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This was a story I analyzed for homework tonight. It was very interesting and it questioned morality during times of war, and what truly makes us human. 

 

This short story was based on the Irish Civil War, in which it was the IRA against the British security forces in Ireland. The main protagonist is a British sniper.

 

I though it would be great to share this story with you guys. I recommend reading it with a glass of warm milk and cookies, and let the experience soothe the edges of your day. It takes about 10 minutes to read.

 

 

https://www.classicshorts.com/stories/sniper.html

off-topic
 Sep 26, 2019
 #1
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Good story, except one line spoils it:  He looked at the smoking revolver in his hand, and with an oath he hurled it to the roof at his feet. 

 

I've seen it in a dozen movies.  It's a typical and clichéd portrayed reaction to having used a firearm.  Shooting someone was justified and necessary, but the user feels remorse – or maybe guilt... whatever – and blames the gun for what he himself had done.  What a crock. 

 

And in addition to the scene being hackneyed and trite, it's out of character.  Earlier, it didn't bother the sniper to gun down an elderly woman who tried to have him killed, nor by the way would it have bothered me. 

 

.

 Sep 26, 2019
 #2
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The author of this story, published in 1922, depicts the verisimilitude of the environment and the thought process of the protagonist in narrative form, from a third-person, limited omnipresent view point. The target audience was the naïve, unsophisticated, population of Ireland, whose average education ranged from the sixth to eight grades. 

 

In this era, prior to broadcast radio, world events were typically conveyed via a single newspaper and the silent films of Fox News (which became Fox Movietone News in the “talky” era) and repeated rumor in social circles, which were typically a church setting for most of the population, and, mainly for adult males, the pubs were another venue.   Complex concepts, such as the nuances of war and its effects on warriors and the population were otherwise conveyed to the population in various literary forms.  

 

Literature often describes civil wars as “brother against brother,” describing them figuratively and depicting them literally in many notable works.

The Sniper follows this form. This short story has an intense, juvenile cadence to it. Simple sentences convey uncomplicated, but highly focused thoughts of a militia warrior fighting a guerilla-style battle; and, after his injury, demonstrating behaviors consistent with battle fatigue and shell-shock that is already morphing into what, years later, would become known as PTSD. 

 

The author, who had previously studied for the priesthood, conveyed the humanity still present, and now coming to the surface, in this wounded warrior. Only a true psychopath or sociopath is immune to the psychological effects of killing another human, no matter how justified the action: “The lust of battle died in him. He became bitten by remorse. ...Weakened by his wound and the long summer day of fasting...”   The psychological effects of his injury and pain bring to mind the unspoken biblical aphorism of “all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.”

 

The regret and crescendo of pain induced shock took its toll on the warrior; in a rage, he retaliated against his revolver, an iconic metaphor of his last homicide and a contributor, by way of recoil, to his pain.   The revolver retaliated:  “The revolver went off with a concussion and the bullet whizzed past the sniper's head.” bring the warrior back to his present reality.  His remorse would return when he found that his target was his brother.  This wouldn’t stop the war, or the protagonist’s participation –except for a few minutes while he mourns.   

 

Other comments:

The reality is that revolver would not have fired when he threw it down. The hammer was resting on an empty shell, previously fired at his target.

There are only two ways for the weapon to fire in this circumstance:

The militia man cocked it, which, along with being incredibly stupid, means he would not have been surprised by its discharge.

The other requires a sustained force on the trigger, equal to 10 to 15 pounds (44 to 67 Newtons) (typical for the firing of double action revolvers of this era, and still common today). This is extremely unlikely to happen.

------------

 

I've seen it in a dozen movies.  It's a typical and clichéd portrayed reaction to having used a firearm.  Shooting someone was justified and necessary, but the user feels remorse – or maybe guilt... whatever – and blames the gun for what he himself had done.  What a crock. 

 

Such clichéd depictions of remorse and guilt may common in movies and literature, and blaming “guns” is certainly common in the news media for gun violence.  However, in the case of this short story, there is no indication of this. The throwing of the gun is a depiction of frustrated anger and pain, not blame. It’s not much different than a depiction of a golfer throwing is club because he missed and easy putt or a carpenter throwing his hammer because he improperly framed a wall or hit his finger. 

 

 

GA

 Sep 26, 2019
edited by GingerAle  Sep 26, 2019
 #3
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It’s not much different than a depiction of a golfer throwing is club because he missed and easy putt or a carpenter throwing his hammer because he improperly framed a wall or hit his finger.    

 

Oh, yes, it is.  It's very much different.  The golfer misses an easy putt, and the carpenter hits his thumb.  Both failures, frustrating instances that should not have happened.  But the sniper had successfully defeated his enemy, his deadly enemy, and by making a difficult shot with a handgun, with his left hand no less!  He would have been exultant.  After all, he was a sniper, kíllíng was his business, and he had demonstrated that, at least on this particular day, he was the best man at his trade.   

 

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Guest Sep 27, 2019
edited by Guest  Sep 27, 2019
 #4
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Oh, yes, it is.  It's very much different.  The golfer misses an easy putt, and the carpenter hits his thumb.  Both failures, frustrating instances that should not have happened.  But the sniper had successfully defeated his enemy, his deadly enemy, and by making a difficult shot with a handgun,...

 

For sure, my analogous examples lack the requisite success elements for this comparison. However, the main question is, did the author use the protagonist’s aggression towards the revolver to blame the gun for his actions? Or, was it a device use to convey rage? 

 

There wasn’t much else to use for depicting rage: his rifle was gone, so was his hat. Perhaps he could use his boot. Let’s see how that works.

 

The regret and crescendo of pain induced shock took its toll on the warrior; in a rage, he removed his boot and pounded it on the roof with many curses and oaths. After he calmed himself, he decided to change his name to Nikita Khrushchev, and establish a communist party in Éire, so there!

 

Humm... It doesn’t really have much punch, but it does make for good satire.  (The author of this story, Liam O'Flaherty, was a founding member of the Communist Party of Ireland.) What else could we try? 

 

Let’s try foot-stomping.

 

The regret and crescendo of pain induced shock took its toll on the warrior; in a rage, he stomped his right foot so hard into the roof that he fell in up to his waist. Then with both hands, he took hold of his left foot and ripped himself up the middle in two.

 

Humm... This one is funny too, and Rumpelstiltskin gets a reprieve.   However, our protagonist is now dead, which means he cannot brave machinegun fire and conveniently discover that he killed his brother.   This kinda wrecks the end of the story. Yep! Totally fucks it up!

 

So, only the smoking gun remains.  The author has to risk an unintended double-action for the revolver: the readers interpreting it as a scapegoat, instead of the whipping-boy that it is.

 

Oh well, no one ever said it’s easy being a writer.

 

 

GA

GingerAle  Sep 27, 2019
edited by GingerAle  Sep 27, 2019
 #5
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smiley  I love the image of the sniper morphing into Nikita Khruschev and pounding his shoe... funny, and prophetic too.  Wonderful idea.  As long as we're devising alternatives, why not simply omit the sentence?  Don't have the sniper throw down the revolver at all.  Of course, that deprives us of the opportunity to second guess the author for his error about the firearm discharging.  

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Guest Sep 28, 2019
 #6
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Guest wrote: I love the image of the sniper morphing into Nikita Khruschev and pounding his shoe... funny, and prophetic too. 

 

I was totally LMAO when I wrote that. LMAO

 

As long as we're devising alternatives, why not simply omit the sentence?  Don't have the sniper throw down the revolver at all. 

 

Not throwing down the gun would deprive the author of an optimal device for depicting the emotional state of the character’s transition from intently focused sniper to the pinnacle of maniacal rage when throwing the revolver, back to cogent reality after its discharge and near-miss of his head. His laughter, after the near-miss, reinforces the point.  The gun is the optimal literary device for this, despite the glaring error in the verisimilitude.

 

Of course, that deprives us of the opportunity to second guess the author for his error about the firearm discharging.  

 

It’s certainly possible the author was aware of this but chose to ignore it for the sake of the story. 

However, there are other obvious errors in verisimilitude that I didn’t mention. However, they might only be obvious to those familiar with military history and weaponry, ballistics, and basic human physiology.   

 

There was a small hole where the bullet had entered. On the other side there was no hole. The bullet had lodged in the bone. It must have fractured it.

 

It is very improbable for the bullet to have lodged in the forearm bone (or any bone) of the militia man. It’s logical to assume the rifles used by both snipers were either the Pattern 1914, standard issue for British military troops, or the Ross Mk III (preferred by snipers).   Both these weapons fired caliper .303 copper-nickel jacketed lead- ball ammunition.  When fired, the bullet has 3500 Joules of kinetic energy exiting the muzzle. At fifty yards, there is still enough energy to travel through the forearm bones of atleast six large-boned men.   Snipers were known to cut or score the bullet tips to promote its expansion on impact, increasing the likelihood of a kill or serious wounding. If the bullet expanded on impact, it still wouldn’t stop in the bone, it would continue on, taking a large portion of the arm with it –disgusting, but an accurate approximation.    

 

Other inconsistencies with the revolver:

He was almost deafened with the report and his arm shook with the recoil.

This suggests a large caliper sidearm. There are a few choices for this weapon:

The .45 caliper M1917 Revolver

The .455 caliper Webley Revolver Mk VI

Both of these revolvers have a barrel length of more than half overall length of ~11 inches.

 

 “He picked up his revolver and put it in his pocket. Then he crawled down through the skylight to the house underneath.

 

These revolvers would not conveniently fit in a pocket. It would fall out after three steps. This suggests a smaller sidearm. In any case, a trained military combatant would never do this. If his holster wasn’t available, he’d stick it in his waistband, being intuitively careful not to turn himself into a eunuch. Ouch!

-----

He was now standing before a row of chimney pots, looking across, with his head clearly silhouetted against the western sky.

 

A trained military combatant –especially a sniper –would never expose his position in this manner.  This is just plain stupid...

 

It’s easy to see the author was unfamiliar with military tactics and weapons.  He was however very familiar with pens, typewriters, and biblically based moral precepts because of his education and training for the priesthood. A notable irony, here: the author was probably already an atheist when he wrote this story, having abandoned his divinity studies and then his faith, a few years earlier. F u c k those Irish Catholics    

 

 

GA

 Sep 29, 2019
edited by GingerAle  Sep 29, 2019

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