Nature And Society: Brokeback Mountain Essay

2297 words - 10 pages

Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx is in essence a love story, told through the nature imagery and simple words suited to the cowboys who are our sad fated protagonists. Masked by the straightforward style is a complex commentary on our culture and the expectations that come with our gender roles – roles that the story shows have very little give to them. The gender binaries in Brokeback Mountain are rigid and set by signifiers, these signifiers do not allow for the characters (male or female) able to live their true nature – which for the most part are a balancing act between male and female traits. It is no surprise that the two cowboys spend most of their intimate and relaxed moments in ...view middle of the document...

A simple example is an article of clothing. A skirt is just a piece of clothing but it has feminine connotations attached to it, so much so that if a person is wearing one then it is assumed that person is female (Barthes, R., & Lavers, A., 1972).
Proulx uses gender signifiers from the beginning of Brokeback. The story opens with Ennis Del Mar waking up and the gendering starts almost immediately with descriptions of his actions and clothing. “He gets up scratching the grey wedge of belly and pubic hair… pulling on his shirt and jeans, his worn boots, stamping the heels against the floor to get them full on.” Satisfying an itch and getting dressed – even the type of clothes don’t have to be exclusively male – but the succinct language used and the inelegant picture it paints give the actions a masculine tone. A woman is rarely described as “scratching” or “stomping”, as any indelicate descriptions would tarnish the feminine mystery. However, the masculine tone is soon brought to tension by introducing Ennis’s own mystery. Ennis feels that a dream will sustain him through the day, a dream about a man, Jack Twist (Leitch, V. B., 2010 & Barthes, R., & Lavers, A., 1972).
“If he does not force his attention on it, it might stoke the day, rewarm that old, cold time on the mountain when they owned the world and nothing seemed wrong.” The fact that this dream would bring him enough pleasure to get him through a difficult day would likely lend an element of the unknown for Ennis that might be noticed by those who encountered him. Maybe he would smile a little when he’s not expected too, maybe he won’t seem as bothered by the loss of his job when he hands the keys to “the real estate shark” (Proulx, A. 2005).
Ennis could be seen as the mystery woman which Beauvoir presents as a myth, because what the source of his contentment wouldn’t be understood by others his “language is not understood” and therefore might be seen as having a “secret organic life”. This of course goes against the signifiers the reader has already been presented with. Ennis is obviously a ranch hand, and likely seen as the archetypal “cowboy” the characteristics of this archetype is such that he wouldn’t have a secret world between his ears, that he would be much more of a “what you see is what you get” type of character. Looked at through the feminist lens this gives Ennis a characteristic that is usually attributed to women (Leitch, V. B., 2010).
The setting of the dream is also interesting. Ennis and Jack met several times throughout their relationship, but it was their first summer on Brokeback Mountain that Ennis idealizes. This goes back to Beauvoir in that many of his memories of Jack are tense because of what culture has dictated to be male. Throughout much of their relationship Ennis is in fear of openly going against the social expectations of what it meant to be a man, namely to be heterosexual. The man his father showed him, mutilated and murdered for being gay, haunts...

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