The author of The Sniper is very successful in using a range of literary techniques to create atmosphere and suspense. This includes the employment of many words that relate to the way the story ends. When the sniper finds that he has killed his brother, the story ends and therefore we do not witness his reaction. Instead the author uses descriptive language that creates tension and also depicts the shocking discovery the sniper makes.
In his first description of the sniper, the author he tells us he has “the face of a student”.
This is significant because it implies youth, vulnerability and lack of experience. We assume this of the sniper and from this we can infer that the young sniper is likely to be ignorant of something important, such as his enemy’s identity. He uses the term “fanatic” to portray the sniper’s youthful excitement at being part of the civil war. However, the most significant part of this initial description is when the author says: “The eyes of a man who is used to looking at death”.
This makes the reader aware that the sniper is willing to kill without empathy and we do not expect him to feel remorse after defeating his enemy. It suggests a strong character who is not concerned by the deaths that are caused by war. This is relevant because it informs the reader that a death is likely to take place but it should not be of great concern to the sniper.
Due to this introduction of the sniper’s character, we are surprised when the author tells us “The lust of battle died in him. He became bitten by remorse”. We are already aware that this reaction to the enemy’s death is unusual and unexpected. The author has used this phrase, along with many others, to convey the consequences of shooting a sniper whose identity he was unaware of.
The author frequently uses language that could be interpreted as referring the final discovery we make at the end of the story. Several of these words and phrases foreshadow the final event in his battle against his enemy. An interesting example is when the author repeats the word “flash” several times within a few sentences. This word could relate to how a swift action, such as firing a gun, can sometimes only last a second, however the effects of this action can last a lifetime. More importantly, it conveys the unexpected shock over which the sniper has no control.
Furthermore, when the Sniper is hit in his arm, the author repeatedly says that he is trying to “overcome the pain”. This is significant because it reflects the hardship he will face when he discovers that not only has his brother died but he is responsible for his death. In the future he will probably suffer the inability to overcome the guilt that resulted from his action. The repetition of the phrase enforces the serious impact his brother’s death will have on him. Once a brother is lost, no matter what the cause, you cannot fully recover from it; a brother is an extended part of you. Another suggestion of this broken bond is when the sniper feels “as if his arm had been cut off”. This quote is used to signify how it feels to lose someone so close to you. It is also a hyperbole, because although he has been shot in the arm, the arm has not fallen off.
In addition to this, the author uses many phrases that portray the sniper’s naivety, which in one factor in his brother’s death. This includes phrases such as “slung” and “reckless”. The Sniper is careless and gives little thought to what might happen in the future, an obvious flaw in his youthfulness. He has not yet learnt to properly consider the consequences of his actions or to think before the acts. Another representation of this is when the sniper wants to smoke a cigarette and he decides to “take the risk”. This shows the sniper’s foolishness; the same trait that has allowed him to become a part of the war without realising that it could result in him injuring or killing his own brother.
He also uses the phrase “the cloud of fear scattered from his mind and he laughed”. This metaphor is deeply ironic because he is laughing at his fear when in fact he was right to be concerned and feel remorseful for his actions. It also shows that he does not feel remorseful because he laughs at himself for feeling frightened. Another effect of his youth and naivety is that he feels the best way to cope with guilt is to ignore the feelings, which is demonstrated when “coming to his senses” means forgetting the remorse he feels for killing someone. Another very ironic phrase is when the sniper hits his enemy and “uttered a cry of joy”. He feels triumphant because he has defeated his enemy, yet when he realises the true identity he will regret this feeling of joy and will feel guilty and sorrowful. Also, he may well cry when he realises this, but for a very different reason.
Finally, the use of the word “paroxysm” is effective because it expresses the extreme change of emotions experienced by the sniper. However, the “paroxysm of pain” will seem belittled by the pain the sniper feels when he finds his brother is dead. The phrase portrays a painful and unexpected change in emotional state. The effect is devastating and impossible to overcome.