Brokeback Mountain is a fictional place in Wyoming where Jack and Ennis first meet. Because they enjoy themselves so much there and form a bond that lasts until Jack dies, and even beyond—since Jack lives in Ennis’s memory—Brokeback Mountain acquires in their minds a kind of symbolic status: the name itself is a kind of shorthand for them which expresses the depth of what happened to them there. The place acquires in their minds a kind of mythic power. “Old Brokeback got us good” says Jack to Ennis when they meet a few years later and discuss what they are going to do about their relationship. When they meet in 1983, twenty years after they met on the mountain, and see no way for them to be together, Jack says to Ennis, “What we got now is Brokeback Mountain. Everthing built on that. It’s all we got, boy.”
Jack wants to have his ashes scattered there. After Jack’s death, Ennis keeps a postcard with a picture of Brokeback Mountain to remind him of Jack and their relationship. Brokeback has acquired a symbolic significance for him. The postcard is more than a sentimental memento; it is a sad reminder of what the possibilities might have been for them, had things worked out differently.
The Two Shirts
When Ennis visits Jack’s parents after Jack’s death, Jack’s mother allows him to go up to Jack’s room. There he discovers an old shirt of Jack’s hanging on a nail. Ennis realizes it is a shirt that Jack wore on Brokeback. It has dried blood on it and Ennis realizes that it is his own blood. Once when they were playfully wrestling Jack caught him in the nose with his knee and there was a lot of blood from the nosebleed that followed. Then Ennis finds one of his own old shirts carefully tucked inside the bloodied shirt. The pair of shirts were “like two skins, one inside the other, two in one.”The shirts thus symbolize the closeness that Jack and Ennis shared. Even though they never managed to spend much time together after the summer on Brokeback, they were, so to speak, soulmates. They were close in spirit even when they were unable to meet in person. The symbolic significance of the two shirts is made plain when Ennis takes them from Jack’s parents’ house and hangs them on a wire hanger in his own trailer, under the postcard depicting Brokeback Mountain. If he can no longer have Jack, he can at least have these symbolic reminders of him.