32 pages 1 hour read

Annie Proulx

Brokeback Mountain

Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1997

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Masculine Sexuality and the Forbidden Love of Queer Romance

The primary and most obvious theme in “Brokeback Mountain” is one of forbidden love, a common subject in literature. This story combines the familiar trope with the struggles and expectations of masculine sexuality and the cultural obstacles inherent in queer romance. The characters contend with both society’s heteronormality and toxic masculinity and with the internal struggle to conform to such cultural norms.

Ennis and Jack live in late 20th-century rural Wyoming, a culture that accepts and even celebrates toxic masculinity and anti-gay sentiment. Growing up with families that are uncaring, absent, or abusive leaves both men with an unfulfilled need for love but a simultaneous difficulty recognizing or expressing it. Even 20 years into the relationship, Jack can’t quite articulate what he wants from it: “What Jack remembered and craved in a way he could neither help nor understand was the time […] when Ennis had come up behind him and pulled him close, the silent embrace satisfying some shared and sexless hunger” (276). Despite this masculine repression of emotion, they find companionship with each other on Brokeback Mountain, and they talk deep into the night, telling each other about their lives, offering opinions on ranches and rodeos, families and dreams.