Brokeback Mountain
Goodreads ratings
3.95 / 5

"Brokeback Mountain" Summary

By Annie Proulx

fiction | 55 pages | Published in NaN

Annie Proulx has written some of the most original and brilliant short stories in contemporary literature, and for many readers and reviewers, "Brokeback Mountain" is her masterpiece. Ennis del Mar and Jack Twist, two ranch hands, come together when they're working as sheepherder and camp tender one summer on a range above the tree line. At first, sharing an isolated tent, the attraction is casual, inevitable, but something deeper catches them that summer. Both men work hard, marry, and have kids because that's what cowboys do. But over the course of many years and frequent separations this relationship becomes the most important thing in their lives, and they do anything they can to preserve it. The New Yorker won the National Magazine Award for Fiction for its publication of "Brokeback Mountain," and the story was included in Prize Stories 1998: The O. Henry Awards. In gorgeous and haunting prose, Proulx limns the difficult, dangerous affair between two cowboys that survives everything but the world's violent intolerance.


Estimated read time: 4 min read

One Sentence Summary

Two cowboys develop a secret romantic relationship while working on a remote mountain ranch.


"Brokeback Mountain" is a short story written by Annie Proulx and first published in 1997. The story gained widespread recognition after it was adapted into an Academy Award-winning film in 2005. Set against the backdrop of the American West, this poignant narrative explores the complex and forbidden love between two cowboys, challenging societal norms and expectations.

Brief Synopsis

Plot Overview

The story unfolds in the early 1960s, primarily in the rugged landscapes of Wyoming and Texas. Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist, two young and inexperienced ranch hands, are hired to herd sheep on the remote and desolate Brokeback Mountain. As they spend long stretches of time in isolation, their initial camaraderie slowly develops into an unexpected and passionate love affair.


The story is predominantly set in the picturesque yet unforgiving terrains of Brokeback Mountain, Wyoming, and later spans to various locations in Texas. The harsh and untamed wilderness serves as a powerful backdrop that mirrors the emotional turmoil and societal constraints faced by the characters.

Main Events

Chapter 1Ennis and Jack are hired to herd sheep on Brokeback Mountain. As they spend time together, their friendship deepens into a forbidden romantic relationship.
Chapter 2The summer on Brokeback Mountain comes to an end, and the two men part ways, returning to their respective lives. Despite their separation, they struggle to move on from their intense connection.
Chapter 3Ennis and Jack attempt to maintain contact, meeting periodically over the years. However, they are unable to openly express their love due to societal prejudices and personal fears.
Chapter 4Tragic events unfold as the consequences of their hidden relationship become apparent, leading to heartbreak, regret, and a profound sense of loss for both men.

Main Characters

Ennis Del Mar

A reserved and stoic ranch hand from Wyoming, Ennis is deeply entrenched in the traditional expectations of masculinity and struggles to reconcile his love for Jack with the societal pressures of the time.

Jack Twist

A charismatic and free-spirited cowboy, Jack finds himself torn between his love for Ennis and the societal expectations that threaten to suppress their relationship.

Themes and Insights

Forbidden Love

The narrative delves into the complexities of forbidden love, highlighting the societal barriers and personal sacrifices that accompany such relationships. Ennis and Jack's love is overshadowed by societal taboos and the fear of persecution, forcing them to conceal their true feelings.

Identity and Masculinity

The story critically examines traditional notions of masculinity and the societal expectations placed upon men in the American West during the 1960s. Ennis and Jack's struggle to reconcile their love with their perceived roles as masculine figures reflects the profound impact of societal norms on individual identity.

Isolation and Longing

The vast, desolate landscapes of the American West serve as a metaphor for the characters' emotional isolation and unfulfilled longing. The physical and emotional distance between Ennis and Jack mirrors the societal barriers that prevent them from openly embracing their love.

Reader's Takeaway

"Brokeback Mountain" offers a poignant and thought-provoking exploration of love, identity, and societal constraints, resonating with readers on a deeply emotional level. The story serves as a powerful reminder of the enduring human spirit and the profound impact of love in the face of adversity.


Annie Proulx's "Brokeback Mountain" captivates readers with its evocative portrayal of love and longing in the American West. Through the compelling journey of Ennis and Jack, the narrative transcends mere romance, delving into the complex interplay of societal expectations, personal identity, and the enduring power of forbidden love.

Brokeback Mountain FAQ

  1. What is the main theme of Brokeback Mountain?

    The main themes of Brokeback Mountain are love, identity, and the struggle for self-acceptance. The story explores the complex emotions and societal pressures faced by the two main characters, Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist, as they navigate their forbidden love in a conservative, rural setting.

  2. Is Brokeback Mountain based on a true story?

    Brokeback Mountain is a work of fiction by author Annie Proulx. While the story itself is not based on a true story, Proulx's writing skillfully captures the emotional realities of the characters and the landscapes they inhabit.

  3. What is the setting of Brokeback Mountain?

    The story is primarily set in the rural landscapes of Wyoming, specifically the fictional Brokeback Mountain. The rugged and isolated environment plays a significant role in shaping the characters' experiences and their relationship.

  4. Is Brokeback Mountain a romance or a tragedy?

    Brokeback Mountain can be seen as both a romance and a tragedy. It depicts the deep and passionate love between Ennis and Jack, but also explores the tragic consequences of societal prejudice and the inability to fully express their feelings for each other.

  5. What is the significance of the title 'Brokeback Mountain'?

    The title 'Brokeback Mountain' refers to the actual location where the two main characters, Ennis and Jack, first meet and form a deep emotional and physical connection. The mountain becomes a symbol of their hidden love and the constraints placed upon it by society.