Jack Twist is a fictional 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, where he was portrayed by American actor Jake Gyllenhaal. Jack's story is depicted by the complex, sexual, and romantic relationship he had with Ennis Del Mar in the American West from 1963 to 1983.
In an interview about her work, and Brokeback Mountain in particular, author Proulx stated Jack Twist 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 Jack "settles on rodeo as an expression of the Western ideal. It more or less works for him until he becomes a tractor salesman."
One mystery surrounding Jack Twist (as well as Ennis Del Mar) is his sexual orientation, if any specific one at all. He has sexual and emotional relationships of varying and fluctuating degrees with Lureen, male prostitutes, and Ennis. While meeting Ennis at Brokeback Mountain for the very last time, Jack says he is having an extramarital relationship with a woman; which might have affirmed that he is bisexual. However, it is likely that the woman, the "ranch foreman's wife," was actually the ranch foreman himself, as in a previous scene, he invites Jack to a cabin to "do a little fishing and drink some whisky..." In a later scene, Jack's father mentions that Jack had revealed a plan before he died to come up with a male ranch neighbour friend and do up the family ranch and live there.
Some film critics suggest Jack was bisexual rather than strictly homosexual. Sex researcher Fritz Klein stated he felt Jack to be more "toward the gay side of bisexuality." Gyllenhaal himself took the opinion that Ennis and Jack were heterosexual men who "develop this love, this bond," also saying in a Details interview: "I approached the story believing that these are actually two straight guys who fall in love." The film's producer, James Schamus, and LGBT non-fiction author Eric Marcus opined that the characters were both gay.
Fictional character history
While on a 1963 shepherding job on the fictional Brokeback Mountain in Wyoming, rodeo cowboy Jack meets and falls in love with ranch hand Ennis Del Mar (portrayed in the film by Australian actor Heath Ledger).
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. Jack moves to Texas, where he meets and eventually marries rodeo princess Lureen Newsome (portrayed in the film by Anne Hathaway), having a son with her.
Four years after they separate from each other, Jack sends a postcard to Ennis, asking if he wants to meet him while he 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, for various reasons, resists. 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 eventually ends in divorce, causing Jack to hope that this will allow him and Ennis to live together. But Ennis continues to refuse to move away from his children, and remains uncomfortable about men living together. On another trip with Ennis in the mountains, in 1983, Jack discovers that in order to keep his job, Ennis cannot meet with Jack again before November. Ennis and Jack's frustrations finally erupt into a bitter argument and a struggle that becomes 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 flashes through Ennis' mind, possibly a homophobic crime while attempting to steal his money, as he feared "a relatively open gay man is a dead man", or it may just have been Ennis' twisted imagination. 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 in Lightning Flat, Wyoming 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. Jack's mother is more welcoming, and 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, hung one inside the other on the same hanger, are the ones the two men were wearing on their last day on Brokeback Mountain in 1963. Ennis takes the now rolled-up shirts with him; Jack's mother silently offers him a paper sack to put them in.
At the end of the story, Ennis opens his own closet to reveal that he has hung the two shirts reversed, with his plaid shirt hugging Jack's blue shirt. They hang 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. "At close range with Annie Proulx: Pulitzer prize-winning writer shares insights in short story, film adaptation of 'Brokeback Mountain'", July 12, 2005.
- Amy Andre. Opinion: Bisexual Cowboys in Love. National Sexuality Resource Center (NSCR). Retrieved on 2006-11-22.
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