“The Sniper” by Liam O’Flaherty is THE short story for the disengaged readers in your class, for how better than pulling them in than a title that sounds like the most recent installment of Call of Duty? This short story is a vehicle for teaching a range of topics such as civil war, Ireland’s history and its current problems still between the North and the South--the dividing line namely over religion--plus more typical English goals such as understanding perspective, the ability for plots to not fall within the predictable exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution—there is NO resolution here! And, the “friendly letter” format. Oh, and all of this with fighting, guns, blood, cursing, drinking, and death. Good stuff! To add to the engagement is a creative writing assignment where students are the protagonist writing a letter to his/her mum explaining the events that have unfolded. A rubric to follow and an ELA Common Core Standard, to boot. Enjoy! Rockermom
Through his use of suspenseful diction and the presenting of an initiating incident, Liam O’Flaherty puts you, the reader, in the mind of the sniper to persuade readers that war is damaging and initially tears families apart. The main character is the assassin while he also places other minor bystanders to make the story seem somewhat interesting and to bland. To capture your attention, Liam O’Flaherty throws in small yet very important details. He wants the reader to make note of the accumulating details so the reader is able to grasp the mood of the story.
Once the reader can detect the build up of the climax, O’Flaherty wants the reader to feel suspense within them. Written in a third-person limited omniscient structure “The Sniper” includes the author portraying the feelings and thoughts of the sniper himself. The author exercises three major themes throughout the short story. The author incorporates characters perceptions, personal feelings and thoughts. The author builds his story up around these themes and reveals to the reader that there is much importance in all of the characters traits.
Thus proving that these themes are of much significance, Liam O’Flaherty uses complex vocabulary that capture the moment as though one could actually lying down next to the sniper. Point of view helps create a sense of narration but at the same time makes you feel as though you’re there. In other words the point of view allows the author to be a narrator yet at the same time speaking as though he is the protagonist himself. O’Flaherty uses the objective style of narration to report the main facts and also stands outside the story.
To say that there is a good amount of bias of the author in “The Sniper” would be false. The author tries to approach a happening from all angles and likes to give some perspective into what he is saying. For example when Liam O’Flaherty’s reveals that, “everywhere around was quiet, there was not much danger in going through the streets”. From this the reader can conclude that there is a sense of risk taking and that the devious sniper is living his life in great danger. The character solely focused on throughout the story happens to be the protagonist.
O’Flaherty uses an objective narration structure to portray and focus on all the moves made by the sniper. For example the author quotes, “The sniper looked at his enemy falling, and he shuddered” showing that the narrator is directly reporting the events unfolding in front of the sniper’s eyes. Liam O’Flaherty’s use of strong vocabulary is especially influential in that the readers mind can create a picture as to what is happening. “The body turned over and over in space and hit the ground with a dull thud”, this shows the narrators description of the sniper’s success and eventually reveals a true secret to the sniper.
O’Flaherty was excellent in being a great narrator and could actually make the reader think that he was the main character. He achieved this through his imagery and use of words. The vocabulary used to describe the sniper and his actions were so persuasive that even I felt the emotions running through me. For example, “The sniper turned over the dead body and looked into his brother’s face”. This discovery made by the sniper sent a chill down my back as though it was very surreal and hard to believe. Liam O’Flaherty’s suspenseful diction kept the reader on the edge of their seat awaiting the outcome until it was truly revealed.
In return Liam O’Flaherty’s somewhat climax revealed to the reader just what happened and expected an overpowering feeling of disappointment and sadness to overcome the reader. By using excellent vocabulary, perceptions and personal feelings all seen in the sniper, a reader can actually or at least try to experience what the protagonist is feeling first hand. Liam O’Flaherty makes it apparent that the sniper seems to be an emotionless and ruthless man. Actually in reality when the truth is made visible to the sniper, he shows remorse for his brother and there is an overwhelming state of shock that settles over him.