Sparks and Fire as Metaphors in Identity Coping

Although all of Annie Proulx’s Brokeback Mountain is beautiful, the following passage, on page 39, speaks to me unlike any other. The passage begins with, “without getting up he threw deadwood on the fire, the sparks flying up with their truths and lies”. I interpreted this section as Proulx using sparks from a fire as a metaphor for the individual and specific yet fleeting moments in time. The words “truths” and “lies” seem to embody the sparks, illustrating these burningly specific realities we disclose and leave unsaid. Furthermore, the “sparks flying up” implies that, although these moments are important at the moment, they do not matter in the larger picture of one’s life because they will eventually disappear, evaporating into the air.

The passage continues with, “a few hot points of fire landing on their hands and faces” which I interpreted as the attachment truths and lies, and more generally interpersonal conflicts with one’s identities, have with an individual in an overwhelming yet also subconscious way. Sparks flying towards you can startle someone while at the same time failing to be noticed by someone when they land on them in increments that are few and far between. The points may be hot at the moment, but they are quickly ignored because of their fleeting nature. Similarly, the identities one has may cast quick doubts and questions in their minds but they ultimately choose not to pay attention to them because of their fleeting nature and their seeming insignificance in the moment.

The passage continues with, “not for the first time”, implying that these ‘sparks’ are experienced so frequently by the two boys that they have become routine and therefore are quickly disregarded. The flashes of identity questions and concerns they experience are brief as they are too caught up in the moment with each other to think about who they really are. The passage ends with, “and they rolled down into the dirt” which further illustrates the boys’ concentration on one another in the moment and subsequent disregard of themselves on an individual basis. These final words illustrate their choice of choosing the (literal) action of rolling as opposed to noticing the “sparks” of the truths and lies they tell themselves and thinking deeper about these things. This stanza ties into the book’s broader theme of choosing to simply live and love in the moment as opposed to understanding the why and how of one’s desires.

In conclusion, this matters because it illustrates the beauty individuals have of simply existing in the moment and getting lost in the “fire”, or passion. Life can, and usually does, get hard and complicated and, as Ennis and Jack show us, we can always step back and let ourselves exist in relation to one another; love for another person can sometimes be the greatest escape of all.

2 thoughts on “Sparks and Fire as Metaphors in Identity Coping”

  1. Thank you for the post.
    I appreciate the metaphor that you extracted out of the “spark” and “fire” of Jack and Ennis relationship and how that represents their entrenchment in their brief moments of intimacy.
    It might be helpful to place the entire passage you intend to analyze at the beginning before diving into the pieces; I had to race back and forth to stitch up the whole picture.
    It’s true that the novella is already geared towards “the beauty individuals have of simply existing in the moment and getting lost in the ‘fire’, or passion.” What else can the spark, the fire tell us (in relation to “truths and lies”) that we didn’t know before?

  2. I thought your interpretation of both sparks and fire in conversation with Brokeback mountain was really interesting! At first, I thought this idea of them ignoring this spark – representing their identities and the moment they share – was something negative. In a way, they are refusing to acknowledge the truth about their relationship. However, how you phrased it was beautiful. It is not necessarily that they are forgetting themselves; rather, they are choosing to exist in the present and enjoy it. They did not need to understand the moment, they could just live in that feeling of love and desire.

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