Brokeback Mountain Study Guide from LitCharts | The creators of SparkNotes

Brokeback Mountain

Brokeback Mountain Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Annie Proulx's Brokeback Mountain. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Annie Proulx

Proulx was born in Connecticut in 1935. She is of English and French-Canadian ancestry. In 1969 she graduated cum laude from the University of Vermont, and earned an M.A. at Sir George Williams University in Montreal, Canada. She lived in Vermont for more than 30 years before moving to Wyoming in 1994. She currently resides in Seattle. Proulx began her writing career as a journalist, but soon turned to fiction and published stories in publications like Seventeen and Esquire. Prior to “Brokeback Mountain,” she garnered significant critical praise for her novel The Shipping News (1993), including the Pulitzer Prize and U.S. National Book Award. She is the recipient of many other awards for her writing, such as the O. Henry Prize (won twice), National Book Foundation Medal (Lifetime Achievement), and PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.
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Historical Context of Brokeback Mountain

In 1950, Senator Joseph McCarthy and lawyer Roy Cohn began a campaign to expose and expunge supposedly communist or communist-sympathetic people working in the U.S. government, which has been deemed the “Red Scare.” Less well known is the “Lavender Scare” that sought to persecute people accused of being homosexuals from working in government, schools, the military, and many other occupations. McCarthy and his supporters accused these “lavender lads” of being communist sympathizers who were open to blackmail. In 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed into law Executive Order 10450, which barred “sexual perverts” from working for the government in any capacity. This ban led to over 5,000 firings and would have been in effect during the time of Ennis and Jack’s employment with the Forest Service, a government agency. More to the point, however, the “lavender scare” of the ‘50s is emblematic of the public’s perception of homosexuality as an abomination—a perception which gave helped give rise to the atmosphere of virulent homophobia in which Jack and Ennis lived.

Other Books Related to Brokeback Mountain

In 1999, Proulx published a collection of stories entitled Close Range: Wyoming Stories. “Brokeback Mountain,” which had originally been published as a novella the year prior, was included in the collection. Each of the stories was inspired by Proulx’s years spent living in Wyoming, and focuses on protagonists, often with difficult lives, from the largely rural state. Proulx’s writing style has been compared to William Faulkner, Theodore Dreiser, and Herman Melville, other “great American writers” whose work deals with nostalgia, morality, ambition, and desire. “Brokeback Mountain” joins a growing literary tradition of works that deal compassionately with the experiences of gay people. Other seminal works from (or set in) the same period include the plays The Laramie Project by Moisés Kaufman (also set in Wyoming) and Angels in America by Tony Kushner.
Key Facts about Brokeback Mountain
  • Full Title: Brokeback Mountain
  • When Written: 1990s
  • Where Written: Saratoga, Wyoming
  • When Published: 1997
  • Literary Period: Late 20th century
  • Genre: Short story
  • Setting: Wyoming, middle-to-late twentieth century
  • Climax: Jack’s death
  • Antagonist: Joe Aguirre, Homophobia
  • Point of View: Third person, mostly limited to Ennis

Extra Credit for Brokeback Mountain

The Silver Screen “Brokeback Mountain” was adapted into a major motion picture in 2005. It won a BAFTA, an Academy Award, and a Golden Globe.

Stage Production In 2014, an opera based on “Brokeback Mountain” premiered in Madrid, with the libretto penned by Proulx.