Naming of Parts

Naming of Parts Summary and Analysis of Stanzas 4-5


The speaker next points out the bolt, saying that the bolt is used to open the gun's breech. He explains that sliding the bolt back and forth is known as "easing the spring," and then notes that bees are, like the bolt, moving back and forth as they approach flowers—they, too, he says, are easing the Spring. Easing the spring is easy if your thumbs are strong, the speaker insists, just like the many other parts of the gun, from the breech to the point of balance (though, he notes, the listeners don't have a point of balance on their guns). Almond flowers are quiet in the gardens, he observes, while bees fly back and forth. He concludes the poem by reiterating that the naming of the parts will be taking place.


As the poem comes to a close, we begin to see the speaker remix and repeat phrases with increasing rapidity, as if losing control over his language and sense of reality. One of the most prominent ways we see this is with a play on words: signaling that the meaning of "spring" has shifted by capitalizing it, the speaker compares the movement of the gun's bolt to the movement of bees, saying that both involve "easing the spring." Of course, in the case of the bolt, "spring" refers to a part of the gun, while in the case of the bees, it refers to the season of springtime. By placing these almost-identical phrases and images beside one another, Henry Reed asks us to consider their differences. Even while people use a gun, and the spring inside of it, to bring about death, springtime itself is a time of rebirth and new life. In other words, he hints, war is unnatural and in some ways represents a losing battle against nature, which will continue to produce new life with no regard for human choices.

Furthermore, while the poem begins with the speaker enforcing an orderly, sequential approach, that military agenda begins to seem chaotic and meaningless while nature itself seems more orderly. For instance, in the poem's final stanza, the speaker observes once again that "it is perfectly easy / If you have any strength in your thumb." We saw that phrase before, in stanza three. But here, it's no longer clear what "it" is. Instead, our speaker is repeating himself as if on autopilot, rather than attending to any legible system of logic. He seems to be responsive only to a kind of military grammar, one without any correspondence to the real world. And yet, as we have discussed, nature here seems to be treated in the opposite way. Through figurative language and especially personification, natural objects here are imbued with purpose, sense, and logic. Even the instinctive movements of bees appear to have a wider goal: they are "easing the Spring," making way for the season's arrival.

Thus, by the poem's end, Reed undermines his speaker's implied promise of orderliness and productivity. Not only is such an attitude antithetical to the beauty and interconnectedness of the natural world, Reed suggests—rather, it is actually not a real reflection of war or military life. Nature is more orderly than war, he argues, albeit in a less top-down, authoritarian way.