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 enemy sniper. However, as a symbol, this brother represents more than merely the sniper’s actual kin, but also the larger circle of people who make up the Irish nation—from the man in the armored car to the old woman who informs the man in the armored car about the sniper’s whereabouts.
The Irish Civil War was an incredibly divisive moment in the history of Ireland, particularly as it came directly after the unifying and galvanizing Irish War of Independence, and involved allies from the former war suddenly becoming bitter enemies. The physical and emotional pain that the sniper experiences is an individual microcosm that reflects the civil violence suddenly erupting in a young country only recently independent from its English colonizers. Both the Republicans and the Free Staters think they know what is best for the new country, and part of the country’s first real test is how it can persevere past the pain caused by the newfound divisions that emerge from Ireland’s birth. For the snipers, this means, most immediately, destroying the enemy before the enemy destroys them, but in the long term, by the end of the story, we understand that the story suggests that the only way the country will persevere and survive is if the two sides do not destroy one another in the process and can find ways to forgive one another—or at least if the two sides can recognize their share humanity as Irishmen—once the war ends.
Pain and Perseverance ThemeTracker
Pain and Perseverance Quotes in The Sniper
The body turned over and over in space and hit the ground with a dull thud. Then it lay still.