The Sniper


Liam O’Flaherty

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Themes and Colors
Divisions Theme Icon
War, Violence, and Enmity Theme Icon
Chance and Ingenuity Theme Icon
Pain and Perseverance Theme Icon
Humanity and Remorse Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Sniper, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.


“The Sniper” abounds with all sorts of divisions, both figurative and literal. The story takes place just before dawn, the moment of division between night and day. Up until the end, all the action takes place on the rooftops of Dublin, where a Republican sniper and an enemy sniper face each other on roofs across the street from one another, another literal division. The story takes place during the early weeks of the Irish Civil…

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War, Violence, and Enmity

“The Sniper" is a war story, and it explores questions of violence and enmity and how they affect the people who participate in and are caught up in the war. The Republican sniper kills three people over the course of the story: the man in the armored car, the old woman, and the enemy sniper. The Republican sniper does not have much of a choice: for him it is either kill or…

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Chance and Ingenuity

“The Sniper” demonstrates how both chance and ingenuity are essential components to war—how sometimes they go hand in hand, and sometimes they do not. The eponymous sniper is both lucky and clever in his survival and his defeat of the enemy sniper. From the start, the sniper understands that chance plays a large part in the ultimate survival of any soldier. He decides to take the risk of lighting the cigarette, despite the fact…

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Pain and Perseverance

The sniper goes through a lot of physical pain in “The Sniper”—he gets shot in the arm, he uses a painful antiseptic to protect the wound from infection, he drags himself from the roof of a building and manages even to run across the street—but by the end of the story the reader understands that the greatest pain that he will experience will be the emotional pain of having killed his brother, the…

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Humanity and Remorse

Despite the enmity between combatants, the story also shows that a strand of human curiosity, of desire to understand and connect with the enemy, is present still. The Republican sniper proves himself to be not totally bloodthirsty, despite the surge of joy he feels upon killing his rival. Rather, after the adrenaline and drama of battle, the Republican sniper immediately understands that his rival was a person, and that the killing of a person is…

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