The Sniper

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The Brother Symbol Analysis

The Brother Symbol Icon
When the Republican sniper turns over the body of the enemy sniper, he “looked into his brother’s face.” We may read this both as a literal fact—the sniper has killed his brother—but also as a symbolic representation of what happens in a civil war: the dead “brother” is both a part of the sniper’s nuclear family as well as his national family.

The Brother Quotes in The Sniper

The The Sniper quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Brother. 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:
Divisions Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the St. Martin's Press edition of The Sniper published in 1999.
The Sniper Quotes

Then the sniper turned over the dead body and looked into his brother’s face.

Related Characters: Republican Sniper, Enemy Sniper
Related Symbols: The Brother
Page Number: 99
Explanation and Analysis:

In the final sentence of the short story, the Republican Sniper seems to realize that his opponent, the Enemy Sniper, was actually his own "brother." Taken literally, this sentence reinforces the savagery of the Irish Civil War: a bloody conflict that split up families and entire communities by forcing everyone to pick political sides. Throughout the story, the Republican Sniper has tried and failed to think of his opponent as abstractly as possible. Here, though, the Enemy Sniper's full humanity comes surging back: he and the Republican Sniper are related by blood.

Taken more abstractly, the word "brother" could suggest the broader cultural and historical bonds that unite all the people of Ireland together--bonds that were broken during the Irish Civil War. "The Sniper" is a heavily symbolic story, and on a symbolic level, it shows that war forces otherwise decent people--people with a common humanity, if not a literal common bloodline--to kill each other. 


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The Brother Symbol Timeline in The Sniper

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Brother appears in The Sniper. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Sniper
Divisions Theme Icon
War, Violence, and Enmity Theme Icon
Chance and Ingenuity Theme Icon
Pain and Perseverance Theme Icon
...escaped immediate danger, “then the sniper turned over the dead body and looked into his brother’s face.” (full context)