Themes and message

The main themes of the short story “Brokeback Mountain” by Annie Proulx are homosexuality and discrimination in the form of homophobia. The author’s intention with the short story, as she revealed it in an interview, was to draw attention to how homophobia manifested itself in a particular socio-cultural context[1]. The story was thus meant to be a social critique of the way homophobia affected and disrupted the lives and decisions of homosexuals in 1960s-1980s rural America.

Homosexuality and homophobia

We will analyze both themes together as they are closely linked in the story. The story follows two male protagonists who discover they are attracted to each other and have an episodic affair over 20 years.

The characters’ own attitude to homosexuality when they begin their affair is influenced by the prevailing homophobic ideas in 1960s society. Although they are clearly attracted to each other and continue to have sexual relations over the whole summer they spend working together, both of them claim they are not ‘queers’ (p. 37, ll. 22-24) (then an offensive word for gay people, although it has now been reclaimed by the LGBTQ community).

Because society discriminated against homosexuals, the characters choose to repress their feelings and their sexual identity, to fit society’s norms. This is particularly relevant for Ennis, who claims that he enjoys sex with women and marries his fiancée...

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