“Brokeback Mountain” by Annie Proulx

I read Annie Proulx’s short story “Brokeback Mountain” as a part of a class that I’m taking on multicultural librarianship.  It can be found in Proulx’s anthology “Close Range:  Wyoming Stories.”

When I started reading, I didn’t know entirely what to expect.  I hadn’t seen the movie before, although I had heard that it was about gay cowboys.  I’ve never been that keen on cowboy movies, so I never bothered to see it.

“Brokeback Mountain” is a far more powerful story than I expected.  The two main characters, Ennis and Jack, meet while working as ranch hands one summer, and develop a relationship.  Each thinks that he can go back to his normal life after the summer ends, only to find that life really isn’t that simple.  They each marry and try to have families, only to find that their marriages fail.  The two men continue meeting for summer camping trips as a last-ditch attempt to be together, realizing that it wouldn’t be safe for their relationship to be in the open.  The ending made me cry.

I think that one of the things that makes this story so powerful is that Ennis and Jack are just two lower-class rural guys who don’t stand out in any way.  Both of them seem like stereotypically masculine cowboys who just happen to be in love with each other.  They spend their lives seeking personal fulfillment, leading double lives out of concern for their own safety until tragedy strikes.  It’s a good choice for anyone interested in cowboys or reading stories with GLBT themes.

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Categories: Fiction, Short Stories, Western | Tags: , , , | 15 Comments

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15 thoughts on ““Brokeback Mountain” by Annie Proulx

  1. Ashley

    I saw the movie when it first came out, but hadn’t read the book until today. I, too, read it for a multicultural library course. The book is so much better than the movie (aren’t they always?); the writing is so beautiful. I knew how it would end, and still cried. This is my first Proulx, but will not be my last.

    • I wasn’t sure quite what to expect when I read the story, but I didn’t imagine that it would be so breathtakingly beautiful.

  2. sclipman

    All the places mentioned in the story are real and can be found on a map. Why did she name the story “Brokeback Mountain” when that place is fictional?

    • I don’t know; what I do know is that the story is generally found in the collection “Close Range: Wyoming Stories” which consists of a variety of stories set within the same general geographic area.

  3. I have never read this, but I have seen the movie. I haven’t actually read anything by Proulx before, but I have books by her on my TBR pile.

  4. Richard

    I don’t really read this stuff. I read it, but I did not enjoy it. I hate most westerners and I hate cowboys.

    I know I might get attacked on this, but I came into reading this short-story of thinking that one or both will die by the stories end. Since most stories I read follow the same formula of how one dies and leaves the reader reflects of how society behaves and functions.

    I never seen the movie.

    • I thought that the story was well-written and sad. I think the ambiguity of how Jack died said more about society than if she would have explicitly stated what happened to him.

  5. brolee

    Proulx’s writing is on my TBR list that never seems to end. Hopefully, I’ll find my way there eventually. I have seen the movie and it just destroys me how much social ‘norms’ and other societal constraints interfere and direct our happiness. Have really enjoyed reading your blog!

    • Thanks! I wonder how the book and the movie compare. I felt that the story was incredibly tragic for all parties involved, and sad that Ennis and Jack could never actually be together as a couple. The implied hate crime made the ending so much more upsetting.

  6. i know i’m missing out, but i really try and avoid all forms of literature and film that make me cry. not because i’m ashamed of crying or anything (because i still cry everytime i watch the Return of the King), but just because i’d rather be laughing.

    • Generally I do as well. There’s enough depressing shit that happens in real life for me to have no desire to watch sad movies or read sad books. My one frustration with the class that I’m taking on multicultural librarianship is that nearly every one of the titles that we’ve had to read or films that we’ve had to watch has been massively sad/depressing. It’s annoying as hell, especially since I read a lot on public transportation or lunch break, or otherwise public places.

  7. Nice review of a truly beautiful book.

  8. I hate when a good story gets so “hyped” that it drives people (me) away. I don’t know if it is my inner teenager saying “well, if that many people say they like it, I’m not jumping on the bandwagon,” or if I would just rather discover it myself. Someday I’ll read this. 😉

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