Author Topic: 42 Sheep and the Storm the year before Jack met Ennis  (Read 128 times)

Offline Brown Eyes

  • BetterMost Supporter!
  • BetterMost Moderator
  • The BetterMost 10,000 Post Club
  • *****
  • Posts: 10,377
42 Sheep and the Storm the year before Jack met Ennis
« on: November 14, 2020, 08:54:01 pm »
Hey there Brokies!

It's been far too long since I've been here.  I frequently feel a lot of nostalgia for the days when we spent a great deal of time here analyzing the film and the story.  Today I watched the movie again for the first time in several months and I started thinking about a detail that I'm not sure we've discussed here before.  If we have, please point me to any earlier comments about this.

It occurred to me, listening to the early conversation in the bar when Jack and Ennis are getting to know each other, Jack brings up a really dramatic story that kind of goes by quickly in the conversation and is sort of met with a shrug.  He mentions that the previous summer, 42 sheep were killed by a lightning strike and that he thought he'd asphyxiate from the smell. That level of drama and carnage from one storm seems like it would elicit more of a reaction or at least a little bit more discussion between them.  What do we think the purpose is of this story about such a traumatic event? 

I think it is an important step in establishing sheep as a symbol- things requiring protection, things that can make you feel guilty when you fail them, and things that can tempt you to break the rules (shoot a sheep if you're hungry, etc.).  In the realm of protecting sheep, losing 42 at once is a massive and grotesque failure - though as Jack mentions he can't control the weather.  The topic of weather also makes me wonder if the violent storm/ lightning strike connects to Jack's association with the wind and lightning (as in Lightning Flat). 

I'd really be curious to hear others thoughts on this!  :)
the world was asleep to our latent fuss - bowie

Online serious crayons

  • Moderator
  • The BetterMost 10,000 Post Club
  • *****
  • Posts: 20,249
Re: 42 Sheep and the Storm the year before Jack met Ennis
« Reply #1 on: November 14, 2020, 09:44:20 pm »
I think it is an important step in establishing sheep as a symbol- things requiring protection, things that can make you feel guilty when you fail them, and things that can tempt you to break the rules (shoot a sheep if you're hungry, etc.).  In the realm of protecting sheep, losing 42 at once is a massive and grotesque failure - though as Jack mentions he can't control the weather.  The topic of weather also makes me wonder if the violent storm/ lightning strike connects to Jack's association with the wind and lightning (as in Lightning Flat). 

I'd really be curious to hear others thoughts on this!  :)

Interesting ideas, A! The fact that Jack "can't control the weather" also ties in with Jack being "what the wind blew in," his association with fans, his family home in Lightning Flat (as Amanda has mentioned), etc. -- all kinds of wild weather. And then I can't help but wonder of the snow that "hardly stuck an hour" somehow figures in. Perhaps they're tied to things that happen naturally, like sexual orientation.

I don't know -- just throwing that out there. Might be just cigars.

But the death of 42 sheep from lightning, especially as it's casually mentioned in passing, does raise questions.

 

Offline Brown Eyes

  • BetterMost Supporter!
  • BetterMost Moderator
  • The BetterMost 10,000 Post Club
  • *****
  • Posts: 10,377
Re: 42 Sheep and the Storm the year before Jack met Ennis
« Reply #2 on: November 14, 2020, 10:38:10 pm »
Hey Crayons!

The story of 42 sheep killed by one lightning strike seems pretty close to implausible.  So there are many odd things about this quickly passing detail in their early conversation.

Yes, the surprising snow that came in too early and this storm from the earlier summer are good examples of natural occurrences that neither Jack nor Ennis can control.

I also wonder if this is meant to be some kind of foreshadowing of danger.  But, it still seems exaggerated or extreme compared to most other elements of this very subtle film/ story.
the world was asleep to our latent fuss - bowie

Offline Front-Ranger

  • BetterMost Moderator
  • The BetterMost 10,000 Post Club
  • *****
  • Posts: 26,982
  • Brokeback got us good.
Re: 42 Sheep and the Storm the year before Jack met Ennis
« Reply #3 on: November 15, 2020, 12:35:31 pm »
How lovely to be talking about the nuances of this story again! The numbers that Annie Proulx selects to flesh out her story are so specific that you have to wonder. In this story, she seems to show a preference for even numbers. The first number mentioned is twenty-four, the number of dollars Mr. and Mrs. del Mar left to Ennis and his siblings when they died. And then, in the next column, the number is reversed: forty-two, the number of sheep killed in one lightning strike!

Proulx seems to want to avoid using odd numbers. Instead of saying that Jack and Ennis were 19, she wrote, "Neither of them was 20." If she does use an odd number, she'll pair it somehow as in referring to the rifle as a ".30-.30." She even pairs up the even numbers, as when Aguirre refers to the men as a "pair of deuces going nowhere." I look upon this as a literary reinforcement of the two mens' bond, the yin/yang nature of life (casting a glance at the yin/yang coaster you gave me, friend!) and the life-giving energy of complementary opposites.
When you see the smiley face in the sky, the pandemic will be over!

Offline BBM_victim

  • Sr. Ranch Hand
  • ***
  • Posts: 86
Re: 42 Sheep and the Storm the year before Jack met Ennis
« Reply #4 on: November 24, 2020, 06:35:16 am »
Friends, this letter is long overdue...  ;D
I am, too, hit by nostalgia (if you could even call it that in my case) and a BBM's (i guess first of many) afterwave.

With regard to this thread, i have always found Ennis' reaction to Jack's story really strange, i wonder what he thinks there... And just from a rational point of view, what is the point of that scene? I think it's simply that Jack is trying to impress Ennis, to show him that he is experienced, tough and capable and therefore, it could be that he is exaggerating...

Just my two cents  ;)

Offline Front-Ranger

  • BetterMost Moderator
  • The BetterMost 10,000 Post Club
  • *****
  • Posts: 26,982
  • Brokeback got us good.
Re: 42 Sheep and the Storm the year before Jack met Ennis
« Reply #5 on: November 25, 2020, 04:19:10 pm »
... it could be that he is exaggerating...

Just my two cents  ;)

Jack exaggerate? Couldn't happen! Yes it could! BBM_victim it's nice to hear from you again. Thanks for dropping in!

Here's another reason for the scene. Proulx ends that little speech by Jack with the words: The need for a lot of whiskey up there.  ;)
When you see the smiley face in the sky, the pandemic will be over!