Comparing "The Sniper" and "Cranes"

By: Madison Trent

The themes of the short stories “The Sniper” by Liam O’Flaherty and “Cranes” by Hwang Sunwon are both similar and different in ways. “The Sniper” takes place during wartime in a small village. At this time, the Republicans and Free Staters were in a civil war. “Cranes” takes place in a northern village of Korea, near the thirty-eighth parallel. There is a war between the Communist and pro-Western sides during the 1950s that affects the villages in Korea. These stories’ themes can teach great lessons that may be easily missed about friendship and loyalty. They both deal with difficult decisions in war time that can bring consequences and difficult times ahead, however they are not alike in that they each portray their situations differently.

The main character of “The Sniper” is a Republican sniper. He is on a rooftop and by taking the chance and lighting a cigarette, his position has been given away. An enemy sniper sees him and begins to shoot. During the shooting, the Republican sniper was wounded in the forearm. There are many conflicts the character faces, but the main one is he is in a war and while fighting another sniper, he tries to plan his defeat. Through the story the character’s motives are to get off the rooftop by morning and to fight for survival. By the end of the story, this character learns that life is not fair and we live in a world of trouble and sorrow. By developing a plan and succeeding by killing the enemy sniper the conflict is resolved. However, another conflict arises when he wants to see the man he killed. As he turned over the body he found himself looking into the face of his brother. Something to learn from this story or the theme would be: “War forces people to make tragic choices between survival and compassion.”

In the story “Cranes” the main character is a man named Songsam, he has recently returned to his old village during the war and sees his boyhood playmate, Tokchae, tied up at the public peace-police office. After asking questions about what was going on he finds that his friend was vice-chairman of the Farmers Communist League and his hideout was just discovered. He is to be escorted to Ch’ongdan. After pondering this, he decides to escort his friend. At the beginning, neither really talk or look at each other, but while walking Songsam thinks of the adventures they had as children. Then Songsam breaks the silence by asking, “So how many have you killed?” While talking he learns that Tokchae did not choose to be vice-chairman, that his father is sick, and his wife is expecting a child. He also learned that Tokchae wanted to escape, but his father didn’t want to leave because the crops were ready for harvest. Tokchae couldn’t refuse his father, because he wanted to be with him in his last moments. The characters conflict throughout the story is he is debating whether to let his friend go or not. His motives are to save his friends life, because his family and friends rely on Tokchae for support. By the end of the story, Songsam learns the importance of friendship, forgiveness, and helpfulness. Songsam resolved his own conflict by letting his friend go. The theme of this short story is: “Peoples love and loyalty to friends and family are more important than political loyalty that leads to civil war.”

Both of these stories are great to read and they each have a great lesson to learn. In the story “The Sniper”, the main character has a decision to make about killing his enemy, but when he does and finds out it was his brother he is now experiencing the consequences of his choice. In “Cranes”, Songsam decided to let his friend go, but I’m guessing that when Tokchae doesn’t arrive in Ch’ongdan Songsam will face the consequences of letting his friend go. He was a true friend though, because people relied on Tokchae and he was going to be killed. Songsam is sacrificing his life for his friend. In “The Sniper”, the decision to kill was easily made, because he couldn’t see who it was, but in “Cranes” the decision was not so easily made. Even though “The Sniper” ended in remorse, we can each learn valuable lessons from each story.

Madison Walker is a Senior at the Shanksville-Stonycreek High School. She is the Student Council President, National Honor Society Vice President, writer for the school newspaper "Viklet",  member of Students Against Destructive Decisions, and Drama Club. Her extracurricular's include baton twirling for the New Centerville Spinnetts, Varsity Girls Soccer, and Track.  

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