Brokeback Mountain Foolscap & Spreadsheet for Podcast
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Brokeback Mountain
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by Annie Proulx
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Genres
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Length : Short Novella, 10,575 words
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Structure : Archplot
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Style : Drama
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Reality : Realism, Historical
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Content : Love
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External Genre: Love
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External Value at Stake: Love and Hate
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Internal Genre: Worldview
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Internal Value at Stake: Ignorance and Wisdom
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Global StoryObligatory scenes & conventions
Love Story
Lovers meet - Ennis & Jack meet by coincidence at Aguirre's trailer.
First Kiss or Intimate Connection - Though they have sex pretty early on, intimacy begins later, when Ennis willingly (soberly) goes to the tent to sleep with Jack.
Premature declaration - Possibilities: Ennis slugging Jack before they part; Jack suggesting living together at the midpoint shift
Confession of love - When Jack proposes living together?
Lovers break up - The "I wish I knew how to quit you" scene, when Ennis's work schedule sounds like an excuse to Jack, and they part angry.
Proof of love - Jack preserved the shirts all his life. Ennis accepts the shirts as a too-late form of commitment/memorial to Jack
Lovers reunite - Only in death, symbolized by the shirts (typical reunion in forbidden love. See Bridges of Madison County, Romeo & Juliet)
Triangle - Not the wives. Maybe Jack's other rancher companion, or the Mexican prostitute.
Helpers - Jack's mother at the very end showing sympathy to Ennis
Harmers - Jack's father, Aguirre, maybe Alma
Gender Divide - Both are working-class men. The divide is expressed as Ennis's cautious, unadventurous nature versus Jack's more free-wheeling, adventurous ways.
External Need - Both need to earn a living, a prospect explicitly threatened when Aguirre refuses to rehire Jack.
Opposing Forces - Society in general--particularly rural Wyoming society in the 20th century. Both men's wives. Aguirre. Jack's father.
Secrets - Ennis hides his sexuality from himself. They both hide their sexuality from the world, particularly from their wives. Jack hides his other sexual relationships from Ennis. Jack lies or omits facts to Ennis (about his sexual history, about Aguirre)
Rituals - Secret meeting place on Brokeback Mountain, all the subsequent fishing trips, the annual postcards.
Moral Weight - Their love is wholly contrary to both men's conservative rural upbringing. It is technically illegal and socially deadly. It results in harm to others--notably the women they are constrained to marry--and in risk to their livelihoods. Their children suffer from broken and unhappy marriages.
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Obligatory scenes & conventions
Worldview
An Inciting opportunity or challenge - Ennis's worldview is challenged by Jack's sexual advances
Protagonist denies responsibility to respond to the opportunity or challenge - He can't accept his sexuality; marries Alma and carries on as if "normal." Naivete or ignorance masquerading as sophistication, pretending.
Forced to respond, Protagonist lashes out against requirement to change behavior - Ennis literally slugs Jack and draws blood in an attempt to distance himself from the attraction/love he feels. The four-year postcard and visit forces Ennis to acknowledge "this thing" but he thinks he can contain it.
Protagonist learns what their external Antagonist's Object of Desire is - The external enemy is Society, embodied by Aguirre. In some ways, Ennis's antagonist is Jack. In some ways it's his own sexuality. The memory of the two old ranchers who were murdered seared the Antagonist's object of desire into Ennis's mind at age 9: men like him need to die. He holds this belief too strongly to overcome it.
Protagonist’s initial strategy to outmaneuver Antagonist fails - If the antagonist is his own sexual nature, Ennis's blow to Jack's face specifically fails to keep temptation at bay. If it's society in general, marrying Alma was supposed to silence internal and external conflict about his sexuality, but it obviously doesn't. He remains in cognitive dissonance about it throughout the middle build.
During an All Is Lost moment, Protagonist realizes they must change their black/white view of the world to allow for life's irony - Ennis's motto throughout is "If you can't fix it, you gotta stand it." He has ample proof that he can't "fix it," so he stands it, all his life. This is a tough, limited, perspective based on incomplete information and the lack of a good mentor to show him a more sophisticated or wise path.
The action moment is when the Protagonist’s gifts are expressed as acceptance of an imperfect world - In blessing Alma Jr's marriage, Ennis realizes that love might have conquered obstacles for him and Jack if he'd had the courage to let it.
The protagonist’s loss of innocence is rewarded with a deeper understanding of his universe - Accepting unsatisfactory limitations, Ennis persists in his love for Jack even after Jack's death.
Strong Mentor figure - Ennis's father taught him to hate men like him, but there are no positive mentor figures--a condition for the negative outcome.
Big Social Problem as subtext - Inflexible heteronormativity contributes to the Forbidden Love plot, and drives Ennis's cowardice about committing to Jack.
Shapeshifters as hypocrites - Jack himself "betrays" the relationship by seeking other male partners. Both men marry women and are hypocritical in the world.
A clear Point of No Return: the moment when the Protagonist knows he can't go back to the way things were - When Jack returns after four years and their relationship heats right back up: "[If this thing] grabs on us like that. We do that in the wrong place we’ll be dead. There’s no reins on this one. It scares the piss out a me.”
Bittersweet win-but-lose, lose-but-win ending - Ennis loves Jack all his life, but it's too late, because the Big Social Problem (probaby) already resulted in Jack's murder--or at least, Ennis believes it was a hate-crime murder.
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Point of view narrative device:3rd person omniscient
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Objects of Desire:External: Love and connection, commitment, intimacy
Internal: Acceptance, wisdom
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Controlling Idea/Theme:Love fails when lovers don't believe they can overcome the obstacles of a society that forbids their union.
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The 15 Core ScenesExternal Charge (Love)Internal charge (Worldview)Antagonistic Force
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Beginning Hook
When Ennis meets Jack on Brokeback Mountain and falls unexpectedly in love, he must deny the illicit attraction or else accept it and face the many limitations it presents. He denies it and they part ways, but he's heartbroken.
1 Inciting IncidentJack and Ennis arrive at Aguirre's looking for work, and are hiredAttraction not yet acknowledged (neutral)Ignorance
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2 Turning ptEnnis gets too drunk one night to go on watch, and ends up joining Jack in the tent, where they have (somewhat impersonal) sexAttraction acted on (+)Cognitive dissonance
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3 CrisisWas that just a drunken episode or is this for real? Ennis says it’s a one-shot thing we got going here, but clearly he is feeling more. Irreconcilable Goods: Ennis could follow his feelings and continue with Jack or stay safe (emotionally, socially).Desire denied (-)Facing the cognitive dissonance
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4 ClimaxEnnis next goes into the tent sober and willing, and something more like genuine sexual intimacy ensuesIntimacy (+)Some acceptance
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5 ResolutionThey enter a more acknowledged relationship, but are being spied on by Aguirre, who ends the job early, devastating EnnisCommitment but only in secret (+)Disillusionment
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Middle Build
When the relationship is revived, Ennis must decide whether to make it more permanent (losing his wife and daughters and risking societal sanctions) or else learn to bear what he can't change. He defaults to bearing it, loses his wife & children anyway, and winds up alone
6 Inciting IncidentA postcard from Jack interrupts Ennis's seemingly okay marriage with Alma, and he and Jack restart their relationshipDesire revivedIgnorance masquerading as worldly wisdom
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7 Turning Pt Jack suggests a more permanent relationshipCommitment asked for
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8 CrisisWill Ennis take the risk? Best Bad Choice: be lonely and unsatisfied but safe, or court life-threatening danger to be togetherPartial, unsatisfactory commitment
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9 ClimaxEnnis can't take the conflict anymore. Jack doesn't know how to quit the relationshipFailure of commitment
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10 ResolutionThey part ways, Ennis meets Cassie, and he tries (but ultimately fails) to form a new relationship with herHate
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Ending Payoff
When Ennis learns that Jack has been killed, he must decide how to go on without him, and figure out whether the relationship had real meaning despite the problems and infidelities. He chooses to remain alone, faithful to the memory of the love he and Jack shared.
11 Inciting IncidentEnnis receives a returned postcard labeled DECEASEDUnfulfilled commitmentIgnorance
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12 Turning Pt After learning that Jack's death was probably a homophobic murder, he visits Jack's parents and learns that Jack had taken up with another man who was willing to "ranch up" with him.Attempt at "reconciliation" (too late)Unwanted knowledge
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13 CrisisEnnis must decide for himself whether their relationship continues to have meaning, or was meaningless
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14 ClimaxEnnis finds the interlocked shirts that Jack held onto all his life, indicating that Jack did love him as much as he loved Jack.Discovery of meaning
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15 ResolutionUnderstanding (at last) the value of commitment in love, Ennis (creates a memorial to Jack in his trailer home--story) / (reunites with his adult daughter and approves her wedding plans--movie), and keeps the shirts and a postcard of Brokeback Mountain to look at every day.Lifelong commitment, but too lateGreater wisdom
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