Study Guide

Brokeback Mountain Men and Masculinity

By Annie Proulx

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Men and Masculinity

Ennis and Jack are cowboys in the classic sense: they're lean, tall, and not inclined to say a whole lot. But "Brokeback Mountain" throws a big wrench in that stereotype in that neither one sweeps a local cowgirl off her feet—they sweep each other off their feet, completely. What's key to understand, though, is that their sexual identities don't compromise their manly-man tendencies—they're still a ranch hand and a rodeo rider through and through. Rather their sexuality complicates their manliness, helping to poke a hole in the cowboy stereotype we've all come to know.

Questions About Men and Masculinity

  • How much does Jack and Ennis's masculinity hide their sexuality and how much does it draw attention to their sexuality?
  • What does the characters' assertion of their masculinity say about the world they live in and the dangers they face?
  • Is Ennis's silence indicative of his masculinity in the story? Why or why not?
  • How do both men's fathers impart masculinity to their sons? Why does it leave them so scarred?

Chew on This

Ennis's masculinity demands his silence, which is why he can't express himself the way he should.

Ennis's silence is just who he is; masculinity doesn't enter into it.

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