The author Liam O’Flaherty starts his story by making a proper setting for a war raged city of Dublin. He directly gets to the point. There is no complication what so ever about the way he has made the setting. He sets the city in darkness except for the moon light which gives a ‘pale light as of approaching dawn. ‘ The evening has passed away into hours of darkness and everything seems calm like the darkness until the poet describes the thundering of the heavy guns, ‘heavy guns roared. ‘ He compares these guns to the ‘dogs barking on the lone farms.
He probably says this because just like the dogs the guns are breaking the silence of the night for no proper reason. The dogs barking in fields are intruders, in the same way the guns are also the intruders in the city of Dublin. They have no proper reason to be there but just because man hasn’t stopped them they are there. Like the gun even the republican boy fighting on the roof top is not supposed to be there. He has a ‘student face’ which means he still is a young boy. Thus he should be studying not fighting on top of a roof with enemies who are not directly his.
The author describes that ‘his eyes had a cold gleam of a fanatic’ and ‘of a man who is used to seeing death. ‘ This is where the author conveys that there are so many deaths in war that a person actually gets used to it. He has no feelings on anyone’s death or no hesitation when he kills someone. Later in the story the boy kills the man who gets out of the car and the woman only because he thinks they are his enemy’s informers. The author describes this so smoothly and calmly as if killing two people on the spot is no big deal at all. ‘The sniper raised his rifle and fired’ and ‘the sniper fired again.
Then the author describes the hard times that have to be faced during a war. The boy who needs most nourishment has not eaten anything throughout the day. He is forced to smoke and drink in order to get some peace of mind and relaxation from the pain. Even though he is not allowed to he ‘risks a smoke. ‘ He is alone. His family is not even mentioned thorough out the story except at the end. He is totally lost in the war, between the enemies to think about anything else. Shortly then the boy himself is hit by a bullet but yet he is all alone. What ever is to be done to his wound has to be done by him.
He dresses his wound on his own ‘taking out the field dressing….. tied the end with his teeth. ‘ There is no one to look after him even when in pain and there are so less medications that the boy has to overcome his pain through will power ‘effort of will to overcome the pain’. Yet there is no mercy on the boy. His enemy is still there stopping him from going back to where ever he wanted. It is only up to him to either surrender to his enemy or make a plan and escape. The determined boy does make a plan and kill his enemy but this is not the end of it all.
He comes back to the real world as he sees his enemy dying; the world where killing is a sin and where people have feelings for each other. This could probably be because of self realisation. The boy realises that instead of that sniper it could have been he himself dying. Thus the war puts someone into a totally different world of horror; a world that only consisted of enemies; a world in which killing was no big deal and a world that would quench without pain. Throughout the story the author does no description of any sort of feeling.
It is only in this paragraph that the author gets in more than the physical description. He writes words such as ‘fasting’, ‘revolting’ and ‘cursing the war, cursing himself, cursing everybody. ‘ Then is the last element which the author maintains through out the story is the element of anonymity. A war is usually anonymous. No one person can start a war. To show this element of anonymity the author has kept everyone including the central character anonymous. The reader has knows nothing about that boy except for the fact that he is fighting for the republican side.
The same is the situation with other character (the man in the car, the old lady and the person on the opposite rooftop). They are all these boy’s enemies which means they are fighting for the Free States that’s all the reader knows. The climax of this story is also placed on this anonymity. There is one enemy of the boy who is there throughout the story; the boy on the other side of the roof. The republican boy does hatch a plan and kill him but only as his enemy. It is shortly later that the author reveals who the boy is. ‘Then the sniper turned over the dead body and looked into his brother’s face.
This is the last sentence of the story where the author reveals that the enemy who put the republican boy in pain and trouble was his own brother. They both had got divided in the army and had become each other’s enemies. The war had actually made them enemies. Just like the war, the author ends his story in a very vague manner. He leaves the victims in pain even when they should actually be happy because the war has ended. Thus Liam O’Flaherty throughout his short story brings out the troubles and pains caused by the war.