32 pages 1 hour read

Annie Proulx

Brokeback Mountain

Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1997

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Story Analysis

Analysis: “Brokeback Mountain”

Content Warning: This section discusses anti-gay bias, including hate crimes.

Forbidden love, the primary theme of “Brokeback Mountain,” is common in literature. Rather than class, race, marital status, or family feuds, it is the hyper-heteronormative world of late 20th-century rural Wyoming that thwarts the central relationship: Masculine Sexuality and the Forbidden Love of Queer Romance are front and center. While the primary obstacle is anti-gay bias, such bigotry takes place within a context of toxic masculinity that poses its own problems. With families that are either nonexistent (as in Ennis’s case) or absent and uncaring (as in Jack’s), the two men yearn for love and companionship. However, neither recognizes this desire until they meet one another because society so discourages male emotional expression of any kind. The sexual/romantic aspect of the relationship places it even further outside the bounds of what society deems acceptable. Consequently, Ennis and Jack can physically express their love only when they are literally outside of culture—i.e., in nature. Brokeback Mountain and their infrequent backcountry trips allow them to experience the love and companionship they have found with each other.

Partly for this reason, setting figures prominently in the story.