The American society has this image of what a homosexual male looks and acts like. These images and assumptions of a gay man are based off of what could be called a stereotype. The impression of the homosexual has many connotations such as, femininity, a lazy wrist, a lisp, a seductive swagger, anal sex, AIDS, and being over sexed. The American society has this idea of nurture and not nature that makes homosexuals and the agents of socialization such as the media carry this image to the masses. The gay man having no children, no marriage or a long lasting meaningful relationship is another contributing factor in this misconception. The American society likes to pigeonhole people into categories. Pigeonholing is a term that can be used to attempt to describe or classify individuals into exclusive groups, which homosexuals could be neatly placed, as well as cowboys.
Annie Proulx, the author of “Brokeback Mountain,” took the typical all American heterosexual cowboy that herds cattle, ropes and rides horses in the wild mountainous country, where meals are cooked over open fires and a cowboy is kicked back against his saddle with a harmonica, playing “Home On The Range,” and complicates it by making two cowboys fall in love and have a sexual relationship. Annie Proulx did not just accidently write about this taboo love affair between these two cowboys. She is attempting to enlighten her readers about this sensitive subject and show how two people of the same gender could conceivably have an enduring love, even though they are not your typical stereotype of the fluffy, limp wrist gay men. Proulx helps shatter the thoughts of what homophobic American society thinks about gay men not being able to have a lasting, meaningful relationship.
The beginning narrative of “Brokeback Mountain,” Proulx is setting the history of the characters up for the reader to show that they are not the typical stereotype homosexual male that the American society envisions. Proulx states, “country boys with no prospects, brought up to hard working and privation, both rough-mannered, rough-spoke, inured to the stoic life,” (254). Proulx writes that they are, “country boys” and this can be interpreted as being wholesome, honest, and having a strong background of morals and values. These two characters are mentioned to be, “hard working” and very private, showing that they are not afraid to get their hands dirty or break a nail and that neither one of them lived in luxury. Ennis and Jack, both men having been hardened to a harsh environment and not socially adept. Given the background of these two men, Proulx lets the reader know that these men are no slouches.
When Ennis and Jack were just developing their relationship, Proulx deliberately writes, “They were respectful of each other’s opinions, each glad to have a companion where none had been expected. Ennis, riding against the wind back to the sheep in the treacherous, drunken light, thought he’d never had such a good time”(258). Proulx wants the reader to feel how considerate and pleased Ennis and Jack are to just have a friend that they can talk and share with. She made this sound like both Ennis and Jack were not used to revealing their feelings and emotions with another person, let alone another male before now. Proulx uses an intimate description of how Ennis feels riding back to the sheep after spending the evening with Jack, “[pawing] the white out of the moon” (258). Proulx wants the reader to feel Ennis’s exuberance of being on top of the world after spending the evening with Jack. At this point Proulx is showing that these men are getting to know one another not just on a working level, but in a more personal and trusting way, something that does not seem to fit the typecast of a gay man.
After their time on the mountain and the job has ended, Proulx lets time slip by and four years pass for these two men. Ennis and Jack have gone off and done what an American heterosexual male is expected to do, such as marrying, having children and providing for them. Proulx suggests in her writing that Ennis was not totally happy and seems to be just going through the paces of life. Four years later Ennis and Jack get together and Proulx wants the reader to appreciate the intensity of their reunion: “[t]hey seized each other by the shoulders, hugged mightily, squeezing the breath out of each other, saying, “son of a bitch, son of a bitch,” then, and easily as the right key turns the lock tumblers, their mouths came together”(263). The author relays to the reader that these cowboys seize each other like real men do and she uses the word, “mightily,” meaning that they both used physical strength in this manly embrace. Proulx makes it a point to tell the reader that these men hold the correct combination for each of them and that they just are meant to be together, a lasting love that homosexual males cannot have according to the pigeonholing.
Once again Proulx lets time lapse in her story, twenty years after “Brokeback Mountain,” Ennis and Jack are still seeing each other, two or three times a year. Proulx lets the reader in on Ennis’s thoughts the last time they were together:
that dozy embrace solidified in his memory as the single moment of artless, charmed happiness in their separate and difficult lives. Nothing marred it, even the knowledge that Ennis would not then embrace him face to face because he did not want to see nor feel that it was Jack he held. And maybe, he thought, they would never get much farther than that. Let be, let be (277).
Still after all these years, the author wants the reader to know how much Ennis struggled with his intense feelings for Jack, but he was content to live in the moment of having Jack and him there, without any deception. But he still could not truly face society about his love for Jack. The American society still struggles with this concept of gay and lesbian relationships and marriage.
Annie Proulx’s story, “Brokeback Mountain” is revolutionary in reference to dispelling the stereotype of the homosexual male to the American society. She carefully dismantles the myth of the cowboy and the gay man by showing that no matter what walk of life a person is from, no matter what gender, a person has the right to feel free to be attracted to and feel passion for another person of the same sex without feeling persecuted. Proulx is able to show that love can come in all forms and it comes sometimes when you least expect it, but may need it.
Proulx, Annie. “Brokeback Mountain.” Close Range: Wyoming Stories. New York:
Scribner, 1999. 253-283. Print.