by Annie Proulx
Analysis: Plot Analysis
Most good stories start with a fundamental list of ingredients: the initial situation, conflict, complication, climax, suspense, denouement, and conclusion. Great writers sometimes shake up the recipe and add some spice.
Exposition (Initial Situation)
One Crazy Summer
Things begin pretty innocuously, with Jack and Ennis both heading up to Brokeback to tend sheep. We get a little on their background, watch them do the cowboy thing up on the trail, and don't suspect that anything notable is about to take place.
Rising Action (Conflict, Complication)
The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name
And then—boom. The two are engaged in a steamy affair. This causes a number of problems for the story to ponder. Ennis is engaged (to a woman) for starters, and their boss Joe Aguirre watches them through his binoculars for another. Neither of them approves, and though Jack and Ennis continue to get together occasionally over the next twenty years, the fact that they have to keep their love a secret really starts to eat at them after a while.
Climax (Crisis, Turning Point)
The Big Fight
Finally, they have it out, with Jack playing the idealist with dreams of running away together and Ennis staying quiet with his unpleasant facts about the reality in which they live. It's bitter and angry and no fun, but hey, sometimes that's love. Couples fight, especially when they're backed into a corner, and Jack and Ennis are no different. It's a good thing they get this out to because…
A few months later, Jack has an unfortunate accident. Or alleged accident. We'd call it the climax, except it happens off-screen, and we just hear about it from Ennis's point of view. Ennis now has to face a life free of romantic fishing trips with the man he loves, and grapples with the impact on his emotional state.
Ennis Has to Live With What's Left
The end finds one dead and one wounded as Ennis comes to terms with a Jack-free world. His more cautious nature has allowed him to survive, but it sounds like a rough road ahead, and not even Jack's bloodstained shirt is going to see our lonely cowboy through it. But hey, that's life for our man Ennis, and there's nothing he can do for it.