Harpreet Kaur BadeshaEnglish 1127
Greg Holditch3 August 2018
Civil War: A Cause of Rift Between Families in Liam O’ Flaherty’s “The Sniper”
Does civil war split families? Liam O’Flaherty’s “The Sniper” answers this question through the resolution of the conflict. When taken in its historical context of the Irish Civil War, the Anglo-Irish Treaty and the formation of the Irish Free State, the story presents the central idea of a war that when waging a war, armies show faith to their corresponding political parties only and any foreign person is considered an enemy even if he is their relative. The story suggests that war blinds a person making him violently enthusiastic and single-minded but once the person achieves his ultimate mission by killing his enemy, all the zest within him fades and he realizes the futility of the war.
Heavy firing in Dublin around the Four Courts at night represents that the Irish Civil War is going on. The author says that: “Republicans and Free Staters were waging a civil war” (Flaherty). The Irish Civil War broke out as a result of the disagreement among Irish citizens over the Anglo-Irish Treaty which confirmed the formation of Irish Free State within the British Rule. The Treaty was signed to end the Irish War of Independence. The Free Staters supported the treaty while the Republicans opposed it (Milne, 224). The story describes the snipers from both the opposing parties shooting each other while hiding on rooftops.
The description of the eyes of the Republican sniper as that of a fanatic demonstrates the fact that war makes a person violently enthusiastic and single-minded. The author says that: “his eyes had the cold gleam of the fanatic” and “the eyes of a man who is used to looking at death” (Flaherty). This could be explained in the historical context of the story when the youth of Ireland had to quit their education and target their energies towards the civil war (Davis, 85). Even Flaherty had to discontinue his studies due to the outbreak of World War 1 and join the Republican army (Milne, 217). The Republic sniper killed three persons which shows that the ultimate mission of the snipers was to kill the enemy and win the war.
The Republican sniper’s experience of an epiphany after he shoots the enemy sniper implies that death arises humanity in a person who was first blinded by war. The author says that “the sniper looked at his enemy falling and he shuddered” and “he began to gibber to himself, cursing the war, cursing himself, cursing everybody” (Flaherty). At the beginning of the story, the sniper is strongly determined to shoot his enemy and utilizes a clever strategy to kill him. But once his target his achieved and he watches the death of his enemy, the humanity inside him arises and he realizes the uselessness of war. He curses everyone around him and all the brutal zeal inside him comes to an end.
The resolution of the conflict when the Republican sniper realises that he has killed his own brother proves that civil war creates a rift between families and friends who were once united against a foreign force. War puts a person in a condition where he has to kill or be killed (Encyclopaedia of the modern world). At the end of the story “the sniper turned over the dead body and looked into his brother’s face” (Flaherty). The Republican sniper was unaware of the fact that he was building the clever strategy to kill his own brother and celebrating his death by “a cry of joy” (Flaherty). The article “Irish Americans and the Treaty: The View from the Irish Free State” states that the civil war was “a source of disillusionment to many Irish-Americans who had dreamed of a happy and prosperous Ireland freed from Britain’s grip” (Davis, 84). The irony is that instead of uniting among themselves and waging a war against the foreign force, the citizens of the same country wage a war among themselves. This irony brings forward one of the crucial idea of the story which is that war and politics see no family and friends.
Ultimately, the story depicts the consequences of a war and the sudden realization of the narrator that war is useless. The author leaves it upon the reader to figure out the reaction of the Republican sniper after realising that he has killed his own brother. So, this could be a good start for the future analysis of this story. Also, another question arises- “Had the Republican sniper killed the enemy sniper if he knew that he was his brother?”
“The Sniper.” Short Stories for Students, edited by Ira Mark Milne, vol. 20, Gale, 2005, pp. 216-232. Gale Virtual Reference Library, https://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/CX3423400022/GVRL?u=vanc85972;sid=GVRL;xid=3dfd5420. Accessed 28 July 2018.
Davis, Troy D. “Irish Americans and the Treaty: The View from the Irish Free State.” New Hibernia Review, vol. 18, no. 2, Summer2014, pp. 84-96. EBSCOhost, login.ezproxy.langara.bc.ca/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true;db=a9h;AN=97296433;site=eds-live;scope=site.
Anglo-Irish Civil War of 1916–1923. Encyclopedia of the Modern World, 3-Volume Set, Facts On File, 2009. EBSCOhost, login.ezproxy.langara.bc.ca/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true;db=edsgvr;AN=edsgcl.4063800275;site=eds-live;scope=site.
O’Flaherty, Liam. The Sniper. http://www.classicshorts.com/stories/sniper.html. Accessed 3 August 2018.