The story ‘The Sniper’ is about a young fighter stationed at a particular location, who gets involved in an intense encounter with the enemy on the opposite building. He kills his rival in the end, but there is a shocking climax that unfolds.
The setting of the story itself makes it grim and sinister- a war torn Dublin in a raging civil war which is echoing with gunshots and full of blood. The central character of the plot is the Sniper himself. The author describes him as “face of a student, eyes of a fanatic”. This statement clearly appeals to the reader making him feel that the Sniper is on an intrepid mission and will not rest until he strikes.
The story sets off with a metaphor in the very first line as is evident from the phrase “Dublin lay enveloped in darkness”. The city of Dublin is totally dark and one generally associates darkness with something ominous and eerie. In the same paragraph, writer Liam O’Flaherty uses a simile to compare the gunshots and rifles to dogs barking on lonely farms. The word ‘lonely’ has a sense of sadness, emptiness and melancholy attached to it. This is a very contrasting comparison and it is so apt since the bark of a lone dog is rarely linked to the firing of machine guns.
The auditory and visual imagery is easy-to-understand as sentences like “there was a flash and a bullet whizzed over his head” and “then the dying man on the roof crumpled up and fell forward. The body turned over and over in space and hit the ground with a dull thud” suggest. Words including ‘crumpled’ and ‘dying man’ plainly signify death and destruction.
Gray is a secondary colour and it symbolizes something that is very spooky, creepy and somber. A sinister mood is created when the writer calls the enemy of the Sniper ‘a gray monster’. Besides, the Sniper stands on the parapet of a building. This could have a figurative meaning that the Sniper is on the edge of his life, facing death. This emotion of fear and death, plus the implicit meaning the word ‘gray’ carries here, in the context, makes the story more sinister.
The writer uses such metaphors and similes as ‘like a thousand devils’, ‘paroxysms of pain’, ‘cloud of fear’ and ‘hail of bullets’ which show that the situation was not ideal and the Sniper met with all sorts of dislikeable emotions including fear and agony.
In the end when he shoots his opponent, the Sniper is shaken up and has had enough of war and bloodshed as the words ‘bitten by remorse’ imply. The Sniper wants a full change in life and wishes to cease all battles. ‘The lust of war died in him’.
But the worse part comes when the Sniper discovers that he had shot his own brother. The theme of the story i.e. the futility of war and how it results in nothing but death and decay is brought in at this stage of the story. War reduces human beings to mere objects- it knows no boundaries, be it age or blood ties.
The theme has a universal appeal. The very fact that it ends on an abrupt and shocking note enhances the grimness of the story, which, definitely, the author has been purely successful in portraying.