The title of the movie “Brokeback Mountain” is itself symbolic as it is the name of the mountain where Ennis and Jack worked together when they first met. “Brokeback Mountain” represents all the memories the two cowboys had together and where their intimacy and love for each other deepened.
The plot of this short story mirrors many experiences that gays have had to deal with in today’s society, such as banding gay marriages or homosexual hate crimes. There have been many incidents where homosexuals have been threatened, abused, and even killed because people don’t agree with their lifestyles.
The protagonist of the story are Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar. Proulx gives a good description of both stating “They were raised on small, poor ranches in opposite corners of the state, Jack Twist in Lightning Flat, up on the Montana border, Ennis del Mar from around Sage, near the Utah line, both high school drop-out country boys with no prospects, brought up to hard work and privation, both rough mannered, rough spoken, inured to the stoic life"(Proulx 74.)
The antagonist of the story would be the locals and society for killing Jack because they didn’t find it acceptable for a man to be living with another man. I think both Ennis and Jack changed because they were both very masculine, rough, cowboys who had never been with a man before until they had a sexual encounter with each other and realized they were in love. This change is very believable because there are many people in our society today who are homosexual, marry their partners, and even take pride in being gay.
Proulx describes a sequence of events from a beginning point in time, when the characters are introduced in the year 1963 in Wyoming, to the end of the story nearly 20 years later. Throughout the story, Ennis and Jack reunite for brief liaisons on camping trips in remote settings over the course of 20 years.
Proulx uses setting details to heighten the thematic significance of the story. The most effective use of setting as symbol occurs when she juxtaposes harsh and beautiful images of the landscape's cruel beauty to suggest the difficult nature of Ennis's and Jack's relationship. The point of view of the story is third person omniscient. The narration is real in tone and employs description and dialogue to examine the actions, emotions and thoughts of the characters.
The external conflict of the story is Man versus Society. Jack and Ennis must hide their relationship because of its immoral content. Thus, they live a life hiding from their true feelings. At times they even tried to deny their nature. Because of the threat of being ostracized and possible killed, these men led a life separate from their love for one another. In the end, their prejudice, along with everyone else’s, killed Jack. The internal conflict of the story is Man versus Himself.
Proulx sketches a picture of two men who live in a constant struggle with their ideas of morality and presents a devastating study of Jack and Ennis’ subsequent struggle with both their families and their work as they try to come to terms with their sexual relationship.
In exploring the intimacies and sexual pleasures emerging from this masculine world, Proulx captures the destruction and isolation, which comes from both men’s disapproval of their homosexual tendencies. Proulx identifies this conflict when she writes, “There was some open space between what he knew and what he tried to believe, but nothing could be done about it, and if you can’t fix it you’ve got to stand it” (Proulx 79). Throughout the story the reader sees Jack and Ennis deal with the fact that they do not approve of their own feelings. The moral norm in the American West was that homosexuals are perverts.
Brokeback Mountain in American cinema and tradition
Brokeback Mountain compelled its audience to reconsider their conceptions of the American myth with the Wild West Frontier and persistent male or heterosexual cowboys as it was established in traditional films such as Western Stagecoach (1939), In The Star Dust (1956), The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence (1962) and The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976) with the great American cowboy icon John Wayne and Clint Eastwood. With two gay cowboys seems to be a direct attack on the beloved traditional Western genre and its importance to American identity. The visual image of two men, cowboys and predominantly male, having sex seems to be too bitter a pill to swallow for some segments of the U.S. population. Thus, real life cowboy Jim-Bob Zimmerschied, living in rural Wyoming, strongly opposed the film by saying that "They've gone and killed John Wayne with this film" and "there is not no queer cowboy.” Many of his fellow ranchers and cowboys clearly seemed to agree. The film has also attracted the disapproval of representatives of the religious men who said that the film eroded the real moral code traditional westerns, for their part does not display an ambiguous attitude towards the concept of masculinity and sexuality as such. David Kupelian, World Net Daily editor for the film attacked for damaging American identity, because according him, homosexuality is a way of life against nature, sinful, and destructive.( McMurtry and Ossana, 2006)
Much of the film criticism as in the case of The Celluloid Closet has been dedicated to bringing to light gross injustices being done to queer people. Apparently, the Celluloid Closet was preoccupied with the political themes. In his documentary, Rossu set out to expose and criticize the marginalization and demonization being intensified by Hollywood films. The fact remains that Rossu while drawing on the politics of his time provided no room for ambiguity which was later to be celebrated. However his documentary may be defined as defining moment in the change of American cinema. Coupled with the influence of The Celluloid Closet, Brokeback Mountain represented a major culture shift in American cinema and tradition.
Ennis lives his adult life plagued by the remembrance of a man who was brutally killed because people thought him to be a homosexual. In essence these two live a life that could have been a lot happier if there weren’t prejudices that prevented them from being together. What I find most interesting is that it wasn’t other people’s prejudices that kept them apart; these men are kept apart by their own morals. They truly believed that their homosexuality was immoral.
It can be argued that Brokeback Mountain is primarily a story of love between people from a rural America, very different from that shown in western movies. The both characters enjoy a company which is often rough and poor made of loneliness and frustration.
Jack and Ennis fall prey to the traditions and conventions of their time which is further heightened by their failure to conform to the norm of a homophobic society they were part of. However the fact remain that the movie has received special attention for treating seriously the theme of homosexual love.
This basic conflict is made in an amended version continues among two main characters, because Jack is not only dark-skinned and dark-haired, he wears dark clothing too. Ennis, however, corresponds even the appearance of the image of the North European, since it is not just blond and white, he also wears much lighter clothing, as Jack. One can therefore understand that friendship as a friendship between the original and immigrant population, as occurs frequently in the Western tradition.
Daniel Mendelsohn suggests in the New York Review of Books that ‘there’s no such thing as a typical gay person, a strangely different-seeming person with whom Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar have nothing in common.’
It may be discouraging to see that most gay characters in popular culture approve of a certain stereotype. Moreover, these characters do not partake in the gamut of life experiences such as building lives and homes and trying to realize their dreams.
Ennis and Jack must continuously reaffirm their masculinity and demonstrate that they are ‘real’ men and that we should care about their love. Eventually, though, it is a love that dare not show itself—not in 1960s Wyoming, and certainly not in modern mainstream cinema. (Stowell, 2009)
Proulx, Annie (1997) "Brokeback Mountain." The New Yorker 13 Oct 74-85
Mccurthy, Larry, Ossana, Dianna (2006) Medium Cool, Harper Perennial, London, 130.
Stowell, Steven (2006) A Gay Love Story in The Oxinian Review of Books, volume 5, issue 2
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