The Sniper


Liam O’Flaherty

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The Sniper Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Liam O’Flaherty's The Sniper. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Liam O’Flaherty

Liam O’Flaherty was a novelist and short story writer who was born on one of the remote Aran Islands off the Western coast of Ireland. O’Flaherty was a soldier in World War I, during which he sustained a serious injury in a bomb explosion. He suffered from depression during this period. He later fought for and participated in revolutionary activities in Ireland in the early 1920s through the Irish Republican Army. He settled in England in 1922, but returned to Dublin in the 1920s, where he lived until he died nearly sixty years later. During the Irish Civil War he identified as a Republican. His novel The Informer (1925), about a confused revolutionary who betrays his friends, was adapted in 1935 by John Ford into an Oscar-winning film. His autobiography, Shame the Devil, came out in 1934, even as he lived for another fifty years, though he was less prolific during these later years.
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Historical Context of The Sniper

The Irish Civil War that “The Sniper” describes was still ongoing at the time of its writing. The conflict occurred after the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1922, which ended the Irish War of Independence. In the War of Independence, Irish Republicans fought to gain independence from England, and the Anglo-Irish treaty that ended the war established an Irish Free State as a self-governing dominion within the British Commonwealth of Nations. (The Treaty also allowed the northern six counties of Ireland to secede if they so wished from the rest of the island’s counties, which they did, becoming Northern Ireland.) However, nearly as soon as the treaty was signed a dispute broke out between the Free-Staters, who supported the treaty, and the Republicans who did not—they wished for more autonomy, even total independence, from Britain. The Free-Staters and Republicans, who had been allies in the fighting against England, suddenly became enemies and engaged in bitter and bloody warfare against each other.

Other Books Related to The Sniper

Liam O’Flaherty writes in a realist mode like many other writers of his day, including Jack London and Ernest Hemingway. Like the short stories of these two other authors, O’Flaherty’s sentences are short and direct, and the story enacts a close third person viewpoint. This style is in accordance with realism, which attempts to show everyday reality as truly lived by everyday people. The unadorned sentences and close attention to the details of the protagonist’s consciousness work to suggest authenticity and unsentimentality. Hemingway, like O’Flaherty in “The Sniper”, also wrote many short stories with a seemingly calmed and simple style that belie the underlying horrors and traumas of war that his characters experience.
Key Facts about The Sniper
  • Full Title: The Sniper
  • When Written: 1923
  • Where Written: London
  • When Published: 12 January 1923, in the London-based Socialist weekly The New Leader
  • Literary Period: Realism
  • Genre: Short Story
  • Setting: Dublin, Ireland
  • Climax: The Republican sniper finds out the enemy sniper is his brother
  • Antagonist: Enemy sniper, Man in armored car, the old woman
  • Point of View: Third person limited (Republican Sniper)

Extra Credit for The Sniper

A New Nation. Liam O’Flaherty is often considered a leading figure of the Irish Renaissance.

Man of many hats, but no collar. O’Flaherty originally trained to become a priest, but gave it up at the start of the First World War, eventually, in addition to writing, becoming a lumberjack, hotel porter, miner, dishwasher, factory worker, and deckhand, among other jobs.