O Brother Where Art Thou And the Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

O Brother Where Art Thou? And the Odyssey

In the film "O Brother Where Art Thou?" The filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen loosely paralleled the epic found in the Odyssey. Though there are some obvious parallels between the story and the movie, there are numerous similarities which are much subtler. These can be found in scenes, settings, characters, and plot. A close examination of the movie reveals the multiple layers of the film's similarity to the epic work.

Of course, the most obvious comparisons are Odysseus and Ulysses, Penelope and Penny, and the Sirens and the "Sireens." But, there are also additional character similarities. The foot stomping politician Menelaus 'Pappy O'Daniel has the same first name as the King of Sparta, who fought beside Odysseus at Troy. Furthermore, it is no mistake that Homer, the author of the Odyssey, shares the same name as Homer Stokes, the man who was challenging 'Pappy' in the election. Additionally, Homer was supposedly blind, so it may be that the blind man in the radio station also represents him. After all the blind man in the radio station was the first to record the Soggy Bottom Boys, while Homer was the first to record the saga of Odysseus.

Yet another similarity comes in the form of the character Dan Teague, the salesman with an eye patch. This one-eyed character corresponds to the Cyclops, Polyphemus. The similarities continue when one examines the action related to Teague; in the scene where he is pinned under the burning cross which Everett cut loose, it seems that the falling cross drives the pole of the Confederate flag into his good eye. This completes the comparison to Odysseus putting out the Cyclops eye with a burning piece of wood.

Though the "sireens" and the Sirens are pretty obvious, the fact that Circe, the sorceress in the Odyssey seems to turn the men with Odysseus into pigs and the fact that the "sireens" appear to turn Pete into a toad is a little more obscure. However, that such similarly-named groups of women both have the power to turn men into animals is a clear reference to Homer's work. Also, like the scene in the film, while Odysseus sleeps nearby, the princess Nausicaa bathes and sings in a river while her two servants wash clothes.

Another similarity which is rather obscure is the scene where a group of worshippers walk in a trance like state in their quest to be baptized. Then Delmar joins them and he too is baptized. The worshippers trance like placidity echoes the Lotus-Eaters of the Odyssey. Furthermore, Delmar's statement that he is staying on "the straight and narrow from here on out," likely mirrors Odysseus's crew desire to discontinue their quest after they encountered the Lotus-Eaters.

Delmar mirrors Tiresias when he mistakes Pete and the others in the theater for ghosts because he believes that Pete has died (after he was turned into a toad). This alludes to Odysseus' trip to Hades. The underworld is also alluded to when Everett, Pete, and Delmar slip down a cliff and find themselves in the midst of the Klan's cross burning ceremony with flames blaring on the cross. Hell is symbolized in this scene by the red robes of the grand wizard, the flames, and the song "O Death" being sung. The final symbolization of the underworld is the sheriff and his bloodhound,…

Sources Used in Document:


Coen, J. & Coen, E. (2000). O brother, where are't thou? Los Angeles: Touchstone Pictures.

Homer, The Odyssey. Retrieved December 10, 2011 from MIT website:


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