Ennis del Mar wakes up before five, wind rocking the trailer, hissing in around the aluminum door and window frames. The shirts on a nail shudder slightly in the draft. It could be bad on the highway with the horse trailer. He has to be packed and away from the place that morning. He might have to stay with his married daughter until he picks up another job, yet he is suffused with a sense of pleasure because Jack Twist was in his dream.
The stale coffee is boiling up but he catches it before it goes over the side, pours it into a stained cup and blows on the black liquid, lets a panel of the dream slide forward. If he does not force his attention on it, it might stoke the day, rewarm that old, cold time on the mountain when they owned the world and nothing seemed wrong.
The wind strikes the trailer like a load of dirt coming off a dump truck, eases, dies, leaves a temporary silence.
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Just as it was at their beginning, so might Jack Twist stride into his life again — unbidden. How is it possible for certain love-affairs to live on in the unconscious in this way, and with this tenacity, when others see the tabula wiped clean overnight? Is it simply a matter of the individual psyche i. Or of the qualitative strength of one attachment over the next: where we love deeply and meaningfully, we love longest?
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Put simply: the more unlikely the love-object, the more persistent the attachment. At first sight Jack seemed fair enough with his curly hair and a quick laugh, but for a small man he carried some weight in the haunch and his smile disclosed buck teeth, not pronounced enough to let him eat popcorn out of the neck of the jug, but noticeable. Ennis, high-arched nose and narrow face, was scruffy and a little cave-chested, balanced a small torso on long caliper [sic] legs, [but] possessed a muscular and supple body made for the horse and for fighting.
While Proulx may not route this description through the focalization her characters, these physical characteristics — both ideal and idiosyncratic — are threaded through the narrative that ensues. Significantly, the first time the text shows the men appraising one another, it is from the ultra-de-familiarizing distance of their respective camps on Brokeback Mountain:.
During the day Ennis looked across a great gulf and sometimes saw Jack, a small dot moving across a high meadow as an insect moves across a tablecloth; Jack, in his dark camp, saw Ennis as night fire, a red spark on the huge black mass of mountain. And yet it may also be read as paradigmatic of the sort of making and matching bizarre, unfamiliar, difficult to make out that lives longest in the memory banks and when focused on a potential love object — serves to fuel the life and after-life of romance.
The difficulty Jack and Ennis have in figuring each other out is registered in the text — at the level of the plot — in the length of time it takes before their mutual attraction is recognized. Ennis woke in the red dawn with his pants around his knees, a top-grade headache, and Jack butted against him; without saying anything about it both knew how it would go for the rest of the summer, sheep be damned.
As it did go. A one-shot thing. Although such passion can, of course, be explained simply as a response to abstinence both sexual and emotional , there are several instances in the text where we can, I think, see the dynamics of the initial schema and correction process repeating themselves. Late in the afternoon, thunder growling, that same old green pickup rolled in and he saw Jack get out of the truck, beat-up Resitol tilted back.
A hot jolt scalded Ennis and he was out on the landing pulling the door closed behind him. Jack took the stairs two and two. What is most interesting from the point of view of my hypothesis, however, is that this dissonance between the ideal and the actual serves only to magnify the specificity, and hence the intensity, of the romantic encounter. Like Ennis, we scramble our schema to make sense of the scene before us and, in the gap between what we see and what we know, register once again the seeming uniqueness of this love-relationship.
The chances of it striking more than twice would, however, seem slim — and [End Page 10] yet this is precisely how the reunions between Jack and Ennis continue to be characterized.
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And while, once again, it is possible to make a banal reading of this the sex was good because it was so infrequent , it may — for the purposes of my hypothesis — also be read as evidence of the way in which the a priori moment of schema and correction continues to repeat itself. Meanwhile, the way in which such repeated corrections may over time lead to a permanent expansion and alteration of the schema is recognized in Gestalt psychology through the concept of reification the generative aspect of perception which causes the percept to appear to the beholder with more information — visual, sensory, conceptual — than the eye actually beholds.
Once brought within the figure of the new outline or schema, whose difference from the bland original is precisely what makes our attachment so compelling and unique, aesthetic flaws, bad behavior, and even everyday irritations — the death-knell of more Erosically-defined relationships see note one — are accommodated and forgotten. A minute or two later, however:. Nothing ended, nothing begun, nothing resolved. As the title of this article indicates, my likening of the process of falling in love to E.
By implication, the application of the principle to the perception-cognition of lovers must necessarily include all lovers: each one of us will fall in love in response to our personal schemata regardless of where this — and, indeed, the gender of our potential love object — positions us on the spectrum of sexualities available to us. Given the enormity of the gulf between ideal and permissible love-objects and their displacement onto a lover of the same sex it is also not surprising that the process of schema correction should take some time.
Understanding this also, of course, suggests why love so hard-won is also not easily forgotten.
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The slippage becomes, in effect, a mystery that needs to be solved and, hence, a compulsion. In any relationship where the gap between our schema and our love-object is wide, however, the love itself is liable to be deep and long-lasting; it is the fascination of something that fits, or matches, almost but not exactly that has the power to bind us to him or her forever.
Finally, by way of conclusion, I return to the political subtext introduced at the start of this article. The literary history of tragic romance, meanwhile, has typically preferred to draw the veil on any such extended mourning by contriving an ending that involves both parties. A useful article comparing Popper and Gombrich was published by Norbert Schneider in In his essay, Freud links the tendency to melancholia to narcissistic personalities who depend upon their lovers to verify their own sense of identity and hence cannot bear to do without them when they disappear or die.
Philosophical interest in the concept can be traced back to David Hulme, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Immanuel Kant and David Hartley among others, but it was only in the early twentieth century that Max Wertheimer recognized its significance for our understanding of human perception. For love at first sight requires the very sign of its suddenness what makes me irresponsible, subject to fatality, swept away, ravished : and of all the arrangements of objects, it is the scene which seems to be seen best for the first time.
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The Perception of the Visual World.
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Boston: Houghton Mifflin, Gombrich, E. Second Impression. London: Phaidon, .
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Koffka, Kurt. London and New York: Routledge. New York: Grove Press, . Maurer, Christian. Christian Maurer and Tony Milligan. London: Palgrave Macmillan, Journal of Popular Romance Studies 2. Trauma and Romance in Contemporary British Literature.
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