Author Topic: You shut up about Ennis - this ain't (all) his fault  (Read 85987 times)

Offline YaadPyar

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And I think tied up in that, too, would be a loyalty to Jack and his memory that would never be broken.  I have trouble imagining Ennis ever being attracted to another man again because of all that.  It just doesn't seem true to his character.


I agree completely.  And it's not so unusual or extraordinary to assume this about Ennis.  I know straight folks who find their one true love, and when that person is gone, for whatever reason, they remain completely true to the memory and love that still lives in them for their beloved. 

They don't want to date or re-marry or couple with another in the way they did with their true love.  The lack of attraction or interest in another partner isn't in any way about sexual orientation.  Their fidelity to that one person doesn't make them any more or less straight, and Ennis's committment to Jack as his one true love doesn't make him any less gay.  We are all capable of loving many different people in many different ways. 
"Vice, Virtue. It's best not to be too moral. You cheat yourself out of too much life. Aim above morality. If you apply that to life, then you're bound to live life fully." (Harold & Maude - 1971)

Offline YaadPyar

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Ennis knows that being queer is having sex with men + Ennis has sex with Jack ≠ Ennis does not think of himself as queer.

How can he not?  He is sane and rational, is he not?  And he did ask Jack at the riverside "Do you ever get the feeling that people know?"  I realize that sometimes people can make excuses for their behaviour to the point of believing that it is something other than what it is, (I mean self-delusional) but when it comes to something as concrete as having sex with a man over and over and over for half of one's life, this ain't no little thing that's happenin here.


Just one more thought...there are lots of us who have had a variety of sexual experiences, and not found ourselves so easily defined by them.  The equation of sex with a person of the same sex = gay isn't always such an easy one.  A lot of people are attracted to/fall in love with an individual, not a gender or sexual orientation.  Makes me think of Anne Heche, who had a somewhat notorious love affair with Ellen Degeneres, and is now married to a man with whom she has a child.  Which identity is more true/real?  I'm guessing both equally. 

Is she a straight woman who had a lesbian affair?  Is she a lesbian who fell in love with a man?  Is she a lesbian who's playing straight?  Does it matter...??? 

Interesting discussion.

"Vice, Virtue. It's best not to be too moral. You cheat yourself out of too much life. Aim above morality. If you apply that to life, then you're bound to live life fully." (Harold & Maude - 1971)

Offline fernly

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I'd just like to take my dead horse beater out once again and chime in that I agree that while Ennis clearly is gay, he does not see himself as gay.  I think that when he says, "Do you ever see someone looking at you and wonder if he knows?..." what he's talking about "knowing" about is not being a homosexual, but being a man who has sex with another man.  Yes, those two things are one and the same to all of us.  But not to him.  And as it's been mentioned before, Diana Ossana believes that most likely, after Jack's death, Ennis would likely become even more homophobic and self-loathing.  Tied up in his grief and guilt over Jack's death and the fact that it could have been avoided if he had done some things differently is his engrained shame, still, that he was in love and had sex regularly with another man.  And I think tied up in that, too, would be a loyalty to Jack and his memory that would never be broken.  I have trouble imagining Ennis ever being attracted to another man again because of all that.  It just doesn't seem true to his character.

Barb, to comment on just a couple of your points (and I agree with all of 'em) - I assume it wasn't by accident that you said "tied up", twice, cause how else could Ennis contain all those absolute contradictions and intense emotions other than by tying himself up in knots (and Jack called him on it before they even went up the mountain).  Heath even moved, at almost every point in the film, as if he were tied up like a hobbled horse (those heart-breaking, shuffling steps).
And I, too, just can't see Ennis being with anyone else. The "bitter longing" Annie noticed in the expression of that aging ranch hand as he watched young cowboys one night in a bar, I believe that longing on Ennis' face in later years would be not for the men he saw before him, but for the one man they were shadows of.
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Offline YaadPyar

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And I, too, just can't see Ennis being with anyone else. The "bitter longing" Annie noticed in the expression of that aging ranch hand as he watched young cowboys one night in a bar, I believe that longing on Ennis' face in later years would be not for the men he saw before him, but for the one man they were shadows of.


So beautifully put...
"Vice, Virtue. It's best not to be too moral. You cheat yourself out of too much life. Aim above morality. If you apply that to life, then you're bound to live life fully." (Harold & Maude - 1971)

Offline ednbarby

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So beautifully put...

Mmmmmm...  I agree wholeheartedly.  Yes, if Ennis ever looked twice at another man, it would only be to compare him, and unfavorably in every case, to Jack.

And it's funny you mention my use of "tied up," Lynn.  Do you know I was starting to write "bound up" and something told me "tied" worked better.  Really, "bound" does in and of itself, but I wonder if I was subconsciously thinking of "...unless you wanna sit around tyin' knots all day."  Ah - another addition to "You know you're thinking about the boys too much/often when..."
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Offline dly64

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Barb, to comment on just a couple of your points (and I agree with all of 'em) - I assume it wasn't by accident that you said "tied up", twice, cause how else could Ennis contain all those absolute contradictions and intense emotions other than by tying himself up in knots (and Jack called him on it before they even went up the mountain).  Heath even moved, at almost every point in the film, as if he were tied up like a hobbled horse (those heart-breaking, shuffling steps).
And I, too, just can't see Ennis being with anyone else. The "bitter longing" Annie noticed in the expression of that aging ranch hand as he watched young cowboys one night in a bar, I believe that longing on Ennis' face in later years would be not for the men he saw before him, but for the one man they were shadows of.

I think we are all in agreement here. Ennis loved Jack, but he did not see himself as gay. Nor do I (and from what I have read, nor do any of you) think that Ennis would end up having a relationship with another man.

Okay ... so now I am going to open another can of worms …. the whole “dozy embrace” flashback. Both the short story and the screenplay state the following:

“Nothing mars this moment for Jack, even though he knows that Ennis does not embrace him face to face because he does not want to see or feel that it is Jack he holds …. “

I have my own take on this, but before I give my dissertation, I would like to hear all of your opinions!!!  ;)
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Offline welliwont

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Okay ... so now I am going to open another can of worms …. the whole “dozy embrace” flashback. Both the short story and the screenplay state the following:

“Nothing mars this moment for Jack, even though he knows that Ennis does not embrace him face to face because he does not want to see or feel that it is Jack he holds …. “

I have my own take on this, but before I give my dissertation, I would like to hear all of your opinions!!!  ;)


OMG!  Not this one!  This is truly a can a worms to behold!  what are you tryin' to do, crash the BetterMost server? Ok, here is my, literal, superficial, non-freudian explanation.  I am sure I should be seeing waaaay deeper in this murky pond, but however.....

That sentence, the first time I read the story and became aware of its existence, was at first glance THE most WTF sentences of this story.  I hated its very existence, could not understand that after all we (Jack & Ennis & I) had been through, that sadist Annie Proulx throws that four sentence paragraph in there, just to mess everything up....

Later, that dozy embrace solidified in his memory as the single moment of artless, charmed happiness in their separate and difficult lives. Nothing marred it, even the knowledge that Ennis would not then embrace him face to face because he did not want to see nor feel that it was Jack he held. And maybe, he thought, they'd never got much farther than that. Let be, let be.

Anyway to make a long story short, I had a lot of trouble understanding the first and the second sentences, the third sentence I hated, and the fourth, well, "Let be"?  ...that's a bit vague, hmmm, let what be??  I hated it, and I was mad at AP for ever writing it and spoiling my illusion that Ennis did love Jack.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -  Now, now that I have been enlightened by you fine folks, you BetterMostians you, here is what it means:  Ennis did love Jack, but he still did not believe himself to be gay, that is why he could not embrace Jack face to face.  AP's second and third lines in that paragraph are meant to be implied and to be understood by depiction of the dozy embrace.  Does that make sense?  I hope someone else can understand it, I barely can myself!! :laugh: :laugh: :laugh:

« Last Edit: July 03, 2006, 11:12:05 am by JakeTwist »
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Offline ednbarby

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I agree, Diane.  And it made perfect sense to me.

I think Ennis *can* embrace Jack from the front later, as he does in the reunion and ever after, not because he now accepts that he's gay, but because he cannot contain the passion he feels for Jack any longer after that agonizing four year absense.  He still refers to it as "this thing" after the reunion because he hasn't fully come to terms with it.  But this thing - his love and his passion for him that he does not - that he cannot - give the proper words - does take hold of him whenever he sees Jack after an absense.  The fact that he can't give it the proper words doesn't make it any less powerful - in fact, it may only make it moreso.

And I think you can have a favorite memory of a loved one that, truth be told, is marred in some way by realizing that they did not quite embrace the mutual feeling the two of you shared as fully as you did.  That's what Annie is writing about there, I think.  That that's Jack's favorite memory of Ennis in spite of his knowledge that *at that particular time* Ennis did not - could not - fully embrace the idea that he was in love with Jack, even though Jack knew that to be true.  And he realizes that probably Ennis never could fully embrace it, hence the "And maybe, he thought, they'd never got much farther than that."  Then the "Let be, let be" is his telling himself not to go there - to just enjoy the memory and not let that knowledge mar it.
« Last Edit: July 03, 2006, 11:22:49 am by ednbarby »
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Offline nakymaton

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*pokes head into thread* Hi, and welcome, ruthlesslyunsentimental. Nice thread.

I think we are all in agreement here. Ennis loved Jack, but he did not see himself as gay.

I agree with this, but I just want to add that I think Katherine's out of town and away from computers at the moment, and I don't think that she agrees with this. (There are a lot of subtle differences in interpretations about what Ennis's essential conflict is -- everything from "Ennis doesn't realize he loves Jack" to "Ennis doesn't accept that he loves Jack" to "Ennis doesn't realize that he's gay" to "Ennis doesn't accept that he's gay" to "Ennis is afraid of how other people will react if they know he is gay." I think it's a spectrum of interpretations rather than two clear sides, and it's hard to pin down the source of Ennis's inner turmoil, given how he keeps it all tied up inside himself. Perhaps all of us find some open space between what we see on the screen and what we try to believe, and it's a little different for each of us.)

Now, to the question at hand: It seems a bit strange that the screenplay keeps the story's line about Ennis being unwilling to "embrace him [Jack] face to face because he does not want to see or feel that it is Jack he holds". I think ednbarby explains the story line really well.

But does it fit the movie?

It's interesting, because I think that's the line in the story that really pulls Ennis's internalized homophobia into perspective (and it's interesting that it comes into focus in one of the few moments that's purely from Jack's POV, as if Ennis doesn't even see the conflict clearly enough for the reader to understand Ennis from his own POV). But the scene doesn't seem to be played that way in the movie -- it's one of the few moments when Ennis doesn't appear to be conflicted. (I would argue that, beautiful as the 2nd tent scene is, that Ennis's face never looks as peaceful as it does during the dozy embrace. Both men are just so beautiful in the dozy embrace scene.) But perhaps the movie audience didn't need more evidence of Ennis's inner battles (whatever their source) -- Heath's performance is just so pitch-perfect; Ennis's struggles are written in perfect ambiguity in his every expression. So the movie scene seems more to remind the audience of Jack's (perhaps idealized) memories, to cast the memories of the mountain in an even more idyllic light than they were originally portrayed, to provide a contrast with the argument beside the lake, and to give us two contrasting views of Jack before he dies: young and hopeful and in love, and middle-aged and resigned... and yet still in love?

Anyway. The screenplay takes the directions directly from the story, but the implications of the lines Diane quoted are spread throughout the movie, not used directly in the dozy embrace scene. At least, that's how I view it.
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Offline louisev

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When the thread name changed to "You shut up about Ennis" I had to stop in and like so many others, read Ruthlessly's commentary with great interest!  FINALLY!  Someone has put into words what I had been trying to enunciate all along... and wrestling hopelessly against a rising tide of militant Jackaholism that blamed Ennis for the entire 20 year debacle, knowing there was something wrong with this picture.

Thank you so much!
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