“The Sniper”: Short Story Lesson Plans

On a rooftop near O’Connell Bridge High School, an assistant principal career sniper lay watching. Beside him lay his red pen and over his shoulders was slung a list of standards you weren’t teaching. His face was the face of a principal, chubby and mustached, but his eyes had the cold gleam of the fanatic. They were deep and thoughtful, the eyes of a man who is used to looking at the death of careers.

If only the teacher had these “The Sniper” short story lesson plans with a summary, analysis, and more, this story could have had a happy ending.

Before you read any further–and why wouldn’t you after that stirring introduction?–feel free to download this pdf point of view, narrative writing lesson plan for “The Sniper.”

Summary of “The Sniper”

“The Sniper” is set in the early days of the Irish Civil War during the Battle of Dublin. The action focuses on an unnamed sniper stationed on a rooftop. The story begins with the sniper eating a sandwich and smoking a cigarette. The latter action nearly kills him as the light attracts sniper fire from another rooftop.

An enemy car drives up. A man exits and speaks to a woman who notifies him of the sniper’s present. The sniper shoots the man and the woman and is hit in the arm by the bullet of an enemy shooter.

In great pain and unable to hold his rifle, the story’s protagonist knows he must escape before morning or he is sure to be killed. He puts his cap on his rifle, which the enemy shoots. The rifle falls to the ground and the sniper hangs his hand over the railing to fake his death.

The enemy sniper stands up, becoming an easy target. The sniper shoots him. The enemy falls to the ground. A weakened and disgusted sniper heads down, eager to leave and curious to see whom he has killed.

It’s his brother.

Analysis Ideas

An analysis of “The Sniper” produces the following discussion topics and observations:

  • Irony – Talk about an awkward family dinner next Sunday. Didn’t see that ending, did you? There’s more irony than just the end. O’Flaherty presents an in-depth portrayal of a sniper that contradicts a common perception of them.
  • Setting and Atmosphere – The setting obviously plays a critical role in the story. O’Flaherty’s description of the scene and of the main character establishes the story’s ominous mood.
  • Point of View – The story’s 3rd-person limited narration provides keen insights into the mind of the story’s protagonist, which the reader can assume is similar to the enemy he kills. The killer is humanized.
  • Suspense. O’Flaherty applies the standard methods of suspense—foreshadowing, pacing, and dangerous action.
  • Characterization. O’Flaherty humanizes a character taught to act inhumanely.
  • Theme. O’Flaherty emphasizes common themes that involve the dehumanizing effect war has on individuals.
  • Realism. Not a lot of romanticizing war in this one.

“The Sniper” Lesson Plans

"The Sniper" Lesson PlansIn addition to the aforementioned narrative writing, point of view lesson plan for “The Sniper,” you can try your hand at the following. You could also check out “The Sniper” unit plan by clicking on the image to the right.

  1. Analyzing suspense in “The Sniper” by identifying suspenseful moments in the story and identifying whether the suspense is achieved by pacing, foreshadowing, or dangerous action.
  2. Analyzing theme in “The Sniper” by comparing the romanticized portrayal of war with O’Flaherty’s portrayal of war.
  3. Realism in Literature. Identify and analyze aspects of Realism in “The Sniper.”
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