32 pages 1 hour read

Annie Proulx

Brokeback Mountain

Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1997

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Literary Devices


Proulx’s approach to the characters and the world they live in is naturalistic. The characters’ surroundings—their environment, their family, their society, etc.—determine to a large extent the direction their lives take and the experiences they have. Both Ennis and Jack are uneducated and come from struggling families on “small, poor ranches” (256). Ennis was also orphaned at an early age. These conditions—poverty, lack of familial support, lack of education, a culture that condemns their sexual relationship—shape the characters in ways they are never able to escape. While the story ends with the small triumph of Ennis finally accepting his relationship with Jack, the world within which he lives is still harsh and unsupportive. As is often the case, the story’s naturalism intertwines with a sense of Powerlessness and Loss of Hope.

Setting and Imagery

The story’s setting is Wyoming, and its imagery focuses mostly on the backcountry where Ennis and Jack repeatedly find each other. Proulx’s descriptions capture both the brutality of the land and its beauty. A description of “a lightning storm on the mountain the year before that killed forty-two sheep” comes shortly before an image of “banded pebbles and crumbs of soil cast[ing] sudden pencil-long shadows and rearing lodgepole pines below them massed in slabs of somber malachite” (257, 258).