Buffalo Bill’s - Theme and Analysis | Major English Grade XI

Edward Estlin Cummings

Buffalo Bill’s

The poem “Buffalo Bill’s” written by modern American poet E. E. cummings is generally considered as a unusual but sincere tribute to the legend of the famous American Cowboy, William Cody. In this poem, the poet has exploited the aesthetic potentialities of typographical experimentation.

Buffalo Bill, who used to ride a white horse and break very quickly the clay pigeon targets, is now dead. He was a handsome man and the poet wants to know how much the Death likes him. Since the poet capitalizes the initial letters of Buffalo Bill, Death and Jesus, he gives equal status to all these three. But since he does not capitalize “i”, the poet thinks that he himself is minor in comparison to legendry figure, William Cody. The style of e e cummings in “Buffalo Bill’s” is unique. He has not used fullstops, commas and even abandoned the use of capital letter in “i”. He has not used traditional poetic forms. He has written this poem in free verse with lots of spacing. The running together of words in “onetwothreefourfive” indicate that Buffalo Bill shot bullets very quickly without stopping. The words “stallion” and “Jesus” are slightly separated from the preceding lines to indicate that Buffalo Bill was as strong as the horse and as kind as Jesus. This poem is remarkable for its pictorial quality and typographical experimentation.

Some critics also argue that this poem is a satire on Buffalo Bill. Though he was brave and powerful, he has now been made powerless by Death.

Important Questions Solutions:

1: In how many parts is the poem "Buffalo Bill's" divided?
Ans: Thematically the poem is divided into two parts: Buffalo Bill's ..... like that, is the first part and Jesus ..... Death is the other. Grammatically there are the separate sentences in the poem.
 
2: In view of the obvious fact that Cummings is very careful about punctuation, explain line 6.
Ans: Cummings is very careful about punctuation in the poem. The form of the poem carries the meaning. The whole poem without punctuation mark demands continuation of action in the world. In the 8th line "a" in "and" should be in capital letter. Words in 'onetwothreefourfive' and 'pigeonsjustlikethat' should have written separately. At the end of the sentence there should be a full stop. Line 6 should be broken into one, two, three, four, five and pigeons just likes that. The run of the line six '6' indicates the continuous motion of bullets when fired from the gun.
 
3: Why are the words "Stallion" and "Jesus" slightly separated from the preceding lines?
Ans: The words "Stallion" and "Jesus" are used slightly separately from the preceding lines and each single word makes separate sentence. By separating these words the poet emphasizes them. Perhaps he wants to compare Buffalo Bill with the strength and kindness of Stallion and Jesus.
 
4: What is the speaker's attitude to Buffalo Bill?
Ans: The speaker's attitude to the Buffalo Bill is satirical. The brave and straight shooter Buffalo Bill is powerless after death. The pride of power and strength go after death and man becomes helpless in front of the death.
 
5: What is the contrast between blue-eyed boy and Mister Death?
Ans: The blue-eyed boy is regarded as very good boy in America and the one who brings people to the underworld is regarded as Mister Death. These are quite contrary images used in the poem, one signifying life and the other death.

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