7 Astounding Interpretations of the Symbolism of the Buffalo in The Silence of the Lambs

A Deeper Understanding

The cult classic film, The Silence of the Lambs, is renowned for its gripping plot, unforgettable characters, and stellar acting performances. However, beneath this surface-level appreciation lies a labyrinth of symbolism and hidden meanings. One such symbol we will explore in this article is the buffalo.

The Artistry of Symbolism in Film

Film as an artistic medium often leverages symbolism to communicate intricate concepts or elicit deep emotions. Such symbols can manifest in various forms – characters, objects, or animals. In The Silence of the Lambs, the buffalo emerges as a pivotal symbol shaping the narrative.

The Buffalo: An Emblem of Change

The buffalo or bison in The Silence of the Lambs is employed as a potent emblem of transformation. This symbolism reverberates throughout the movie, adding to its haunting and disconcerting aura.

Decoding the Metaphor

The buffalo’s initial appearance in the movie is within a pit owned by the antagonist, Buffalo Bill. The pit symbolizes Bill’s deep-seated psychological issues, with the buffalo trapped inside, reflecting Bill’s own mental entrapment.

Exploring the Link between Buffalo and Buffalo Bill

The buffalo also acts as a tangible representation of Buffalo Bill’s internal transformation desires. His longing for their skin symbolizes his wish to cast off his existing identity and adopt a new one.

A Cycle of Death and Rebirth

Buffalo is often linked to death and rebirth in Native American mythology. This association echoes Buffalo Bill’s perverse desire to kill and be reborn as a woman, reinforcing the symbolic tie between him and the buffalo.

Buffalo and Gender Ambiguity

The selection of buffalo as a symbol also connects with the gender identity theme. Buffalo Bill’s identity confusion is reflected in the gender uncertainty of buffalos, where males and females are visually indistinguishable.

Comparing Moth and Buffalo Symbolism

Besides the buffalo, The Silence of the Lambs also uses the Death’s Head Hawkmoth as a recurring symbol with similarities to the buffalo symbolism.

Lamb Symbolism: A Contrast

In stark juxtaposition to the buffalo and moth’s ominous symbolism, lambs symbolize purity and vulnerability in the movie. They represent Agent Starling’s past trauma and her ongoing quest to protect the innocent.


The Silence of the Lambs skillfully employs symbols like the buffalo to enrich its narrative and character development. The buffalo stands as a compelling metaphor for transformation and identity, mirroring Buffalo Bill’s internal conflict and desires. It is through these symbols that the film succeeds in conveying intricate themes in a captivating and thought-provoking way.

symbolism of the buffalo in The Silence of the Lambs

For more insights into the character development in the film, refer to this analysis on Jodie Foster’s portrayal of Clarice Starling.

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