Comparison of Packer’s Buffalo Soldier and Wolff’s Bullet in the Train





Comparison of Packer’s Buffalo Soldier and Wolff’s Bullet in the Train


In Buffalo Soldiers Packer tells the story of black people who helped expand the Western Frontier by fighting against the Indian communities that were opposing this expansion. The story follows Colonel Lazarus and his men as they trek from San Antonio to Fort Stockton. Using this story, Parker brings to light the difficulties that black people endured as they helped to build America into the empire that it has become. Contrastingly, Wolff’s Bullet in the Brain is a story about a man called Anders who is shot in the head following a robbery at a bank where it was being served. Wolff’s story is unique in that the characterization of Anders does not stop after his death. In fact, the reader learns more about Anders after his death that he or she did before it. An analysis and comparison of these two stories can help show the different ways that authors apply literary techniques to embellish their works.

Symbolism in Buffalo Soldiers and Bullet in the Brain

Many authors use symbolism to embellish their texts. Writers normally achieve this by using mundane objects to represent entities that are more complex (Abrams and Harpham 396). In Buffalo Soldiers, Parker uses symbolism to a limited extent. One instance of symbolism in the story is seen in the values and ideas that the Indians represent. Parker narrates the story from the perspective of the black soldiers meaning that the reader never understands the actions of the Indians. Because of this, the Indians end up becoming figures that are representative of the brutal, ruthless and barbaric nature of human beings. Wolff’s Bullet in the Brain contains a similar use of the stylistic element. In the story, the robbers who attack the bank where Ander’s is seeking service are brash and uncouth. They insult the clients and tellers in the facility and constantly threaten them with death. Ander’s becomes a victim of the robbers’ uncivilized nature as one of them coaxes him asking, “You want to suck my dick?” (Anders 83). This makes the robbers become a representation of the evil nature of humans as well as the barbarism that people normally have.

Use of imagery in the texts

Imagery is another stylistic device that authors like to use in their texts. The use of imagery in the texts helps writers give their audience a feel of what their characters are going through, making the experience more vivid. In Buffalo Soldiers, Parker applies imagery when she claims that the troops went through “slight drifts of fear at every incline, every pass” (Parker 33). This vivid description of the situation helps the reader understand that the troops were embarking on a perilous journey, a situation that they were all aware of. Wolff applies a similar style in Bullet in the Brain. When describing Anders’ experience, the writer explains how one of the robbers “breathed out a piercing, ammoniac smell that shocked Anders more than anything that had happened” (Wolff 82). The vivid description of the robber’s smell as well as the comparison between it and the entire experience helps the reader understand that Anders’ was quite disturbed by the stench.

Application of different figures of speech

In Bullet in the Brain, Wolff applies various figures of speech to embellish his story. An example of this stylistic device is the way that he personifies the bullet in the story by giving it attributes and features normally found in inanimate objects. For instance, when describing the bullet’s journey through Anders’ brain, Wolff explains how the bullet cannot be “charmed to a halt”. Through this reference to the bullet, Wolff is in some ways characterizing an inanimate object and thus using personification as a literary style. Parker also applies figures of speech such as hyperbole, to exaggerate the situations that she is describing and increase the reader’s understanding. For instance, Parker describes Colonel Lazarus fears of falling off his horse by saying that the soldier was fearful of being smacked with an “avalanche of horseflesh” (Parker 33). The use of the word ‘avalanche’ is in some ways an exaggeration because of the concept that it represents. However, its use helps to paint a vivid picture for the reader.

Impact of the different literary devices on the stories’ theme and tone

Parker and Wolff both apply different literary elements to embellish their works but the effect that these items have on their stories are different. In Wolff’s story, the reader is aware of a certain amount of scorn and disdain that Anders has for the people around him. Wolff shows this attributes in Anders through the interactions that he has with both the robbers and the cashiers as he fails to show any respect for either of them. One literary element that exemplifies Anders attitude is the imagery that Wolff uses to describe the robber’s smell as he even goes as far as to say that it was the worst part of the whole experience for Anders. Through this, the reader understands that the writer is has a cynical view of other people, a key theme in the story. Additionally, this literary device shows that the author addresses the themes of violence and death in the story with a dismissive tone. Contrastingly, Parker addresses violence and death in a more serious manner. The fears that characters in her story have of dying show that she has a much more sober view of the issues.


The application of different stylistic elements and devices is a technique that many authors apply to make their works more exciting and captivating for the readers. Through these elements, authors present situations that are seemingly bland or mundane in a way that is gripping and more interesting. Parker and Wolff both apply different stylistic devices in their stories and achieve different results from them. Through elements such as hyperbole, imagery and personification, the reader is able to understand the way the authors view different themes such as violence and death.


Works Cited

Abrams, M H, and Geoffrey G. Harpham. A Glossary of Literary Terms. Boston, Mass: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2012. Print.

Parker, Zuwena. “Buffalo Soldiers.” The Best of Young American Novelists 2. Ian Jack. Ed. London: Granta, 2007. 33-34. Print.

Wolff, Tobias. “Bullet in the Brain.” The New Yorker. 25 Sept. 1995: 82-83. Print.

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