Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 336

Illustration of PDF document

Download Buffalo Bill 's Study Guide

Subscribe Now

E. E. Cummings's poem "Buffalo Bill 's" is one of his most straightforward in terms of meaning. While it maintains many of the language features typical of E. E. Cummings's poetry, such as the rejection of standard capitalization and the use of unusual punctuation, the sentences are, for the most part, understandable: we do not have to think too hard as readers to understand what is going on or see what Cummings is trying to convey. Cummings uses spacing to create a visually arresting image on the page with his poem, which is written in free verse. The lines vary from very short (in some cases a single word) to very long—notably in the sixth line, where the words are all run together, emphasizing the stretch of the line.

The poem uses caesura in interesting ways. The title, "Buffalo Bill 's," is ambiguous: firstly, the spacing is unusual, and secondly it isn't immediately clear whether this is an apostrophe of possession or one of omission—is this something belonging to Buffalo Bill, or something that Buffalo Bill is?

In the body of the poem itself, Cummings explains that Buffalo Bill is "defunct." This is an interesting use of word, too; he does not say that Buffalo Bill, the great Western hero of legend, is dead, but rather that he is "defunct." Cummings goes on to describe Buffalo Bill in legendary terms, referring to his capacity to ride horses and his skill with guns, through which he could kill multiple pigeons "just like that." Buffalo Bill is presented in rather idealized terms: Cummings does not mention that he has killed people, only pigeons, and describes him as Death's "blue-eyed boy."

There is a sense of approval from the speaker, too, in the use of the word "Jesus" before the speaker notes that Buffalo Bill was a handsome man. Finally, the speaker appeals to Death himself, who is personified, asking how he is enjoying the presence of Buffalo Bill, whom he has now accepted into his kingdom.