Sunday, September 6, 2009

Naming of Parts by Henry Reed


1. Each stanza of “Naming of Parts” contains two distinct voices. Where do the first voice end and the second begin? Describe and characterize each voice.

Henry Reed’s poem "Naming of Parts," talks about a British sergeant-instructor delivering a lecture to his green recruits on the various parts of a rifle. Reed based the poem on his experiences in the Royal Army Ordnance Corps from 1941-1942.
As seen on the previous page, each stanza includes two voices; the first voice comes from the instructor who taught his recruits on the proper cleaning of the weapon [line 2], has taught parts of a rifle [lines 1 and 4] throughout the lecture and to be followed the next day by teaching what should be done after firing [line 3].

The second voice on the other hand refers to the thoughts of a recruit during the time that the parts of the rifle are being named. While the instructor explains the parts, his mind wanders, and along various lines of the poem the recruit’s inner monologue manifests that he is trying to make sense of what he is being taught.

Several lines have shown in the poem that these two voices refer to two different things. While the instructor aims to teach concepts about weapons used in war, the recruit tries to use the instructor’s words in thinking of a different place in which weapons and war are inexistent. [Lines 28 and 29]

2. Pinpoint the place where the two voices converge. What is the effect of their convergence?

In the first stanza, the instructor’s statement on the “naming of parts” [lines 1 and 4] refers to the explanation on the parts of a rifle. On the other hand, the recruit’s “naming of parts” [lines 6 and 30] refers to the elements manifested by the presence of Spring. Consequently, as the first voice explains the parts on the second stanza, he mentions that there are some which the recruits’ guns “have not got” [line 10]. This implies that the instructor is using an older version of a rifle which includes the parts as mentioned in the poem. The recruits are using newer versions of the rifle which do not have some of the given parts. The recruit also uses the same statement [lines 12 and 28] imposing two different ideas. On line 12, he says “which in our case we have not got”, which means that they do not experience the beauty of spring [lines 10 and 11] because of the war. On line 28, he mentions the lines “which in case we have not got”. This means that in the absence of rifles and of the war, they would be able to experience the silence and the beauty of nature during Spring.

The lines that include “easing the spring” have different meanings based on the structure and the source. “Easing the spring” [line 22] shows the action of moving the cartridges of the rifle toward the breech. The recruit on the other hand, mentions the same statement twice [lines 24 and 25] in which spring is written with an uppercase S. This changes the context of the line, since Spring refers to the season instead of the part of the rifle.

The use of the instructor’s last lines as the recruit’s first words shows the convergence in the sense that their statements are given spontaneously during the time the lecture is taking place. While the instructor tries to teach the parts of the rifle, the recruit uses significant parts of the lecture to imagine a place that exists in the absence of war [lines 25 to 30].

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