Human Nature That Causes War Essay Example

Recently, I started thinking about what I would like to be when I am an adult. Many things crossed my mind. I thought about going into the medical field, practicing law, even becoming an artist. Eventually, after some light research, I had decided that I wanted to be a crime scene investigator. Upon telling my mother of my newfound ideas, she quickly brought to my attention what that really meant. I shrugged it off, telling her that this is what I want to do. Despite my condolences, I still found it hard to believe that I would be ok. Being a crime scene investigator would require me to arrive to possibly gruesome scenes in which I am not allowed to have an emotional reaction, and am forced only to observe and think clearly. 

Likewise, the main character in the short story, “The Sniper” written by Liam O’Flaherty, is put in an extreme situation that requires him to put aside any sort of reactions. The story is set in 1920s Dublin, Ireland, in the midst of a brutal civil war. Throughout the story, the main character, also the sniper, is faced with a number of situations that test his ability to do his job effectively and without hesitation. This means that he must set aside any feelings of remorse, compassion, and anything remotely human. War has this very same effect on its victims. Not only does war take a toll on the human psyche, it brings out the very worst in people by forcing them to make life or death decisions that completely set aside basic human nature. 

This complete denial of emotion is shown in O’Flaherty’s story when our main character, the sniper, is faced with one of his very first emotional and moral conflicts. As the sniper is sitting on the roof of a building, an enemy car appears and parks nearby. Very soon after,  an old woman walks up to the car and begins talking to the man inside. It took the sniper only a few seconds before he came to the realisation that the old woman may have informed the enemy of his presence. The sniper is now faced with a complex decision. Would he leave everything alone and act as if nothing happened, or will he do something about the people in the street below him? Merely a few minutes had passed before the sniper decided to shoot both the enemy and the old woman.

Looking down at what he had done, he saw that “In the street beneath all was still. The armored car had retired speedily over the bridge, with the machine gunners head hanging lifeless over the turret. The woman’s corpse lay still in the gutter,” (O’Flaherty 2). Although it seems upsetting to know that the sniper killed two innocent people, the reasoning behind his decision was only logical. Because the enemy had known about his being on the roof, the sniper would either have been shot in the moment, or later become a prisoner of war. So, in order to avoid the possibility of either, the sniper was untimately forced to set aside any instinct to let the people go, and rely on murder.

Constant repression of emotion also has a negative effect on the human psyche, which is displayed in the very beginning of O’Flaherty’s writing. The story had just begun when the sniper was described as having “...the face of a student, thin and ascetic, 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 death” (O’Flaherty 1). Before the civil war, the sniper was once a wide-eyed young child. Now, due to the sniper constantly ignoring the remorse he had felt for so long, he became emotionally numb, and possibly mentally unstable. 

Lastly, the effects war has on people is shown when the sniper was faced with his final conflict. By the end of the story, the sniper had been shot by a second sniper on the rooftop of a neighboring building across the street. Both snipers then “faced-off”, resulting in the death of the enemy sniper. The main character, our sniper, then becomes curious as to who the man was, and “Then the sniper turned over the dead body and looked into his brother’s face,” (O’Flaherty 4).

By the end of the short story, the sniper ended up killing his brother, despite the fact that they were related. Of course, the sniper had not known the man on the other roof was his brother, but it was, and he killed him. The sniper shot and killed his brother simply because of the fact that in that moment, the neighboring sniper had been trying to shoot our sniper at the same time. So for both snipers, this was a life or death situation, and both of them had no choice but to put any remorse or empathy aside, for the sake of survival. 

As previously stated, war puts people in situations that bring out the worst in them, requiring them to do things completely against their morals. Throughout “The Sniper”, the sniper was forced to make numerous decisions that required him to put basic human emotion aside. Firstly, he was faced with the issue of the old woman and the enemy in the vehicle, where the only solution was to murder a civilian and a fellow soldier. Secondly, war alters someone’s mental health. In this case, it made the sniper numb to most emotion or pain. Lastly, at the end of the story, the sniper was faced with yet another life or death situation. He was injured by an enemy sniper and eventually makes the decision to shoot said sniper, which ends up being his brother. As we can see, war had and will continue to have a great number of negative effects on people. Because war forces us to do the worst, abandon our morals and basic compassion, it is extremely important that we find another solution. 

Works Cited

O’Flaherty, Liam “The Sniper.” Language and LIterature Arts, Third Course ed., Holt, 2003, pp. 1–4.



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