Reread the first paragraph. What details in the author’s description of the setting establish the tone or atmosphere of the story?
What message about this civil war is Liam O’Flaherty trying to convey? How does his message compare to the theme in “War,” by Timothy Findley?
List words and phrases the author uses to describe the sniper and what he is doing. Write your own descriptions of him, using some or all of these words.
The sniper is the only character the author describes in great detail. Why do you think the author chose to do that?
Were you surprised by the ending? Why or why not? Did you find it a powerful ending?
Do you think such a story could occur in Canada? Give reasons for your opinion.
Write a Factual Report
Imagine you are the main character in “The Sniper.” You’ve just returned to your company and have been asked to write a report about what happened. List the events in the story in the order they occurred. Use a complete sentence for each event. Because this is an official report, leave out how you feel or what you thought–just include the facts as you saw them.
After researching the life of Liam O’Flaherty, write an informative essay explaining the extent to which he based “The Sniper” on his own experiences.
Does urban warfare, like that in “The Sniper,” affect the outlook and mental stability of combatants differently than battlefield fighting?
Reread the story focusing specifically on the way Findley has captured the thoughts and feelings of a twelve-year-old boy who is looking back on events that happened when he was ten years old. Focus particularly on the explanations and interpretations that the narrator at the age of twelve offers for the things he said and did at age ten. In what ways does the older version of the narrator understand more fully the significance of the events described in the story?
Find examples of vocabulary, expressions, and syntax in the story that are typical of a young person. What are some features of language that are used unconventionally to imitate the direct speech of a young person whose use of language is still developing?
Explore Personal Feelings
Have you ever felt so strongly about something that you lost control of your emotions or the way you acted? What event or situation in your life made you lose control? Jot down in note form what happened, how you felt at the time, how you felt afterward, and how the situation was resolved.
Use your notes to write a story about that incident. You might use a structure similar to “War.” The beginning could introduce the main characters and the problem or situation. The middle section could explore how everyone had to deal with this problem. The climax could occur when you (or your character) lose control. The end could briefly describe how everything was resolved.
When you write your story, how do you write conversations between characters? Could your style be improved? How?
Create a Script
At one point in his story, the narrator switches from normal narrative conventions to a dramatic version of a conversation held by the three boys. This part of the selection is set up more as a play than as a story. Explain how effectively this scene works as a piece of drama. Pick another episode in the story that would work well as a dramatic scene and rewrite it using the example provided by Findley as a model. Remember to make the dialogue specific to each character’s personality. Prepare a recording of your scene.
Another Viewpoint: Society
With a group of 5 or 6 students plan a Symposium(or Symposium?) on the subject of war. Have each student select and read or view a work that focuses on war, such as the novel All Quiet on the Western Front(1929) by German author Eric Maria Remarque, paintings by Canadian designated “war artists” Frederick Varley or Molly Lamb Bobak, the non-ficiton book The Guns of August (1962) by American author Barbara Tuchman, poetry by the British writer Wilfred Owen, or the American film The Thin Red Line(1998). During your symposium, have each student articulate the impressions of and ideas about war evident in each text. Then explore some of the following questions: What characteristics are common to all wars, regardless of the era or location? How has war changed over the centuries? Is war today more dangerous than wars of previous eras? How does war affect the daily life of civil society? Can war ever be eradicated?