Ennis Del Mar [literally translates to "Island of the Sea"; Ennis is Irish for Island and Del Mar is Spanish for "Of The Sea"] (del Mar in the short story) is the fictional main character of the short story "Brokeback Mountain" by Annie Proulx and the 2005 Academy Award-winning film adaptation of the same name directed by Ang Lee. In the film, Ennis was portrayed by Australian actor Heath Ledger. Ennis's story is depicted by the complex, sexual, and romantic relationship he had with Jack Twist in the American West from 1963 to 1983.
In an interview about her work, and "Brokeback Mountain" in particular, Proulx stated Ennis Del Mar was a "confused Wyoming ranch [kid]" who finds himself in a personal sexual situation he did not foresee, nor can understand. She said both men were "beguiled by the cowboy myth," and "Ennis tries to be one but never gets beyond ranch hand work."
One mystery surrounding Ennis Del Mar (as well as Jack Twist) is his correct sexual orientation, if any specific one at all. He has sexual and emotional relationships, of varying and fluctuating degrees, with Alma, Cassie and Jack.
Some film critics said Ennis was bisexual rather than strictly homosexual. Sex researcher Fritz Klein stated he felt Ennis to be "a bit more toward the straight side of being bisexual." Ledger himself was quoted as stating in Time: "I don't think Ennis could be labeled as gay. Without Jack Twist, I don't know that he ever would have come out... I think the whole point was that it was two souls that fell in love with each other." The film's producer, James Schamus, and LGBT-related non-fiction author Eric Marcus opined that the characters were both gay.
Fictional character history
When the two 19-year-old men first begin work on Brokeback Mountain, Ennis is stationed at the base camp while Jack watches after the sheep higher on the mountain. They initially meet only for meals at the base camp, where they gradually become friends. After a time they switch roles, with Jack taking over duties at base camp and Ennis tending the flock. One night, after the two share a bottle of whiskey, Ennis decides to remain at the base camp overnight instead of returning up the mountain. Ennis is at first reluctant to even sleep in the same tent as Jack, but later that night the men share a brief, intense sexual encounter. Over the remainder of the summer their sexual and emotional relationship deepens further.
After the job is finished, the two part ways. Ennis marries his long-term fiancée Alma Beers (portrayed in the film by Michelle Williams), and starts a family, having two daughters. Jack moves to Texas, where he marries a former rodeo performer named Lureen (portrayed by Anne Hathaway) and fathers a son.
Four years later, Ennis receives a postcard from Jack asking if he wants to meet when Jack passes through the area. The men reunite, and their passion immediately rekindles. Jack broaches the subject of creating a life together on a small ranch. Ennis, unwilling to leave his family and haunted by a childhood memory of the torture and murder of a suspected homosexual couple in his hometown, fears that such an arrangement can only end in tragedy. Unable to be open about their relationship, Ennis and Jack settle for infrequent meetings on camping trips in the mountains.
As the years pass, Ennis' marriage deteriorates. Unknown to him, Alma knows about his relationship with Jack, having earlier seen the two men passionately kissing. Alma eventually divorces Ennis, takes custody of their two daughters, and marries her former employer. Jack hopes that Ennis' divorce will allow them to live together, but Ennis still refuses to move away from his children and remains uncomfortable with the idea of living with another man. Meanwhile, his oldest daughter, Alma Junior, now in her teens, visits Ennis on a periodic basis, and Ennis meets and dates waitress Cassie Cartwright (portrayed in the film by Linda Cardellini). On a 1983 trip with Jack to the mountains, Ennis insists that to keep his job, he cannot meet with Jack again before November. Ennis and Jack's frustrations finally erupt into a bitter argument, the struggle becoming a desperate embrace. However, the two men part upset.
Months later, a postcard Ennis sent to Jack, about meeting in November, has returned to the post office, stamped deceased. In a strained telephone conversation, Jack's wife Lureen tells Ennis that Jack died in an accident while changing a tire. While she explains what happened, images of Jack being beaten to death by three men flash through Ennis's mind, illustrating his fears that Jack's death was not accidental. During the strained conversation, it is implied that Jack had become an alcoholic. Lureen tells Ennis that Jack wished to have his ashes scattered on Brokeback Mountain. She suggests that Ennis contact Jack's parents about this.
Ennis visits Jack's parents and offers to take Jack's ashes to Brokeback Mountain. Jack's father refuses, insisting that Jack's remains be buried in the family plot. He also tells Ennis that Jack had wanted to bring another man back to his parents' ranch so they could live together and revitalize the ranch. Years ago, Jack had made Ennis a similar offer. Jack's mother is more welcoming, and she allows Ennis to see Jack's boyhood bedroom. While in the room, Ennis discovers two old shirts hidden in the back of the closet. The shirts are the ones the two men were wearing on their last day on Brokeback Mountain in 1963; Jack's shirt is covering Ennis's. Both shirts are now spotted with blood, from a brief fist-fight the two had on Brokeback Mountain. Ennis takes the now rolled-up shirts with him; Jack's mother silently offers him a paper sack for carrying them.
Some time after Ennis meets Jack's parents, Alma Jr. visits him at his home, a ramshackle trailer by the highway. Now 19 years old, she is preparing to marry and asks for her father's consent in giving her away at the wedding. Ennis seems initially reluctant, citing that he might have to work, but decides, sharing white wine in dirty glasses with his daughter, that he will do it. Ennis asks if her fiance, Kurt, loves her, and she affirms that he does.
At the end of the story, Ennis opens his own closet to reveal that he has hung the two shirts, with his plaid shirt now hugging Jack's blue shirt (reversed from the way he had discovered them at the Twist home in Lightning Flat), inside the door beneath a postcard of Brokeback Mountain. Ennis carefully fastens the top button of Jack's shirt. With tears in his eyes, Ennis mutters, "Jack, I swear...".
- Testa, Matthew (December 7, 2005). Exclusive PJH Interview: At close range with Annie Proulx. Planet Jackson Hole. Retrieved on 2007-07-28.
- Testa, Matthew (December 29, 2005). Close Range. Salt Lake City Weekly. Retrieved on 2007-07-28.
- Andre, Amy. Opinion: Bisexual Cowboys in Love. National Sexuality Resource Center (NSCR). Retrieved on 2006-11-22.
- Lee, Ryan (January 13, 2006). Probing the ‘Brokeback Syndrome’. Southern Voice. Retrieved on 2007-07-29.