Buffalo Bill's | Study Guide

e.e. cummings

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Course Hero. (2020, August 17). Buffalo Bill's Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved September 23, 2021, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Buffalo-Bills/

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Course Hero. "Buffalo Bill's Study Guide." August 17, 2020. Accessed September 23, 2021. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Buffalo-Bills/.


Course Hero, "Buffalo Bill's Study Guide," August 17, 2020, accessed September 23, 2021, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Buffalo-Bills/.

Buffalo Bill's | Quotes


Buffalo Bill 's / defunct

The narrator

"Buffalo Bill 's" begins with the narrator's announcement of the death of Buffalo Bill, or William Frederick Cody (1846–1917). Bill was an expert buffalo hunter and fighter of Native Americans. He later became a worldwide celebrity from his international traveling show that simulated his activities in the American West. The narrator uses the word "defunct" which is an unusual word to use in connection with a human's death. "Defunct" is more likely to be used in relation to a non-living thing than to describe a person's death.


who used to / ride a watersmooth-silver / stallion

The narrator

The narrator muses about the death-defying feats of Buffalo Bill. The horse Bill rode on is "watersmooth-silver" and suggests a strong horse whose movements are fluid and graceful. Like the traditionally masculine Buffalo Bill his animal is specified as a male horse, or a stallion.


and break onetwothreefourfive pigeonsjustlikethat

The narrator

Cummings's signature use of unconventional spacing and capitalization are on display in this line. Words are smashed together to create a simulated effect of rapid fire. Buffalo Bill shoots and explodes clay pigeons, not actual birds. His Wild West show features this kind of target shooting for entertainment.



The narrator

Jesus (c. 6–4 BCE–30 CE) is one of the world's main religious leaders and is considered by followers of Christianity to be the Incarnation of God. "Jesus" is here as an interjection used to express dismay or awe at the death of a vibrant, accomplished, and fascinating person. Using the name of Jesus as an exclamation in this way may be considered inappropriate or vulgar. "Jesus" is placed to the far right of the rest of the poem's words perhaps suggesting that his peaceful example is a pinnacle of human achievement. The poem juts forward until it hits the word "Jesus" and then retracts to the left until the last two words of the poem: "Mister Death."


he was a handsome man

The narrator

The narrator's words return to the beginning of the page in terms of spacing as he returns to his thoughts about the fact that the strong, virile man shooting from his stallion is now dead. He reflects on Buffalo Bill's fleeting physical attractiveness now that it has vanished along with his time on earth.


and what i want to know is

The narrator

The narrator saunters up to the final, foreboding figure in the poem: Mister Death. He addresses death with familiarity and friendliness, perhaps feeling superior for a moment because he is alive while the formerly strong and accomplished Bill has been overtaken by death.


how do you like your blue-eyed boy / Mister Death

The narrator

The narrator caps off the poem wondering about death personified as the Grim Reaper, a skeletal entity wearing a dark robe and carrying a scythe, a tool that cuts down wheat. He asks Mister Death a rhetorical question of whether he "likes" Buffalo Bill, one of the countless human souls erased by death. Death is actually impersonal, uncaring, and indiscriminate in terms of who must face it. Mister Death will come for all humans without appreciation for our earthly strength or achievements.

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