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“Brokeback Mountain” and “The Lover”, Books and Films Essay

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Updated: Nov 3rd, 2021

The language of stories, as used in novels, is quite a different medium than the medium of film. Each can be used as a different tool, each having different effects as tools, just as a screwdriver and a wrench each have different functions as real tools. The words of a language can serve as powerful tools for the details and specific imagery, especially when it is best that the reader apply the specific imagery or situation to themselves as it best relates to them. In film, the imagery is immediate and is powerful in that it forces the reader to confront any number of issues. While little is left to the viewer’s imagination with film, any themes relevant in the telling of the story can be displayed and expressed immediately rather than through the slow implications as is commonly necessary with language. The power of language is personal relation, while the power of film is immediate and specific conveyance.

Brokeback Mountain and The Lover are both tales of love and human development that have been portrayed in both books and films. Both films and books seem to each portray different elements better than each other in different ways, for such stories are rich in the variety of ideals relevant. All themes mentioned are relevant to some extent to either story, especially love, prejudice, passion, sex, and coming of age. Both films depict the characters in such a way that the development is more apparent, while the language in the stories better describes the mental development of the characters.

Brokeback Mountain has many underlying themes of morality and general humanity. The conflicts of life with regards to man versus himself are portrayed in the story. The main characters in the story, struggle with circumstances of sexuality. This, in turn, forces them to seek a new moral basis and make decisions that can be seen as basic human choices between right and wrong or good and evil. As such, many themes are relevant such as family, dysfunction, parenting, love, and more as homosexuality has at least some influence on all of these areas. The characters in the story start at different points of morality in their journey through humanity however most of them come to the same basic moral conclusions. The characters of Jack and Ennis have unusual developments throughout the story as they must deal with their sexual relations. The dysfunction of the relationships in this sense is more evident in the book as the imagery is more indicative of the concept of dysfunction, however in the movie this takes on a more personal tone as the visualization of the characters evokes emotions in a unique way which the book does not do (Freeman).

The morality in the general sense of the western culture of America is evident to some degree in this work as the novel takes place in classic western cowboy culture. While family relationship development and dysfunction play a certain role in the characters in the story the most drastic changes and conflicts are within the internal aspects of the characters. The reader is placed in the perspective to witness the cowboys develop and face conflict. In the book this situation is less mysterious but more concrete due to the level of detail. In the film, this has somewhat of a different feel as the mystery is stronger initially while the sense of openness and “normalness” of the characters is shown through the medium of film; while forced on the viewer is more of an obligation of understanding as the viewer is forced to physically look at the otherwise normal demeanor of two homosexuals. As such the reader or viewer must witness the situation of classical ethical, moral, and family relationship problems that occur when a situation such as this takes place as homosexuality is such unusual topic in that culture and even in the modern culture of America. While the reader of the story has a better perspective to consider how age and background play a role in moral development throughout life, the viewer of the movie is better placed in a perspective to consider how characters can develop their own moral code when they must in the absence of an already-present code. Sexuality and developing relationships are equally relevant to both the book and the film (Drudge; Freeman).

The morality of America in the time of the story was not in existence in the same manner in which it is in existence today. Although people in such situations as the characters of the story would believe themselves to be part of a moral culture, in more modern standards the culture would be lacking morality and a more virtuous existence. The readers are more prone to believe this mentality and behavior is a result of the way life was before and prior to them, while the movie viewer is presented with the idea that characters ultimately have the potential to digress into amoral behaviors because of their environment simply allowing for it. Both imply that the characters needed stronger influences in some manner to force and encourage them to have stronger relationships and standards. Homosexuality in the story is best shown as secretive in the book and strange but satisfying in the film. In both cases the dysfunction becomes apparent while the overlying tones of development and character development are evident (Colly; Drudge).

In The Lover love, passion, and other topics are more relevant in unique ways which differ somewhat from Brokeback Mountain. This story, is similar in theme however in that is a rebellion against the stereotyping and classic view with regards to the comprehension of love and relationships. The traditional view of the ideal lover is challenged in the story; in the book this is more evident in the narrations and descriptions of the characters while in the movie this is made more evident visually, in showing the expressions and actions of the characters. While homosexuality is no factor, young forbidden relationships are while coming of age is a somewhat unique theme. At the same time, the young girl developing a youthful relationship while coming of age does not correlate the relationship with love. This view never changes and the young woman’s feelings actually become unique in that there is an absence of love as she separates it completely from the life of her relationship (Bikerton; White).

The traditional themes of love are commonly associated to be stronger with the feminine. The Lover is unique in that it challenges these stereotypes while the women play a unique role in the relationship by having no feelings whatsoever. Also a challenge to the stereotypes in love is the male in the relationship, as he allows himself to have and show a fair amount of emotion in the development of their relationship. While the relationship is arguably dysfunctional from the beginning, in either case it is apparently a survival tactic built-in to the woman. The language of the book best describes the woman’s feelings and reactions to this as well and the stronger feelings of the man’s. The perspective of the viewer of this movie is unique as the film shows how different such characters seem in such a reverse role (as far as stereotypes are concerned) with regards to such a human relationship (Bikerton; White).

Overall, nearly all themes are relevant in both stories. The films tend to better show the human expression and physical manifestations of human actions and emotions, while the languages of books better depict the specifications of any developments. While the language of the books tends to give a better sense of background and influence based on that background, the films show more of an immediate sense of such effects. The Lover and Brokeback Mountain are great examples of the differences between books and films. Aside from the structural differences (which are apparently common no matter what the adaptation is) the relevance and portrayal of major themes through the various tools are immediately evident. While it seems the books made better use of available tools to portray the themes, another potential advantage with film as a tool is the ease and length of time with which it can be viewed, and as such it is likely that the films of each story were able to reach a significantly larger amount of people with its themes than would have been with the books alone.


Bickerton, E. “The Timeless Marguerite Duras”: an article in the TLS by Emilie Bickerton, 2007.

Colly, G. “Brokeback Mountain: a timeless struggle”. Planet Papers. 2009. Web.

Drudge, M. “Hollywood rocked: ‘Gay cowboy’ movie becomes an Oscar front runner.” 2005 Drudge Report.

Freeman, J. . 2006. Web.

White, E. “In Love with Duras” an essay in The New York Review of Books. 2008.

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