This poem revolves around a member of the military showing fellow soldiers how to use a rifle, which symbolizes, simply, the violence of war. By naming the individual elements of the gun and instructing the soldiers about how to use those various elements, the speaker attempts to exert control over the gun and therefore the violence of the war. Thus, the speaker's emotionless, disconnected approach to the gun is part of the poem's larger critique of militarism and war—not only does war lead to violence, the poem points out, but it creates a structure in which people become inured to violence, losing their ability to respond to it with appropriate emotion.
If the gun symbolizes violence and war, then the trees, flowers, and insects the speaker spots in a nearby garden symbolize the opposite—rebirth and interconnectedness. Figurative language imbues these elements of the natural world with purpose, consciousness, and life, in contrast to the inanimate coldness of the gun. Through descriptions of the natural world, Reed suggests that these cycles of rebirth can be brutal and antagonistic in their own ways. For instance, bees "are assaulting and fumbling the flowers." Yet while the violence of war both causes death and necessitates a kind of emotionally numb death-in-life, the violence of nature still is ultimately centered around the perpetuation of life and vibrancy, and the violence that does exist in nature is visible, rather than suppressed.
Naming of Parts Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Naming of Parts is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.