Brokeback Mountain, by Annie Proulx (2005), is a love story, but it is much more than that - and it is not the typical story of what love and life mean. It is a painful story that brings discomfort to the reader and shows that same discomfort through the feelings and actions of the characters. Homosexuality is often a difficult point for discussion, and Proulx (2005) handles it well, but there is still something disconcerting about it to many people, and to the characters themselves. When it comes to society, it is naturally seen that a gay relationship between two men would not be accepted properly, especially during the time period where the story is told and between men who epitomize what it means to be "manly" with their jobs and ways of life. The two meet when they are late into adolescence, and through the telling of the story they age another 20 years. Their love is very human and very real, but the main problem with it is two-fold: society cannot accept it, and the men themselves cannot accept it. It is the latter part of the issue that proves the most destructive.
Their affair is lifelong, but at nearly every turn there is something that stops them from being together in the way they would like. There are societal constraints, of course (Proulx, 2005). There is the issue of what people would think and how differently they would have to live their lives if they were to be true to themselves and each other. They have more to deal with than just society, though, because they struggle to accept their homosexuality and they are not able to really admit their love for one another. If they could accept both of these things, they would be able to get past what society would think of them. They have to conquer their own problems before they can conquer something that is outside of their sphere of influence and over which they have no control.
Many stories (both books and short stories) that have been written about gay relationships are far different from Brokeback Mountain. For example, many of them are sunny and happy, and they portray many gay men as flighty, giggly, and highly feminine. They also portray them as being comfortable with their own sexuality, which is something that this story does not provide. These are rugged men who focus on getting back to the land. They work on farms and ranches, they are cowboys, and they are as far from "giggly" as is possible to get. Because they are so different from the "Hollywood" depiction of gay men, the story comes across as though it is uncomfortable with the gay relationship and that both men are also very uncomfortable with the relationship they have with one another. Many stories of gay relationships show men who are gay coexisting peacefully with men who are straight, but for Jack and Ennis it is clear that this will not be the case. They will not give up anything to the world, because the world can then take that and use it against them (Proulx, 2005).
They see the world as something that will fight back against them if they admit to who they truly are, and they see the world as being so big and powerful that they know it will always win. What is the point of fighting at all, if there is no way to win? Instead of arguing with society about acceptance, they quietly hide who they really are to everyone but each other. If they are not able to "come out" and be successful in that endeavor, they will choose to remain hidden so that they do not have to fear what society will say about them (Proulx, 2005). The story shows what intolerance will bring, but it is more than that. It is also the story of everyone and how they treat minority groups. Yes, there are success stories, but what about the people who get lost in the shuffle during the journey? How are they treated, and why are they marginalized? This is something to which Jack and Ennis "speak" even though they do not say a word about that specific issue.
The story begins in 1963, and the tolerance for homosexual behavior was far different during that time than it is today. Most people who are gay can live their lives today, but in 1963 they had to stay hidden. A large number of them got married to those of the opposite sex. They had children and careers. Whether they had dalliances with those of the same sex is only speculation, of course, because it was not something that was discussed. It is highly possible that many gay people at that time did not even admit to themselves that there were issues they needed to face with their sexuality. There has been a large impact from the gay rights movement, but that is completely muted for the story, which returns the reader to a time where "gay" meant happy and people kept "different" sexuality to themselves. The state in which the story takes place may or may not matter, but it seems as though it does affect how people respond to issues they face in their communities.
Wyoming is a very rural area, and Jack and Ennis understand that they cannot be accepted there. However, they live there (not together) and have no intentions of moving. It is home. The 50s have passed, but the sexual revolution has yet to take place. There is not much rock and roll, and life is still strict, rigid, and family oriented in a way that will never allow gay relationships to be accepted. By the time the story ends, the 70s and 80s have passed Jack and Ennis by. In Wyoming, though, nothing has changed. The place is still the same as it ever was, and Ennis uses an actual closet to store relics of his love for Jack. Most straight people do not think of gay people in this manner. They think of TV shows that star them, and they think of them being different but accepted. The way they are portrayed is not at all like the way they are portrayed in Brokeback Mountain, where the tragedy of gay love can be seen and understood much more clearly than in other stories where the problems faced by gay men in rural states are glossed over.
It seems like most people who focus on gay relationships in stories and movies do so in a cheerful, happy way. They avoid problems that might be seen, and they make sure they do not talk about the serious issues that are faced by those who are not straight and who cannot get accepted for who they are. Even today, there are gay people who are not accepted in some circles. They will never be accepted and understood, and there will always be homophobia in some areas of the country and some groups of people. This is not something that can be stopped or avoided, because it is up to the individuals who feel this way to make changes - and many of them have no desire to do so. The feeling in the story is one of dread (Proulx, 2005). There is always something lurking in the background, as the paranoia faced by Jack and Ennis increases. They know that being caught in their feelings and love for one another could mean their jobs, families, communities, and even their lives.
It was not unheard of during that time in history for hate crimes to be perpetuated against people who seemed to be different from others. If they were ever assumed to be gay, even if it were an untrue assumption, they could end up with serious problems. They must go out of their way to hide their secret and avoid having anyone think that they are different in any way from the other ranchers and cowboys they know (Proulx, 2005). Part of the way the problems are emphasized for the two men is in the place where they live. The openness and freedom that come with the wide-open spaces of Wyoming is a direct play against the close-mindedness of the community and the way in which Jack and Ennis must keep their closely-guarded secrets to themselves. Naturally, the men want to be free to be themselves, but they know that they are not able to do so - and what is more tragic is that they know they will not ever be able to do so. That is the most important point for them, is that there will not be a point in the future when things might change for them.
What the story really shows is that love does not conquer all, and that there are circumstances and societal issues that can be more significant than how a person feels about another person. It also shows how…