Symbols are objects, characters, figures, and colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts.

Hats, Radios, and Flashlights

Each character wears, and cherishes, some type of headgear reflective of his personality. For example, Lally one and Lally two wore matching cowboy hats; Cotton, whose aspirations included becoming a general, wore a military hat; Shecker wore a backwards golf hat signed by Arnold Palmer; Teft wore an Africa Corps hat; and Goodenow wore a Hopi headband. They also each possess a radio, on which they rely for a relief from the solitude and for comfort in falling asleep, and a flashlight, to avoid the frightening darkness. However, as a symbol of their maturity as well as their commitment to the release of the buffaloes, they sacrifice these amenities to successfully startle the buffalo out of the pens.

Box Canyon Boys Camp

Box Canyon Boys Camp represents the society at large, as well as its problems and trends. As Swarthout criticizes the camp's cruel spirit of competition, its misconstrued Western values, and its definition of masculinity, he simultaneously criticizes the broader society for these trends.


The symbol of the buffalo provides a narrative both of the history of the American West and of the Bedwetters' struggles. In addition, Swarthout employs the buffalo to illustrate the cruelty man demonstrates toward the weak and powerless.