Brokeback Mountain Film
The Neglected Victim: Alma and her Agony
In the short story, Brokeback Mountain, by Annie Proulx, page 11 describes Alma’s one encounter with Jack. After witnessing her husband kiss another man, she faces them both quietly and uncomfortably, but does not otherwise convey any dramatic emotion and remains surprisingly collected. She attempts to stop Ennis once when she gets money so that he can buy her cigarettes and come home, but Ennis shuts her down before she can even ask. In the movie version by Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana, Alma is still quiet and uncomfortable. However, she also speaks with much more emotion than the story implied. At the moment she witnesses the kiss, her mouth opens slightly, her eyes widen, and she begins to shake. Once Jack begins talking about his children, Alma appears to be just as incredulous and heartbroken. She nods furiously and can hardly force words out, but once she realizes they’re leaving she walks quickly behind Ennis to catch him and ask him to buy her cigarettes. He cuts her off and she is left standing in the doorway alone, looking after them. Then, after Ennis and Jack’s rendezvous, the movie adds a scene where Ennis returns, only to leave Alma again for a “fishing trip” with Jack. On Ennis’ arrival Alma sits at a table in pajamas with disheveled hair while wiping away tears. She sits up when she hears him and follows him to the other room; she then discovers that he and Jack are leaving again. Ennis blows past Alma and immediately begins packing, while Alma tries to convince him to invite Jack inside. She asks Ennis if he might be fired if he leaves, to which he replies that his boss owes him a favor. Then, one of their young daughters runs in and asks Ennis to bring her a fish. Ennis kisses the child and hands her to Alma, then turns back and briefly kisses Alma before he walks out the door, leaving Alma crying with a child in her arms. The film shows Jack and Ennis leaving with the sound of Alma’s tears in the background.
McMurtry and Ossana’s devastating and sympathetic portrayal of Alma establishes Ennis as a controversial and condemnable character once he abandons her with their two daughters. Contrastingly, the short story heavily sympathizes with Ennis and his forbidden romance over his only-briefly-described family. Although Ennis is the most commonly recognized victim as the main character, the film’s focus on Alma’s sadness and hardship criticizes Ennis’ ignorance towards his family and interestingly portrays Alma as the clear victim in the relationship.
In the short story, Proulx glosses over many of Alma’s reactions with brief and passive descriptions, causing her sorrow and loss to be overlooked and quickly forgotten. After Alma sees Jack and Ennis kiss, Ennis returns and introduces his lover to his wife. Proulx writes, “ ‘Sure enough,’ said Alma in a low voice. She had seen what she had seen” (SS 11). Not only is Alma able to reply in a calm manner, but “she had seen what she had seen” implies she must make peace with the kiss and move on, as she will never be able to forget it. Of course Alma isn’t happy, but speaking in “a low voice” is not a dramatic reaction. Alma’s passiveness and the subtle suggestion for her to move on glosses over her pain and sense of loss, and does not victimize her in any way. Then, Ennis and Jack begin to have a conversation; meanwhile the only description given of Alma is that her, “mouth twitched” (SS 11). The twitch suggests discomfort and anger, but because of the only brief description of this passive behavior, it also does not warrant much sympathy. Finally, Alma gets money and calls after him: “ ‘Ennis—‘ said Alma in her misery voice, but that didn’t slow him down on the stairs and he called back ‘Alma you want smokes there’s some in the pocket a my blue shirt in the bedroom’ ” (SS 11). Alma calls after Ennis, but she does not run after him or make any physical effort to stop him. There is also “misery” in her voice, but more than this one word is not used to describe her emotion. Alma’s submissive sadness and lack of movement display that she recognizes and almost accepts her inability to stop her husband, and the bitter toll that the loss of her husband’s presence and care should have on her is therefore overlooked. Once again, Alma is portrayed as pitifully passive and the reader is instead able to rejoice that Jack and Ennis have found each other after four years.
The film and screenplay include many emotional details such as crying and dramatic facial expressions to express the suffering Ennis has caused Alma by neglecting his family and ultimately display Alma as the victim in the marriage. Once Alma witnesses the kiss, “She backs away from the front door a step or two, pale, struggling, trying to take in what she has just witnessed” (SP 47). This description includes dramatic motion and emotion, and lots of it; the words “pale” and “struggling” exhibit a true sense of shock. Michelle Williams’ expresses surprise and traumatization by widening her eyes and opening her mouth while beginning to shake slightly. Her breathtaking performance matches the exciting screenplay, but both cause the audience to more vividly sympathize with Alma and her loss, which was not present in the story. This sympathy becomes linked to a disappointment in Ennis due to his rude treatment towards her and their children, portraying Alma as a victim. Alma is also described as “having aged a few years”(SP 47) and “stone faced” (SP 47). The aging implies a sad and weathered condition, while her “stone face” depicts anger, which Alma never expressed so outrightly in the story. The clear expression of emotion makes the audience more emotional on her behalf. Finally, once she realizes the two are leaving together, Alma actively goes after Ennis to ask him to buy cigarettes so that he will return to her, but he responds negatively and closes the door in her face, leaving Alma to stand alone in the shadows. The physical action of chasing after Ennis demonstrates a much more passionate love and care for him than exhibited in the book, and the utter rejection is tragic.
Alma’s loneliness and unrequited love emphasized by her expressive longing in facial expressions and attempt to bring Ennis back to her make her a relatable and sympathetic character, while Ennis’ harsh treatment of her makes him increasingly detested. Then, Ennis comes back to Alma only to leave again. Alma’s dismal appearance upon Ennis’ arrival warrants sympathy; her disheveled hair and pajamas demonstrate her lack of sleep and her tears demonstrate the terrible sorrow Ennis has caused her. As Ennis walks in he moves right past her without even a greeting. Alma states “Your friend could come inside, have a cup of coffee… we ain’t poison or nothin’” (50). Her attempt hinder Ennis’ rushing to buy more time with him shows her care and sense of solitude, especially as she is willing to spend time with Jack if it means Ennis will stay. Her strategic “we” could be referring to herself and the girls, or the family as a whole, which he is of course included in. Reminding Ennis of his family is a subtle way of convincing him to stay, as he has an obligation and is a part of their lives. Alma even tries to convince him further by asking, “You sure that foreman won’t fire you for taking off?”(SP 50). However, Ennis disregards both of her attempts and simply continues packing without giving her so much as a glance. This neglect and ignorance towards his family taints the image of the sweet and confused Ennis the audience has come to know so far.
These first rather dramatic, controversial actions display the usual victim, Ennis, as harsh and rude, while Alma bravely suffers throughout their relationship. Final heartbreak for the audience arrives when Alma Jr. “hears her father’s voice, stumbles out of the bedroom, rubs sleep out of her eyes” and says, “Bring me a fish, Daddy, a big fish” (SP 50). The innocent child watching her father leave brings upon a feeling of sorrow and anger towards Ennis for abandoning his family. The combination of her “stumbl[ing]” and cute voice are impossible not to sympathize with, and so Alma and the children are the poor victims, only given an awkward kiss before their loved one disappears to the man he values more. The final shot of Alma crying with Alma Jr. in her arms only solidifies a disapproval of Ennis. McMurtry and Ossana’s incredibly tragic and sympathetic portrayal of Alma ultimately creates a new victim in the story, one not present in the original text, all the while oddly depicting the suffering main character as the culprit.
Interaction of Food with Power and Masculinity within “Pariah” and “Brokeback Mountain”
Scenes involving food and male characters from both Dee Rees’ Pariah (2011) and Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain (2005) help to elaborate on and explain relationships that both Arthur (Charles Parnell) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) hold with other characters as well as their own masculinity within the films. Using cinematic cues, types of food, and who is preparing the meals, the films invite their audiences to understand how masculine ideals are used through food to dictate power. To illustrate this, one can use the scene from Pariah where Arthur sits down to a post-work Sunday meal amidst a family argument, and the scene from Brokeback Mountain wherein Jack Twist competes with wife Lureen Newsome’s (Anne Hathaway) father, L.D. Newsome (Graham Beckel) over the Thanksgiving spread.
Within Pariah, Arthur and Audrey’s (Kim Wayans) unequal relationship is solidified through food. This relationship is especially defined by assumptions of power and gender norms. This begins to appear early on the film, in the scene where Audrey is arguing with Alike (Adepero Oduye) over what she should and should not wear to church. A short scene, one may assume that not much is offered regarding Arthur and Audrey’s relationship within the approximately one minute long exchange. However, the first clue to the amount of work this scene does to establish the unhappy marital connection is in how the scene is composed. Focusing on the part of the scene where Arthur is shown, there is an obvious power differential between him and the other characters featured. When he arrives home, the camera is unfocused on his figure until both Audrey and Alike rush towards him. When he does become clear and within the frame, he is in the center of the shot. This forces the viewer to see him as the subject of the shot, despite the various other characters. Juxtaposed to this, Alike is aligned to the left of the shot while shown talking and similarly Audrey is pushed to the right side of the frame, which allows the viewer to focus on the entire rest of the frame. Audrey is only shown in the center of the frame before serving Audrey a plate, and immediately after doing so the rest of the shots feature her to the side. To further this point, when Arthur is featured on the screen, he is the only face viewable. While eating, Audrey stands to his left but her entire body from her shoulders up is cut off from view. Her stance is passive, with her arms hanging limply and her body angled towards Arthur. These choices encourage the viewer to see Arthur as the center of the scene and therefore more visible than other characters, which establishes that he holds power over them.
The scene presented of power struggles over food in Brokeback Mountain differs slightly in that Jack Twist is not presented as having pre-established power over the other characters in the scene, but instead shows the struggle he goes through to gain such power. The scene is especially interesting to dissect for hints of a masculine dominance struggle, as it is a show down between two men rather than a patriarch figure over the female members of his family. The scene begins by placing both Jack and L.D., Lureen’s father, at the same height and viewable in the same shot. As L.D. takes over carving the turkey, Jack is shown sitting down submissively. This change in height is emphasized by having L.D.’s body still visible as Jack sits down, and the close shot on Jack’s reaction forces the audience to acknowledge that this has challenged him. This shot serves as a kind of power transfer, wherein the “stud duck,” L.D. takes over the masculine role of powerful patriarch, and Jack is forced to be submissive to his authority. As the scene progresses and Jack goes to turn off the TV to prevent son Bobby from being transfixed, he takes his height back and stands up and is momentarily on the same power level as L.D. yet again. This prompts a response from L.D., who uses his height and power to reverse Jack’s decision as well as his attempt to act on masculine authority. Jack’s standing up is emphasized by the production team as a direct power grab by the choice to have L.D.’s disapproving stare focused on Jack not as he begins to stand in his chair, but instead on the space to where Jack stands up into. There is also a longer shot as Jack walks back to the table where he crosses over where L.D. is standing and they match up at the same height, symbolizing that he has directly challenged his father-in-law’s power. Along with this, Jack continues to sit down despite seeing L.D. heading towards the T.V. both the first and second time he has gotten up. As if the symbolism of height and standing up versus sitting down was not yet fully solidified by the scene, Jack tells L.D. to literally “sit down” in the process of reclaiming his own masculine power. He rocks back and forth on his chair in apparent range, but this also signals that he is fighting with the ability to stand up, which would reclaim his power. L.D. is shown sitting down prior to Jack getting up to carve the turkey, proving that the “stud duck” position had to be relinquished before another could take its place and signifying this shift through the change in heights within frame. In these ways, the cinematic composition of this scene from Brokeback Mountain is discussing deeper themes of power and masculinity through food rituals.
Another strong negotiator of power struggles and gender norms within the same scene of Pariah is the kind of food Arthur is eating. Audrey serves him spaghetti, and although it is not wrapped in foil the audience safely assumes that it is leftovers which she has taken time to save for him. This establishes power for Arthur, as he is not responsible for cooking his own meals. Audrey is acting out an expectation of wives to cook for their husbands, and Arthur is cooperating with that power negotiation. Although it is not necessarily demeaning to cook for a spouse, there is a certain level of expectation shown by Arthur that leads the audience to believe that Audrey is not merely doing a nice thing for her husband out of love, but because the established power differential they have as husband and wife. Despite Audrey offering to heat up the meal, Arthur refuses and instead opts to eat it cold. For an audience enculturated to understand that women and men see food differently, this choice reinforces Arthur as a rugged image of masculinity. By not heating his meal up, not seeming to want to enjoy his food fully, Arthur is acting out a cultural expectation of men to see food as strictly filling or nutritious, as opposed to women who look to food as comforting and ritualistic. As expressed within “Food for Feminist Thought” by Nickie Charles and Marion Kerr, women struggle with a contradictory relationship with food where they are simultaneously supposed to deny themselves food, while also being “[led] to resort to food as a comfort” (558). This relationship between women and food means that by Arthur neither denying himself food nor looking for comfort in his meal, he is rejecting a feminine relationship with food and reinforcing a masculine identity. In a similar way of buying into gender expectations, Arthur is enjoying a messy dish which women are famously taught to never order on a first date. Furthering this idea, if it is assumed that the spaghetti is made with a meat sauce, Arthur is embracing and encouraging yet another masculine expectation of men and food. As observed by Luanne Roth within “Beyond Communitas: Cinematic Food Events and the Negotiation of Power, Belonging, and Exclusion”, “Meat manifests as a symbol of male dominance in this cinematic scene, a celebration of patriarchy itself” (171). By embracing meat in his meal, Arthur is adding yet another layer of masculinity to his lunch. Through these specifics of the meal Arthur’s masculinity continues to be built up by his food choices.
In Brokeback Mountain, the symbolism of the Thanksgiving spread is multifold for Jack’s power and masculinity. The most important part of the scene and the meal is the large turkey, which is brought to the table by Jack. The turkey holds powerful imagery for the audience, who associates the filling dish with a head of household able to provide for their family. The process of turkey carving has long established itself as an important task for the patriarch of the family. As explained by Luanne Roth within “Sexing the Turkey: Gender Politics and the Construction of Turkey Sexuality”, “within the matrix of American culture, carving the turkey is the patriarchal prerogative of (heterosexual) males” (136). This is possibly born, in part, from antiquated traditions of large game being served to community members by the hunter to take the animal down. Although the message is not the same for modern viewers who hunt less and stop at grocery stores more, the connotation of power behind being able to feed a large family remains. The importance of the turkey is solidified by how often Jack is featured in frame with just the bird. While sitting down, the bird is often slightly in front and to the right of Jack’s gaze. The most filling part of the Thanksgiving meal, Jack is obviously focused on the bird, which becomes, as explained by Roth, “an object over which masculinity is negotiated” (137). The fact that the focused dish is turkey, as opposed to mashed potatoes or cranberry sauce, reaffirms that the scene is about men and masculinity. Despite supposedly not cooking any of the dishes, Jack’s symbolic labor is materialized through presenting the bird at the table and through whoever carves it. Due to all of the subversive connotations of the carving rituals, the argument that ensues between Jack and L.D. begins to clarify as a battle for patriarchal power. The importance of their argument being over televised football, a sport wrought with violence, is a discussion beyond the scope of this paper.
Another important aspect that contributes to the manifestation of Arthur’s masculine position within the scene from Pariah is the inferences behind Audrey preparing the dish. Throughout the film, the audience is introduced to the fact that Audrey routinely saves meals for Arthur, who is often away from home. Only twice in the film is he shown to eat a meal with the full family, and both scenes are wrought with family strife and tension. The fact Audrey cooks all of Arthur’s meals for him is embedded with normative gender implications. As explained earlier, it is expected of women within a westernized understanding of married life to provide meals for their husbands. The fact that Audrey has been doing so signals to the audience that she has prescribed to this, thus acting out an understanding of marriage that also emphasizes the power of the husband. Arthur’s refusal to eat these carefully preserved meals, as evidenced by him repeatedly bringing takeout home, ironically reaffirms his higher power status within the framework of marriage Audrey is operating within. By not partaking in an understanding of marriage where, despite being the patriarch, he is reliant on his wife for meals, Arthur is claiming his own independence from the family structure. This invalidates Audrey’s contributions and forces her out of any position of power within their relationship. The fact that Audrey also physically serves Arthur is also symbolic of his power. Within the scene, Audrey places the plate directly in front of him despite it being merely across the table, and also goes to grab him a beer on command. These images conjure up and reinforced typical masculine roles for the audience, who have been enculturated to identify with images of a servicing housewife placing dinner in front of her husband, while affirming his power over his wife.
For Brokeback Mountain, the important aspect of the preparation of food rests on the fact that despite the battle for dominance occurs over the action of carving, the entire meal has been prepared by wife Lureen. However, rather than being a part of the battle for dominance, she is immediately relegated from the discussion by the fact that she is a woman. The fact she remains seated throughout the Thanksgiving scene, along with her passive expressions during the angry exchange between men, is indicative of this. Power is not negotiated by who has put in actual labor, but rather on the symbolic labor of carving the turkey. Ignoring the battle for patriarchal power by Jack and L.D., the scene immediately denies Lureen power and transfers it to male identities. The fact she has prepared the spread is ignored by all characters in the scene in lieu of the symbolic work of her husband and father, thus negating any of her possible claims to power. This is in line with gendered expectations of married life at the Thanksgiving table, and thus reinforces the patriarchal power vested in the carving of the turkey.
Within both Pariah and Brokeback Mountain, power dynamics and gendered expectations of masculinity in relation to food and meals are strongly defined. Through the way that both Arthur and Jack interact with food such as how they are cinematically composed with meals, the kinds of foods they interact with, and who they are prepared and served by. The symbolism of food is multifaceted within films when defining factors of gender, as it lends itself to reinforcing behavioral expectations of men and women, and this function of cinematic food is clearly present within Pariah and Brokeback Mountain.
Charles, Nickie and Marion Kerr. “Food for Feminist Thought.” Sociological Review, vol. 34, no. 3, Aug. 1986, pp. 537-572. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1111/1467-954X.ep5473800.
Roth, Luanne. “Beyond Communitas: Cinematic Food Events and the Negotiation of Power Belonging, and Exclusion.” Western Folklore, vol. 64, no. 3/4, Summer/Fall2005, pp. 163-187. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=21216983&site=ehost-live.
Roth, Luanne. “Sexing the Turkey: Gender Politics and the Construction of Sexuality at Thanksgiving.” Unsettling Assumptions: Tradition, Gender, Drag. Boulder: Utah State U Press, 2014. N. pag. Print.
Proulx’s Brokeback Mountain and Lee’s Film Adaptation: Reconstructing the Myth of the Cowboy in the American West
Brokeback Mountain is a short story by Annie Proulx that touches upon social issues such as intolerance and gender stereotypes in the American West. Using the beauty but also the vast wilderness of the landscape of the American west and the stereotype of the cowboy, she subverts this romanticized image by exposing the great psychological and physical violence towards those who are different, something that although milder than it was in the past, is still an issue. In order to achieve the above, Proulx makes a very significant and meaningful choice of both the setting of the short story but also of the stereotype that her two main characters represent. The setting and its connotations are also highlighted in the film adaptation with the same title by Ang Lee (2005). The story is set in Wyoming which is a state that is closely associated with the American frontier and manifest destiny that hold a great significance for the American national identity and the westward expansion, all embodied in the stereotypical and even mythical image of the cowboy.
As O’Connor and Rollins point out, “indeed, throughout its history, American culture would be almost unimaginable without the West as a touchstone of national identity” (2). The idea of the frontier highlights the distinctive American characteristic of Man facing a vast and hostile nature but yet managing to survive through hard work, thriving and expanding against all difficulties, “it is a tale of conquest, but also one of survival, persistence, and the merging of peoples and cultures that gave birth and continuing life to America.” (Hine 10) It thus comes naturally that the people inhabiting this wild environment would learn to resemble it in traits and characteristics and be themselves tough, rough mannered, self-sufficient people capable of ‘getting the work done’ in order to survive, placing their faith in God and his plan as the first Puritan settlers did, finding order and organization through strict morality and rigid patriarchy. As the historian Turner indicates, in the American West “complex society is precipitated by the wilderness into a kind of primitive organization based on the family. The tendency is anti-social. It produces antipathy to control, and particularly to any direct control” (82). These characteristics are also those that are associated with the stereotype of the cowboy, “the great Western myth” (Asquith 78) that is historically tied with the state of Wyoming and as Nicholas points out, “the 1892 Johnson County war was, in many ways, a conflict over what kind of story Wyoming would tell about itself. In the years after the war, the booster, prosettlement narrative coexisted with that of the rugged individualist. However, it was the latter image, symbolized by the cowboy that would become ascendant in the state’s portrayal of itself (xiii).
Wyoming then and the stereotype of the cowboy are used by Proulx in order to be criticized and subverted, presented as embodying a socially hostile environment that supresses people and takes a psychological toll on them. Both Ennis and Jack were “high school dropout country boys with no prospects, brought up to hard work and privation, both rough-mannered, rough-spoken, inured to the stoic life” (254). It is also significant that the film is subversive towards its own genre. The film industry played a very crucial role in the formation of the stereotype of the cowboy and the idyllic albeit violent west. As O’Connor and Rollins point out, “troughout our cultural history, Americans have been in awe of their frontier experience, and it has been rendered to comment on vital national issues, which it actually may have helped shape” (4). It is thus evident that for a film to portray two cowboys that are the opposite of the male gender identity of the west is very subversive and revolutionary and it comments on “the need to redefine the concept of the frontier in professional histories and in the public imagination (O’Connor and Rollins 262). Proulx got the idea for her story when she saw a man sitting alone in a bar and he seemed lonely and as though he was missing someone, “there was something in his expression, a kind of bitter longing which provided the germ for Ennis del Mar” (qtd. in Asquith 109). The other incident that inspired her was a week later when again in a bar she overheard the owner talking about a homosexual and how he was lucky that everyone was preoccupied with a tournament at the time, otherwise, “things would have gone badly”. After that, “she began to consider what it would have been like for any ill-informed, confused, not-sure-of-what-he-was-feeling youth growing up in rural Wyoming (qtd. in Asquith 77). Even though at first she was reluctant about her story’s adaptation by Ang Lee because she was afraid that he wouldn’t understand the complexity of her setting, after she saw the premier she admitted that her story “was not mangled but enlarged into huge and gripping imagery that rattled minds and squeezed hearts” (qtd. in Asquith 77). For Ennis and Jack, Brokeback Mountain is a safe haven away from the prejudiced society that they could never face because they themselves shared the same social taboos thus never being able to make the most important step towards changing the mind of the community, that is, accepting who they are and loving themselves. Being brought up with the strict values of an intolerant society by fathers that provided an unfulfilling and unloving parenting to their children, the only place they could feel free expressing themselves was nature.
Up in the mountains they felt like what they did and felt was natural because there was no one else there to judge them, “in the splendour and marginality of the untamed American landscape a freedom for male love to express itself away from social condemnation that” as Proulx has suggested, “enables them to challenge the gods, or, more prosaically, to defy both social convention and internal quibbles” (Asquith 80-81). This sense of nature being outside the social sphere and the eyes of the community turns out to be an illusion since the characters cannot escape the deep-rooted intolerance in the gaze of the community symbolized by “Aguirre, whose surveillance provides a constant reminder of social taboos (Asquith 82). The society seems to have a silent fear towards homosexuality, and apart from the violence that is narrated, the judgement is always in the gaze of the community and not manifested in speech, making it thus more ominous and dark.
Aguirre doesn’t say anything to Ennis and Jack and neither does Alma to her husband after the scene where “easily as the right key turns the lock tumblers, their mouths came together, […] and Alma looking out for a few seconds at Ennis’s straining shoulders […] shutting the door again” (263-264). This ominously inarticulate fear is also evident in Lureen’s “level voice” (277) that was “cold as snow” (278) and in Jack’s father who again “sat silent […] staring at Ennis with an angry, knowing expression (279) As Reumann suggests, “an elaborate system of fears regarding same-sex love pervaded the national culture and structured social relations” and he as he implies, “Americans’ violent repudiation of homosexuality hid a secret attraction” (191). Whether that interpretation is far-fetched or valid is debatable but one thing is for sure, that such a deep-rooted hatred that can lead to brutal acts of violence, cold-blood murder and torture cannot be something other than deep-rooted fear of the Other, of the different that could be a menace to homogeneity and the social status quo. That is probably the reason she chose this particular setting and as Asquith has noted: She decided to set the story in the early 1960s, presumably because such rural homophobia stood in stark contrast to the universal liberation sweeping the country’s cities, and also because Ennis and Jack would have grown up in the repressive 1950s. It was important for Proulx that they were clearly homophobic themselves, especially Ennis, and that they wanted to be cowboys – part of the great Western myth (78) The film has a great emphasis on the vastness of the western landscape and the untameable nature through the long scenes of the endless skies and horizons to highlight the impact of such a society on the individual. The reason that this image of the natural environment is so significant is because it is constantly contrasted with the inner selves of the characters that seem to be restricted and painfully inarticulate.
When the outer world seems to explode, the inner self implodes violently due to the emotions that have to be restrained and suppressed. This destructive force of inarticulate emotions is manifested in the scene where the characters part and Ennis has a physical reaction against what he considers shameful unnatural: Within a mile Ennis felt like someone was pulling his guts out hand over hand a yard at a time. He stopped at the side of the road and, in the whirling new snow, tried to puke but nothing came up. He felt about as bad as he ever had and it took a long time for the feeling to wear off (262). Only after Jack is dead can Ennis finally dream and be happy: “he is suffused with a sense of pleasure because Jack Twist was in his dream” (253). He is free to finally admit to himself his deep love without the guilt and the fear that he may be carried away by his feelings and end up dead himself: “we do that in the wrong place we’ll be dead. There’s no reins on this one. It scares the piss out a me” (268). Within the context of the strict western community, Ennis’ fear of expression seems more like a survival instinct caused by his upbringing that end up being justified by Jack’s death that he suspects to resemble the homosexual’s that his father had forced him to witness when he was a child: “they got him with the tire iron” (277). The blame seems to be put on the community for the story’s bitter ending and the scene that highlights that is in the white and cold Puritan house of Jack that their love symbolized by the two embracing shirts is forced to stay closeted.
Asquith, Mark. Annie Proulx’s Brokeback Mountain and Postcards. London: Continuum, 2009. Print. Brokeback Mountain. Dir. Ang Lee. Prod. Diana Ossana and James Schamus. By Diana Ossana and Larry McMurtry. Perf. Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal. Universal Home Entertainment, 2005. DVD. Hine, Robert V., and John Mack Faragher. The American West: A New Interpretive History. New Haven, CT: Yale UP, 2000. Print. Nicholas, Liza. Becoming Western: Stories of Culture and Identity in the Cowboy State. Lincoln: U of Nebraska, 2006. Print. O’Connor, John E., and Peter C. Rollins. Hollywood’s West: The American Frontier in Film, Television, and History. Lexington: U of Kentucky, 2005. Print. Proulx, Annie. Close Range: Wyoming Stories. New York, NY: Scribner, 1999. Print. Reumann, Miriam G. American Sexual Character: Sex, Gender, and National Identity in the Kinsey Reports. Berkeley: U of California, 2005. Print. Turner, Frederick Jackson, and Martin Ridge. History, Frontier, and Section: Three Essays. Albuquerque: U of New Mexico, 1993. Print.