Brokeback Mountain

by

Annie Proulx

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Ennis del Mar Character Analysis

Ennis was born in Wyoming, near the Utah border, around the time of World War II. Raised on a small ranch, his parents died when he was young, and his brother and sister raised him. He is described as being tall with a narrow face, and muscular with quick reflexes. When his truck breaks down and he doesn’t have enough money to fix it, he can’t get to school any longer, so he drops out of high school and goes in search of work. He meets Jack Twist during the summer of 1963 on Brokeback Mountain, when neither of them is yet 20 years old. He marries Alma Beers and has two daughters with her, Alma Jr. and Francine. They eventually divorce. For most of his life, he works a series of ranch jobs around the state of Wyoming. He carries on a secret affair with Jack for the better part of 20 years, and is left in deep mourning when Jack dies in 1983. Ennis, though often gruff on the outside, is revealed to have a tender side through his relationship with Jack. When Ennis and Jack part ways after their summer on Brokeback Mountain, Ennis feels so upset over losing Jack that he feels physically sick. This physical manifestation of his love for Jack resurfaces 20 years later, when the men are again faced with the prospect of a lasting separation—showing that Ennis’s steely shell guards a vulnerable and emotional person. Ennis lives in a state of near constant fear that he and Jack could be physically harmed for their romance—a fear that originates in the fact that, when he was a child, his father showed him the mutilated body of a gay rancher. Much like Ennis’s love for Jack, this fear follows Ennis for years. When the story ends, it seems that Ennis is doomed to live alone with the painful truth that he was unable to achieve a sense of safety and belonging with the man he loved in a world where being openly gay is simply not an option.

Ennis del Mar Quotes in Brokeback Mountain

The Brokeback Mountain quotes below are all either spoken by Ennis del Mar or refer to Ennis del Mar. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Desire, Repression, and Regret  Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Scribner edition of Brokeback Mountain published in 1999.
Brokeback Mountain Quotes

They were raised on small, poor ranches in opposite corners of the state, Jack Twist in Lightning Flat, up on the Montana border, Ennis del Mar from around Sage, near the Utah line, both high-school drop-out country boys with no prospects, brought up to hard work and privation, both rough-mannered, rough-spoken, inured to the stoic life.

Related Characters: Ennis del Mar, Jack Twist
Page Number: 4
Explanation and Analysis:

In 1963, when he met Jack Twist, Ennis was engaged to Alma Beers. Both Jack and Ennis claimed to be saving money for a small spread; in Ennis’s case that meant a tobacco can with two five-dollar bills inside. That spring, hungry for any job, each had signed up with Farm and Ranch Employment—they came together on paper as herder and camp tender for the same sheep operation north of Signal.

Related Characters: Ennis del Mar, Jack Twist, Alma Beers
Related Symbols: Brokeback Mountain
Page Number: 5
Explanation and Analysis:

“Forest Service got designated campsites on the allotments. Them camps can be a couple a miles from where we pasture the sheep. Bad predator loss, nobody near lookin after em at night. What I want—camp tender in the main camp where the Forest Service says, but the herder”—pointing at Jack with a chop of his hand—“pitch a pup tent on the Q.T. with the sheep, out a sight, and he’s goin a sleep there. Eat supper, breakfast in camp, but sleep with the sheep, hundred percent, no fire, don’t leave no sign. Roll up that tent every mornin case Forest Service snoops around. Got the dogs, your .30-.30, sleep there. Last summer had goddam near twenty-five-percent loss. I don’t want that again. […] Tomorrow mornin we’ll truck you up the jump-off.” Pair of deuces going nowhere.

Related Characters: Joe Aguirre (speaker), Ennis del Mar, Jack Twist
Related Symbols: Brokeback Mountain
Page Number: 6-7
Explanation and Analysis:

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.

Related Characters: Ennis del Mar, Jack Twist
Related Symbols: Brokeback Mountain
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:

“Tell you what, you got a get up a dozen times in the night out there over them coyotes. Happy to switch but give you warnin I can’t cook worth a shit. Pretty good with a can opener.”

“Can’t be no worse than me, then. Sure, I wouldn’t mind a do it.”

They fended off the night for an hour with the yellow kerosene lamp, and around ten Ennis rode Cigar Butt, a good night horse, through the glimmering frost back to the sheep, carrying leftover biscuits, a jar of jam, and a jar of coffee with him for the next day, saying he’d save a trip, stay out until supper.

Related Characters: Ennis del Mar (speaker), Jack Twist (speaker)
Related Symbols: Brokeback Mountain
Page Number: 10-11
Explanation and Analysis:

They were respectful of each other’s opinions, each glad to have a companion where none had been expected. Ennis, riding against the wind back to the sheep in the treacherous, drunken light, thought he’d never had such a good time, felt he could paw the white out of the moon.

Related Characters: Ennis del Mar, Jack Twist
Related Symbols: Brokeback Mountain
Page Number: 12
Explanation and Analysis:

Ennis woke in 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.

Related Characters: Ennis del Mar, Jack Twist
Related Symbols: Brokeback Mountain
Page Number: 14-15
Explanation and Analysis:

There were only the two of them on the mountain, flying in the euphoric, bitter air, looking down on the hawk’s back and the crawling lights of vehicles on the plain below, suspended above ordinary affairs and distant from tame ranch dogs barking in the dark hours. They believed themselves invisible, not knowing Joe Aguirre had watched them through his 10x42 binoculars for ten minutes one day, waiting until they’d buttoned up their jeans, waiting until Ennis rode back to the sheep, before bringing up the message that Jack’s people had sent word that his uncle Harold was in the hospital with pneumonia and expected not to make it. Though he did, and Aguirre came up again to say so, fixing Jack with his bold stare, not bothering to dismount.

Related Characters: Ennis del Mar, Jack Twist
Related Symbols: Brokeback Mountain
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:

Even when the numbers were right Ennis knew the sheep were mixed. In a disquieting way everything seemed mixed.

Related Characters: Ennis del Mar, Jack Twist
Related Symbols: Brokeback Mountain
Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:

“Right,” said Jack, and they shook hands, hit each other on the shoulder; then there was forty feet of distance between them and nothing to do but drive away in opposite directions. Within a mile Ennis felt like someone was pulling his guts out hand over hand a yard at a time. He stopped at the side of the road and, in the whirling new snow, tried to puke but nothing came up. He felt about as bad as he ever had and it took a long time for the feeling to wear off.

Related Characters: Ennis del Mar, Jack Twist
Related Symbols: Brokeback Mountain
Page Number: 18
Explanation and Analysis:

“Ennis, please, no more damn lonesome ranches for us,” she said, sitting on his lap, wrapping her thin, freckled arms around him. “Let’s get a place here in town.”

“I guess,” said Ennis… They stayed in the little apartment, which he favored because it could be left at any time.

Related Characters: Ennis del Mar (speaker), Alma Beers (speaker)
Page Number: 19
Explanation and Analysis:

They seized each other by the shoulders, hugged mightily, squeezing the breath out of each other, saying son of a bitch, son of a bitch; then, and as easily as the right key turns the lock tumblers, their mouths came together, and hard, Jack’s big teeth bringing blood, his hat falling to the floor, stubble rasping, wet saliva welling, and the door opening and Alma looking out for a few seconds at Ennis’s straining shoulders and shutting the door again and still they clinched, pressing chest and groin and thigh and leg together, treading on each other’s toes until they pulled apart to breathe and Ennis, not big on endearments, said what he said to his horses and daughters, “Little darlin.”

Related Characters: Ennis del Mar (speaker), Jack Twist, Alma Beers
Page Number: 21
Explanation and Analysis:

“Friend,” said Jack. “We got us a fuckin situation here. Got a figure out what to do.”

“I doubt there’s nothin now we can do,” said Ennis. “What I’m sayin, Jack, I built a life up in them years. Love my little girls. Alma? It ain’t her fault. You got your baby and wife, that place in Texas. You and me can’t hardly be decent together if what happened back there”—he jerked his head in the direction of the apartment—“grabs” on us like that. We do that in the wrong place we’ll be dead. There’s no reins on this one. It scares the piss out a me.”

Related Characters: Ennis del Mar (speaker), Jack Twist (speaker), Alma Beers, Alma Jr. and Francine
Page Number: 26-27
Explanation and Analysis:

“Dad made sure I seen it. Took me to see it. Me and K.E. Dad laughed about it. Hell, for all I know he done the job. If he was alive and was to put his head in that door right now you bet he’d go get his tire iron. Two guys livin together? No. All I can see is we get together once in a while way the hell out in the back a nowhere—”

Related Characters: Ennis del Mar (speaker), Jack Twist
Related Symbols: Tire Iron
Page Number: 30
Explanation and Analysis:

Her resentment opened out a little every year: the embrace she had glimpsed, Ennis’s fishing trips once or twice a year with Jack Twist and never a vacation with her and the girls, his disinclination to step out and have any fun, his yearning for low-paid, long-houred ranch work, his propensity to roll to the wall and sleep as soon as he hit the bed, his failure to look for a decent permanent job with the county or the power company put her in a long, slow dive, and when Alma, Jr., was nine and Francine seven she said, What am I doin, hangin around with him, divorced Ennis, and married the Riverton grocer.

Related Characters: Ennis del Mar, Jack Twist, Alma Beers
Page Number: 31-32
Explanation and Analysis:

“Don’t lie, don’t try to fool me, Ennis. I know what it means. Jack Twist? Jack Nasty. You and him—”

She’d overstepped his line. He seized her wrist and twisted; tears sprang and rolled, a dish clattered.

“Shut up,” he said. “Mind your own business. You don’t know nothin about it.”

Related Characters: Ennis del Mar (speaker), Alma Beers (speaker), Jack Twist
Page Number: 33
Explanation and Analysis:

You got no fuckin idea how bad it gets. I’m not you. I can’t make it on a couple a high-altitude fucks once or twice a year. You’re too much for me, Ennis, you son of a whoreson bitch. I wish I knew how to quit you.”

Related Characters: Jack Twist (speaker), Ennis del Mar
Page Number: 42
Explanation and Analysis:

It was Lureen and she said who? who is this? and when he told her again she said in a level voice yes, Jack was pumping up a flat on the truck out on a back road when the tire blew up. The bead was damaged somehow and the force of the explosion slammed the rim into his face, broke his nose and jaw and knocked him unconscious on his back. By the time someone came along he had drowned in his own blood.

No, he thought, they got him with the tire iron.

Related Characters: Ennis del Mar, Jack Twist, Lureen
Related Symbols: Tire Iron
Page Number: 45
Explanation and Analysis:

The old man spoke angrily. “I can’t get no help out here. Jack used a say, ‘Ennis del Mar,’ he used a say, ‘I’m goin a bring him up here one a these days and we’ll lick this damn ranch into shape.’ He had some half-baked idea the two a you was goin a move up here, build a log cabin, and help me run this ranch and bring it up. Then this spring he’s got another one’s goin a come up here with him and build a place and help run the ranch, some ranch neighbor a his from down in Texas. He’s goin a split up with his wife and come back here. So he says. But like most a Jack’s ideas it never come to pass.”

Related Characters: Ennis del Mar, Jack Twist
Related Symbols: Tire Iron
Page Number: 49
Explanation and Analysis:

He pressed his face into the fabric and breathed in slowly through his mouth and nose, hoping for the faintest smoke and mountain sage and salty sweet stink of Jack, but there was no real scent, only the memory of it, the imagined power of Brokeback Mountain of which nothing was left but what he held in his hands.

Related Characters: Ennis del Mar, Jack Twist
Related Symbols: Brokeback Mountain
Page Number: 52
Explanation and Analysis:

There was some open space between what he knew and what he tried to believe, but nothing could be done about it, and if you can’t fix it you’ve got to stand it.

Related Characters: Ennis del Mar
Page Number: 55
Explanation and Analysis:
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Ennis del Mar Character Timeline in Brokeback Mountain

The timeline below shows where the character Ennis del Mar appears in Brokeback Mountain. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Brokeback Mountain
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
Ennis del Mar and Jack Twist are both born poor and raised on small ranches on... (full context)
Masculinity and Sexuality  Theme Icon
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
Jack and Ennis meet for the first time in the summer of 1963, before either of them has... (full context)
Intolerance and Violence Theme Icon
Masculinity and Sexuality  Theme Icon
They are introduced in the presence of their boss, Joe Aguirre, who instructs Ennis to be the camp tender and Jack to be the herder. He tells Jack to... (full context)
Masculinity and Sexuality  Theme Icon
Jack and Ennis head to a bar, where they get to know each other. Jack tells Ennis about... (full context)
Desire, Repression, and Regret  Theme Icon
Masculinity and Sexuality  Theme Icon
Jack provides Ennis with more tips for surviving the mountain, such as how to pack the mules, and... (full context)
Desire, Repression, and Regret  Theme Icon
Masculinity and Sexuality  Theme Icon
...Jack complains about his four-hour commute to and from his campsite out with the sheep. Ennis offers to switch jobs with him, but Jack insists it’s more about the principle—they both... (full context)
Desire, Repression, and Regret  Theme Icon
Masculinity and Sexuality  Theme Icon
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
...their families, ranches they’ve worked on, dogs they’ve owned, and experiences with the military. When Ennis finally rides out to the sheep, he realizes he’s probably never had such a good... (full context)
Desire, Repression, and Regret  Theme Icon
Intolerance and Violence Theme Icon
Masculinity and Sexuality  Theme Icon
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
...flask of whiskey. One night, when they’re both drunk, Jack says it’s too late for Ennis to ride back out to sleep with the sheep. Ennis falls asleep on the floor,... (full context)
Desire, Repression, and Regret  Theme Icon
Intolerance and Violence Theme Icon
Masculinity and Sexuality  Theme Icon
One night in August, Ennis spends the night with Jack in the main camp. A hailstorm sets the sheep off... (full context)
Desire, Repression, and Regret  Theme Icon
Intolerance and Violence Theme Icon
Masculinity and Sexuality  Theme Icon
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
When Jack and Ennis part ways after coming down from the mountain, they do not make plans to see... (full context)
Desire, Repression, and Regret  Theme Icon
Intolerance and Violence Theme Icon
Masculinity and Sexuality  Theme Icon
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
Ennis marries Alma in December, and she is pregnant by January. They name their daughter Alma... (full context)
Desire, Repression, and Regret  Theme Icon
Intolerance and Violence Theme Icon
Masculinity and Sexuality  Theme Icon
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
When Jack comes into town, Ennis is nervous and puts on his best clothes. When Jack arrives, the men embrace, and... (full context)
Desire, Repression, and Regret  Theme Icon
Intolerance and Violence Theme Icon
Masculinity and Sexuality  Theme Icon
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
...Jack wants to find a way for them to see each other more often, but Ennis points out that he has responsibilities: to his work, to his daughter, to Alma. Further,... (full context)
Desire, Repression, and Regret  Theme Icon
Intolerance and Violence Theme Icon
Masculinity and Sexuality  Theme Icon
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
Jack proposes that the men start a ranch together. Ennis refuses, telling him the story of Earl and Rich. They were two men who lived... (full context)
Desire, Repression, and Regret  Theme Icon
Intolerance and Violence Theme Icon
Masculinity and Sexuality  Theme Icon
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
As the years wear on, Alma and Ennis have another daughter. The couple begins to grow apart, as Ennis steals away for weeks... (full context)
Intolerance and Violence Theme Icon
Masculinity and Sexuality  Theme Icon
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
At a Thanksgiving at the grocer’s house, Ennis does his best to show that he isn’t upset by the divorce or that his... (full context)
Desire, Repression, and Regret  Theme Icon
Intolerance and Violence Theme Icon
Masculinity and Sexuality  Theme Icon
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
Jack and Ennis continue to see each other over the years. They age, but their desire for each... (full context)
Desire, Repression, and Regret  Theme Icon
Intolerance and Violence Theme Icon
Masculinity and Sexuality  Theme Icon
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
...see each other next; Jack had thought they would next be together in August, but Ennis says he can’t get off work until November. Jack tries to convince Ennis to elope... (full context)
Desire, Repression, and Regret  Theme Icon
Intolerance and Violence Theme Icon
Masculinity and Sexuality  Theme Icon
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
Months later, Ennis sends a postcard to Jack, and it is returned marked “DECEASED.” Unable to believe it,... (full context)
Desire, Repression, and Regret  Theme Icon
Intolerance and Violence Theme Icon
Masculinity and Sexuality  Theme Icon
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
Ennis goes to visit Jack’s parents in Lightning Flat, Wyoming. Jack’s mother is kind to him,... (full context)
Desire, Repression, and Regret  Theme Icon
Intolerance and Violence Theme Icon
Masculinity and Sexuality  Theme Icon
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
Ennis buys a postcard of Brokeback Mountain and pins it up in his trailer. He hangs... (full context)