him in Iraq. He wore body armor, and carried pistols in his thigh holster. He also carried a “blowout kit”—i.e., medical equipment. Unlike most soldiers... (full context)
The War on Terror Theme Icon
Racism Theme Icon
...in Iraq, the insurgents, are “savage and well-armed.” The Marines raid insurgent houses and find guns, missiles, and other weapons. Kyle also notes that the insurgents were deadly not just because... (full context)
The War on Terror Theme Icon
Country vs. Family Theme Icon
Machismo Theme Icon
Trauma Theme Icon
...follow him away from the house, Kyle runs out, sees an insurgent with a machine gun, and fires at him. Suddenly, Kyle turns and sees that none of the Marines have... (full context)
Chapter 7: Down in the Shit
The War on Terror Theme Icon
Machismo Theme Icon
Racism Theme Icon
Trauma Theme Icon
One day, Kyle snipes a man walking down the street, holding a heavy gun. Shortly afterwards, Kyle learns that he’s going to be investigated for shooting the man—his widow... (full context)
Chapter 10: The Devil of Ramadi
The War on Terror Theme Icon
Country vs. Family Theme Icon
Trauma Theme Icon
...may or may not be harboring insurgents. Suddenly, Kyle notices that the laser on his gun isn’t working. Before he has a chance to replace the battery, he notices an insurgent... (full context)
The War on Terror Theme Icon
Machismo Theme Icon
Racism Theme Icon
Trauma Theme Icon
...the area, trains new American snipers. However, his greatest passion is still shooting his own gun. Luckily, he thinks, there are lots of insurgents walking through the streets of Ramadi. Indeed,... (full context)
Chapter 13: Mortality
The War on Terror Theme Icon
Machismo Theme Icon
...he realizes that the man is aiming an RPG at the troops. Kyle aims his gun and fires at the man with the RPG; even though the man is 2,100 yards... (full context)