The Sniper


Liam O’Flaherty

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“The Sniper” begins just before dawn in Dublin, Ireland, during the Irish Civil War. A Republic sniper sits on a roof and lights a cigarette despite knowing that the flash of his lighter might tip off his enemy. It does, and an enemy sniper, a Free Stater, sends a bullet flying overhead. The enemy is just across the street on the roof opposite the Republican sniper. At the same time an armored car comes down the street, and an old woman comes around the corner and informs the man in the armored car about the Republican sniper. Before the man in the armored car can shoot at the Republican sniper, though, the Republican sniper shoots the man dead. He shoots the woman dead, too, as she tries to run away.

Distracted for a moment, the Republican sniper gets hit in the arm by the bullet of the enemy sniper. In tremendous pain, he can’t hold his rifle anymore. He pours an antiseptic over his wound, which is also extremely painful. In order to escape, he puts his rifle on the edge of the roof with his cap on its end; the enemy sniper shoots at it, and the Republican sniper ingeniously makes it look like he has been killed.

The enemy sniper, thinking he is safe, stands up on his roof, and with a surge of pride and joy the sniper shoots him dead with is revolver. However, now that the adrenaline of battle is over, and the Republican sniper feels safe, “the lust of battle died in him. He became bitten by remorse.” He throws his revolver “with an oath”, finishes all the whiskey in his flask, and begins to go down to street level to report to his commander. However, reaching the street, he feels “a sudden curiosity as to the identity of the enemy sniper whom he had killed.” Dodging gunfire behind him, he reaches the corpse and throws himself at it, as if he has been killed, too. Finally “the sniper turned over the dead body and looked into his brother’s face.”