32 pages 1 hour read

Annie Proulx

Brokeback Mountain

Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1997

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Symbols & Motifs

Brokeback Mountain

Content Warning: This section mentions anti-gay prejudice.

Brokeback Mountain symbolizes the idealized life and love that Jack and Ennis never realize. It is the backdrop against which Ennis watches Jack “moving across a high meadow as an insect moves across a tablecloth” (259), and Jack sees Ennis “as night fire, a red spark on the huge black mass of mountain” (259). Though such descriptions suggest humans’ insignificance in the face of nature, there is some comfort in this: The men feel invisible on the mountain, “flying in the euphoric, bitter, air, looking down on the hawk’s back […] suspended above ordinary affairs” (262).

In reality, Ennis and Jack aren’t “invisible”; Aguirre sees them together. The mountain feels like a refuge, but like all the refuges they find, its safety is an illusion. After leaving the mountain, they return to it emotionally but never physically. The description of the mountain as they leave it foreshadows that the life it represents will be forever unattainable: “The mountain boiled with demonic energy, glazed with flickering broken-cloud light” (263).


The shirts hanging in Jack’s childhood closet, one fitted within the other, symbolize his and Ennis’s love for each other and its secrecy.