Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 345
In Larry McMurtry's 1990 novel, Buffalo Girls, the primary narrator is Calamity Jane (born Martha Jane), who writes a series of letters to her daughter, also called Jane. The younger Jane lives in Springfield, Missouri (a comparatively civilized town) with her adoptive father.
Martha (aka "Calamity") Jane is introduced only obliquely by means of these letters to her daughter. Jane's is a hardened woman of the west who admits to getting drunk in public with her rowdy friends, including Jim Ragg and Bartle Bone. She lives primarily in Miles City, Montana with her best friend, Dora DuFran.
Blue and Dora fell in love in Abilene, Texas, but Dora chooses not to marry him, preferring the comfortable life afforded to her a settler named Ogden (as well as her beloved bet parrot, Fred, who Dora claims rescues her from a lifetime of loneliness). Dora eventually has a baby whom Blue raises as his own, though the paternity is uncertain.
Wild Will Hickcok is, according to Martha, the biological father of her daughter, Jane. Her friend, Jim Ragg, introduced them. In a twist ending, this turns out to be a matter of self-deception; Martha never had a serious relationship with Wild Bill.
Another major character in the novel is No Ears, who is a westernized Native American and protector to Martha Jane. He is spiritually attune but open-minded enough to travel to London.
Annie Oakley is another historical figure featured in McMurtry's tale. She is an excellent markswoman, and, while in England, she competes with and outperforms an Englishman named Lord Windhouveren.
Buffalo Bill Cody is the businessman who sponsors Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, which Martha and her friends join as a means of earning a living and staying in touch with their idealized visions of the west. The troupe—Jim, Bartle, Martha, Annie, and No Ears—travels to London as part of the traveling show. The trip changes each of their lives in different, but equally profound, ways.
Many of the characters are based on real people, though they are fictionalized versions of the historical personae.