by Annie Proulx
Jack's a lot like Ennis in a lot of ways, since they're both "high school dropout country boys with no prospects, brought up to hard work and privation, both rough-mannered, rough-spoken, inured to the stoic life." (3) He fits the stereotypical cowboys role to a T—even riding rodeos—but for the fact that
But unlike Ennis, he's full of hopes and dreams about them being together. As Jack's dad tells Ennis, "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" (142). And the sad part is, Jack can't let go of that, even when Ennis warns him about the dangers involved.
See, that's the other thing about Jack: he wears his heart on his sleeve. And because he wears his heart on his sleeve, he needs a bit more affirmation that Ennis does: "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" (117). What Jack is really saying here, in his own cowboy fashion, is that he loves Ennis, and wants more. He's not willing to live a buttoned up lifestyle when he has the chance to be with the person he loves.
… Who Can't Help But Share His Feelings
In some ways, that makes him just as tormented as Ennis, and we can see that most when he says things like, "We could a had a good life together, a fuckin real good life. You wouldn't do it, Ennis, so what we got now is Brokeback Mountain. Everthing built on that" (117). See, unlike Ennis, Jack knows just how good they had it up on the mountain, and he feels the loss of that all the more.
Of course, we don't see much of his life away from Ennis. So much of what we know about Jack is inferred from his brief moments with Ennis and what Ennis learns about him at the end of the story. But what Ennis learns does tell us a lot. We can suspect that he's not as careful about his gayness as Ennis is. Why? Ennis hears it in Jack's dad's voice when he tells him, "So now he knew it had been the tire iron" (143). It seems like Jack's unwillingness to repress his love for Ennis led to an inability to keep his sexual orientation under wraps in general. Jack just isn't willing to live his life by society's rules. His feelings are too strong.
The big question, then, is who's better off? Ennis, who keeps his love buttoned up and lives, or Jack, who lets it all hang out and dies? They're both sad, and it's neither of their faults. Maybe it's just a way of seeing the different ways prejudice can tear people apart, whether they're a live-wire Jack or a Silent Sammy Ennis.