Annie Proulx’s Brokeback Mountain (1997)

Annie Proulx’s short story “Brokeback Mountain” was originally published in The New Yorker on October 13, 1997, and is also included in Close Range: Wyoming Stores (1999). In 2005, it was turned into an Oscar-winning film by Ang Lee.

Discussion Questions for Annie Proulx’s Brokeback Mountain

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  • Find out as many Marlboro cigarette advertisements depicting male cowboys as possible. Then examine how male cowboys are represented in these ads and discuss what these images might tell you about the concept of masculinity in general.
  • Identify the traditional mindset of the 1960s cowboy culture and discuss to what extent and in what ways Brokeback Mountain is in line with such a mindset.
  • Brokeback Mountain takes place between 1963 and 1983. Discuss how the major social/ historical events in the States, such as the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement, might help you understand the main issues depicted in the story.
  • Examine how Annie Proulx describes “settings” (e.g. the ranches on which Ennis and Jack were raised and Brokeback Mountain) in her story. How do these settings help you understand the characters and the issues in the story?
  • Identify how the author uses “nature” in relation to characters’ psychology and the issues dealt with.
  • What might Ennis and Jack’s fathers and Joe Aquirre represent in the story? What is their function in the story?
  • What might Joe’s binoculars signify as a metaphor?
  • Comment on what external and internal forces might make Jack and Ennis say the following: “…Ennis said, ‘I’m not no queer,’ and Jack jumped in with ‘Me neither…”
  • Comment on the following quote from the story: “Even when the numbers were right Ennis knew the sheep were mixed. In a disquieting way everything seemed mixed.”
  • What do you think about the author’s depiction of Alma? How do you react to this character?
  • What might the intertwined shirts as described at the end of the short story symbolize? Where are these shirts kept and what could this signify?

© Ali Nihat Eken, Istanbul, August 2008

Useful links: About Annie Proulx Annie Proulx tells the story behind “Brokeback Mountain” Discussion Questions for Jackson Katz’s Tough Guise