Who would have thought that a prison escapee would be modeled after a hero from the ancient Greece era? The movie is both similar to the book in plot line, themes and character traits, although there are also many differences and during certain scenes the movie somewhat mocks the novel. Ulysses (Odysseus’ Latin name) Everett, the hero in O’ Brother, Where Art Thou? , travels a Homeric journey through the Mississippi bible belt. Thus, we find the modern day film depiction of the troubles of a man during the depression is molded by the ancient struggles of Odysseus in Homer’s Odyssey.
Though O’ Brother, Where Art Thou? is not and exact reincarnation of the original masterpiece, there are still a vast amount of similarities between the two. The first parallel in the movie takes place after Everett, Pete and Delmar are walking through the woods after being chased by the law. They are sitting down eating some sort of rodent when suddenly a mass amount of people, all dressed in white, start passing by them and head towards a lake.
This is a similarity to the Lotus-Eaters Odysseus’s men encounter.
When you eat the intoxicating fruit of the lotus the thought of home, purpose of voyage, and memories of the past are no longer important. Odysseus and his men arrive at the land of the Lotus-Eaters and become addicted and drawn to the fruit. They are so drawn to the fruit, that it becomes a mindless obsession. “O Brother, Where Art Thou? ” becomes parallel to the story of the Lotus-Eaters when Ulysses and his men are baptized.
Webster’s dictionary defines baptism as, “The Christian sacrament of sin and spiritual rebirth as a Christian. ” Both the “Odyssey” and “O Brother Where Art Thou? describe a rebirth and new thinking. The things of the past are no longer important. Rebirth of the soul and becoming filled with the spirit are identical to the intoxication of the fruit. Therefore, the producers of O Brother, Where Art Thou? are describing baptisms as a new beginning and new thought, then comparing it to the lotus eaters of The Odyssey. The strongest parallel that jumps out between the two stories is the events with the Cyclopes. In the book, Odysseus comes across a Cyclops, and because of his greed he loses a great number of men.
In the end, Odysseus and some of his men managed to escape by stabbing the Cyclops in the eye with a stick of wood. In the movie, the Cyclops is a large salesman by the name of Big Dan T. We know that he is meant to be the Cyclops because he wears a patch over one of his eyes. During lunch, Big Dan T attacked both Everett and Delmar and stole their money. Later on in the story, Everett hurls a flag with pointed wooden pole at Big Dan, but in a sort of comical fashion he waits then catches the stick before it can impale him.
Everett then kills Big Dan by crushing him with a burning cross. Another significant parallel between The Odyssey and O Brother, Where Art Thou? is the mystical call of the Sirens and the powers of the goddess Circe. This parallel is the strongest element of comparison because it is very similar how each story describes the Sirens. Odysseus is told in The Odyssey, “Square in your ship’s path are the Sirens, crying beauty to bewitch men coasting by. ” Both Ulysses and Odysseus use wax to avoid the Sirens.
Ulysses hair smelling of wax, and Odysseus instructing his men to put wax in their ears is enough to avoid the Sirens seductive song. Avoiding the Sirens allows both Ulysses and Odysseus to continue on their purpose of journey, to get home. Another striking similarity is the witch goddess of Circe. In The Odyssey, Circe turns one of Odysseus men into a pig. Parallel to the Homeric novel, one of Ulysses men was supposedly turned into a frog. These two strong parallels show an obvious influence of Homeric work in O Brother, Where Art Thou?.
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