Brokeback Mountain

by Annie Proulx

Start Free Trial

Brokeback Mountain Summary

Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx is a short story about the love between two men, Jack Twist and Ennis del Mar, set against the backdrop of the American West.

  • The story follows Jack and Ennis as they fall in love while working as sheepherders on Brokeback Mountain in Wyoming.
  • Though they are both married with families, the two men cannot deny their feelings for each other and continue to meet up for annual fishing trips.
  • Tragedy strikes, however, when Jack is killed in a freak accident. Ennis is left to mourn the loss of his true love and the life they could have had together.


Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Jack Twist and Ennis del Mar are in their late teens when they are hired to tend sheep above the tree line on Brokeback Mountain in Wyoming during the summer of 1963. When the temperature drops in the evening, Ennis wakes Jack up with his teeth chattering, and Jack invites him into his bedroll. The two men have sex and continue to have sex through the rest of the summer, although they never talk about it except when Ennis declares, “I’m not no queer,” and Jack agrees, saying it is a one-shot deal and not anyone else’s business.

When the two men separate at the end of the summer, Ennis feels so bad that he stops on the side of the road and vomits. In December, Ennis marries Alma Beers, to whom he has been engaged; she is pregnant by mid-January.

Four years later, Ennis gets a letter from Jack saying he is coming through and wants to buy Ennis a beer. When they meet, they grab each other and kiss each other on the mouth so hard that they draw blood. By this time, Ennis has two daughters, and Jack is married with a son. Jack and Ennis go off to a motel, and both men are astonished at the power of their feelings for each other. However, both are frightened about these feelings, realizing that they must do something about it, for if they act that way in the wrong place they will be dead.

Jack, who has been a rodeo performer, thinks he and Ennis should get themselves a little ranch and live together, but Ennis says he does not want to be one of those old guys who live together until someone takes a tire iron to them. However, both men realize that their feelings for each other are serious and not merely sexual.

Ennis goes on a fishing trip with Jack once or twice a year, and Ennis and Alma begin to grow apart, for she has seen the two men embrace. She divorces him, and Ennis goes back to ranch work. The two men continue to see each other, but they reach a point at which Ennis cannot see Jack as much as Jack would like. Jack tells Ennis they could have had a good life together, but all they really have is the memory of Brokeback Mountain. Jack tells Ennis he does not know how to quit him.

Several months later, Ennis sends a postcard to Jack, which is returned, stamped “Deceased.” He calls Jack’s wife, Laureen, who tells him it was an accident, that when Jack was pumping up a flat tire, it blew out and knocked the tire rim into his face, causing him to bleed to death. Ennis thinks to himself that somebody got him with a tire iron after all. Laureen tells him that Jack wanted his ashes scattered on Brokeback Mountain, and Ennis goes to Jack’s parents’ house and offers to fulfill that wish. However, Jack’s father refuses, saying he is going to bury the ashes in the family plot. The story ends with Ennis dreaming about Jack as he first saw him as a young man on Brokeback Mountain.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access