American Sniper Summary and Study Guide

Chris Kyle

American Sniper

  • 30-page comprehensive study guide
  • Features 14 chapter summaries and 5 sections of expert analysis.
  • Written by a English instructor with an MFA from Johns Hopkins University
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American Sniper Summary and Study Guide

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature. This 30-page guide for “American Sniper by Chris Kyle and co-author Jim DeFelice includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 14 chapters, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 25 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like Good versus Evil and Luck.

Plot Summary

American Sniper is a harrowing tale of war, loss, strength, and perseverance. As an autobiography, this New York Times bestseller recounts the exploits of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, who garnered the most recorded sniper kills from 1999 to 2009, making him the deadliest sniper in United States military history. This riveting account of Chris’s life in and out of combat zones is an important document on the effects of war, and is made all the more poignant by Chris Kyle’s murder in 2013 by a former marine while at a shooting range.

Though labeled an autobiography, Chris also had authors, such as Jim DeFelice, assisting in writing the book. Moreover, the narrative itself is interspersed with vignettes from Chris’s wife, Taya. These first-person passages recount her ordeals with the strain of war, on her family in general, and on Chris. The narrative’s account is so memorable and moving that the work was even made into a blockbuster movie by Clint Eastwood, and was nominated for six academy awards, including Best Picture.

The bulk of the narrative surrounds Chris’s exploits, and his relationship to his fellow soldiers. During the Iraq War, Chris was known by his fellow soldiers as “The Legend,” due to his deadly precision and skill in keeping them safe. In fact, his skills were so well known that the enemy itself gave him a nickname:al-Shaitan, or “the devil.” There was even a bounty placed on his head due to the amount of enemy kills he was successful in carrying out.

Despite the bravado in the text, Chris’s account speaks to the larger issue of war, most notably the effects of war, such as pain and death. Chris recounts the deaths of two of his close SEAL teammates. These painful effects are again noted in the narrative’s inclusion of first-person narrative from Chris’s wife, Taya. Taya’s revelations and experiences are indeed compelling in their own right, so much so that DeFelice mentions how fans of the book would spend hours waiting in line at signings and speaking engagements just to speak with Taya and relate their own tales of endurance and attempts at staying strong.

The book is considered to be very conversational in tone by many. While some critics take aim at the narrative for being too conversational, it is important to note that Chris was not a trained writer or author. He was a trained soldier. Though he did have professional help writing the book to some degree, ‘at the end of the day’, American Sniper is a soldier’s personal account of his life while on the battlefield. This can also be evidenced in some of the more technical aspects of the book, where Chris goes into detail about his gear and weapons. He makes a point of detailing the survival skills needed, skills which naturally include the gear and weapons he is using, to stay alive. As such, these technical parts are an integral part to understanding the mind and actions of Chris. The book also includes maps and photographs, which serve to highlight the places and environs Chris is speaking about.

Many have praised the book for its “human approach” to war. In other words, as the book is written in Chris’s conversational tone, it is also a book largely of his everyday thoughts, reactions and honest assessments of the human toll of war. Politics are seemingly left out of his narrative, thus allowing for a larger audience of readers to engage the book without fear of political bias. The tone of the book allows for readers of various spectrums and political backgrounds to read and appreciate a military memoir that, because of how it is written, gives a hands-on, immediate approach to Chris’s experiences.

The book is also made all the more poignant in that there has been recent controversy over Chris’s military citations, and claims of fabrication, suggesting a boastfulness and overt dramatization of the events Chris endured. Detractors to the controversy point to the fact that Chris cannot defend himself, due to his tragic death. For many, the fact remains that, despite the concrete number of kills or military accolades received, Chris Kyle was a war hero, is a war hero, a heroic veteran and a survivor of war. He served his country and protected his fellow soldiers to the best of his ability. In the end, his valor and service make him an American hero. This book, then, is an account of an American hero, and stands on its own as a glimpse into his public and private life.

Given the book’s subject matter, themes of honor, love and duty immediately come to the surface. Chris’s love of duty, country and family can be seen throughout his accounts, and in Taya’s first-person narratives as well. Chris’s attention to detail regarding his gear and weapons, and his accounts of combat situations where he protects his fellow soldiers both as a sniper and on the ground with them in building-to-building combat, highlight the fact that Chris was a dedicated soldier and an excellent sniper. Throughout the narrative, Chris never shies away from the fact that, first and foremost, he is a soldier. It is his job, and he takes pride in it. Not only that, he…

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