War, a lifetime of agony, “the sniper turned over

            War, a controversial dilemma, can
often resolve itself through an orderly fashion, rather than an atrocious
disaster. In “The Sniper,” written by Liam O’Flaherty, a Republican soldier who
fights for his life against the so-called “Free Staters” in the Irish civil
war, comes to suffer from drastic emotional trauma when someone he loves
becomes fatally wounded. In Liam O’Flaherty’s story, “The Sniper” uses irony to
demonstrate how war reduces human beings to mere objects.

            Unexpected occurrences happen when
dramatic irony comes into effect. The irony demonstrates itself when the sniper
discovers that the soldier he has most recently shot reveals as his brother,
who now rests lifeless on the street. Rena Korb clarifies in her commentary on
the story “only when the other man ceases to be a threat does the sniper
acknowledge his status as another human instead of merely an enemy soldier” (Korb
227). She implies that war transforms people’s mental train of thought.

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O’Flaherty emphasizes this idea by giving no context into the characters of the
story. He gives the characters in the story no names or faces. Korb’s
commentary states “if not for this problem, these men could have been
colleagues or friends—even brothers” (Korb 227). She discusses about how
because of war, men become desensitized to violence, and never think of the
consequences of their actions. The diversity of the Irish civil war causes the
country to split into two, and unfortunately the sniper and his brother engage
on opposing sides. This creates the chance of the brothers going to war with
each other on the battlefield. The sniper assesses everything but himself as the
enemy, so when he shoots what he thought stood the enemy, he thinks nothing of
it. But when he proceeds to look at his victim, he faces a lifetime of agony,
“the sniper turned over the dead body and looked into his brother’s face” (O’Flaherty
1). “The Sniper” uses irony to expose how war has the ability to reduce human
beings to mere objects, and how it expresses the pain, sorrow, and agony one
suffers caused by war.

             Another instance of situational irony occurs
when the sniper lights his cigarette, only to become the target of an enemy
sniper across the way. By providing very little information about the sniper,
the story concentrates primarily on his actions. The sniper, filled with
excitement, does not bother to eat before he climbs onto the roof to keep watch
for Free Staters. He then kills an armored car, and an informant. It is not
until the Republican sniper lights a cigarette that he becomes aware of another
sniper nearby. As feared, once he lights the match, “a bullet flattened itself against
the parapet of the roof” (O’Flaherty 1). As if on command, the enemy sniper
shoots at any sign of movement, alike to a machine. He did not even think twice
before pulling the trigger of the gun, which supports the fact that war reduces
human beings to mere objects. It resides within human nature to have compassion
and feelings for one another, but war can change that. Rena Korb states in her
commentary “this lapse into human feeling is momentary, however” (Korb 227). She
states that when the sniper kills a person from the opposing side, he realizes
what he has done; only to shrug it off his shoulders, and move onto the next
target. He has become desensitized to death and violence; the sniper can no
longer distinguish what exists and what does not. Because of war, he views
other people as objects, and once they die, he shows no human response to the
death that he has caused.

            O’Flaherty’s used irony demonstrates
the murder of the informant for the enemies, also named the “Free Staters.” During
the Irish Civil War, everyone must take a side to support their belief. Korb
further explains this in her commentary, stating “the Irish civil war also
emerges as a battle between individuals. All citizens must take sides” (Korb 227).

O’Flaherty’s story explains that everyone must take a side, even the elders. This
provides an advantage for both sides; for no one expects an elderly person to
take an active role in the civil war like this. But her cover makes sense,
since no one suspects her of trading information with the enemy, and many will
easily and quickly dismiss her. However, the sniper manages to gun her down,
which was something he has not expected as well. Throughout the story, the
sniper gives less emotion, and gets keener on the war. Korb’s commentary states
“no doubts about his actions or about the war itself distract him, not even
when he kills the raggedy old woman who dies like a dog in the gutter” (Korb 227).

This shows how the sniper displays no compassion or emotion when taking another
life. War programs people to show no emotion when taking the life of another,
destroying their humanity. The only moment in the story where the sniper
reveals his emotions occurs when he “gibbers to himself, cursing the war,
cursing himself, cursing everybody” (O’Flaherty 1). This event brings up the
emotions that he buries deep down from war. O’Flaherty uses this line of the
story to communicate the disunity and cold-heartedness caused by the Irish
civil war. Finally, “The Sniper” reveals the absurdity and futility of fighting
against individual human beings.

            The theme of “The Sniper” illustrates
a sequence of ironic events to communicate a message that war is pointless and
objectifies people. This revelation is one of which some level of change in the
sniper becomes evident. He realizes this development when he finds the target reveals
to be his brother. War strips people of their humanity, and transforms them
into mere objects. It becomes the change that results from the death of his
brother, that the sniper learns a truer meaning to the purpose and function of
war.

 

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