Ennis is a man of few words, whose actions often speak for him. When Ennis meets Jack, he is saddled with responsibility, engaged to Alma, and at the mercy of a conservative Wyoming culture that has no place for a gay ranch hand. Yet Ennis has nowhere else to go and no other profession at which to try his hand. An orphaned high school dropout dependent on hardship funds and raised to be pragmatic, he is trapped in a life over which he has little control. Rather than run off with Jack and try to build a happy life, as Jack repeatedly suggests, Ennis considers the reality of it all: the violent opposition that would greet two gay ranchers living together, his marriage to Alma, his love for his daughters. The life he builds, which involves financial hardship and eventually child support, effectively prohibits him from escaping.

Ennis is a prisoner of the life he has been born into. Without the financial wherewithal to escape, without any sort of community support for his sexual proclivities, and imbued with the belief that one must bear whatever one can’t fix, Ennis is fated to live out the rest of his life as a man who tasted happiness once but has never again reached that peak. Though it is Jack Twist who, we infer, is murdered by those who oppose his sexual orientation, it is Ennis Del Mar—living in his trailer, confined to a sad life on the broad, flat plains of Wyoming—who is the story’s tragic soul.