Does Brokeback Mountain need a happy ending?

amazon.combrokeback mountainIn a recent interview in The Paris Review, Annie Proulx said that she regretted writing Brokeback Mountain. She said she wished she’d never written the story, and that it had “just been the cause of hassle and problems and irritation since the film came out.” This was because of the way readers — especially male ones — kept hassling her about the ending. It should’ve been a happy ending, they claim. Proulx says: “They all begin the same way – I’m not gay, but…the implication is that because they’re men, they understand much better than I how these people would have behaved.”As Proulx reminds her readers, the story is not about Jack and Ennis, it’s about homophobia. Very few writers have come up with anything like Brokeback Mountain when it comes to representing desire and the way it is frustrated by bigotry and homophobia.

What Jack remembered and craved in a way he could neither help nor understand was the time that distant summer on Brokeback when Ennis had come up behind him and pulled him close, the silent embrace satisfying some shared and sexless hunger.
They had stood that way for a long time in front of the fire, its burning tossing ruddy chunks of light, the shadow of their bodies a single column against the rock. The minutes ticked by from the round watch in Ennis’s pocket, from the sticks in the fire settling into coals. Stars bit through the wavy heat layers above the fire. Ennis’s breath came slow and quiet, he hummed, rocked a little in the sparklight and Jack leaned against the steady heartbeat, the vibrations of the humming like faint electricity and, standing, he fell into sleep that was not sleep but something else drowsy and tranced until Ennis, dredging up a rusty but still useable phrase from the childhood time before his mother died, said, “Time to hit the hay, cowboy. I got a go. Come on, you’re sleepin on your feet like a horse,” and gave Jack a shake, a push and went off into the darkness. Jack heard his spurs tremble as he mounted, the words “see you tomorrow,” and the horse’s shuddering snort, grind of hoof on stone.

The hunger and desire expressed here can never be satisfied because of the way society is, the way it judges people and condemns them for the kinds of relationships they have. Until that changes, there can be no happy endings.

– Catherine Vigier, Zeteo contributing Writer



Annie Proulx, Close Range: Brokeback Mountain and Other Stories. London, New York: Scribner, 2005.

Chrostopher Cox interview: Annie Proulx, The Art of Fiction No. 199, The Paris Review, 30 December 2014.

One comment

  1. Daniel D'Arezzo

    Proulx does not really regret having written “Brokeback Mountain”–that is to say, I can’t believe her when she says she does. What she regrets, I think, is the price of celebrity, which is the endless invasion of one’s privacy. I recently saw a video of an interview with Philip Roth, who became notorious after the publication of “Portnoy’s Complaint.” He said that when he lived in Manhattan people yelled at him from their cars: “Hey, Portnoy, leave it alone!” That’s when he decided to move to rural Connecticut. Proulx already had celebrity, of a sort, because she had won prizes for “Postcards” and “The Shipping News.” But “Brokeback Mountain,” because it told the story of love between men–and because it was made into an Academy Award-winning movie–expanded her celebrity beyond the circle of people who read serious fiction. Writers are usually not comfortable as celebrities. They love fame, prizes, money, like anyone else, but they don’t like being noticed. I don’t really blame her.


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