Homers Odyssey and O Brother Where Art Thou


For almost a century, films have been the best form of entertainment for people around the world. Since films have become popular in the 1930s, many frequent movie watchers have spent hours on end observing and critiquing movies. Whether it is a book, poem, or script, films have been previously written down in some form by a writer. When a book gains attention, it is usually made into a movie to obtain more money and fame. In these films, the characters and plot line could be almost exact, or they can make the context of the book symbolic. The film O Brother Where Art Thou? by the Coen Brothers, for example, was derived from a book, Homer’s The Odyssey, which uses symbolism to picture Odysseus’ journey from Troy to his home, Ithaca. The movie highlights Odysseus’ struggles to get home using an alternate character, Ulysses, by following the same path and attributes of the characters, while making a new storyline. The film O Brother, Where Art Thou? directed by the Coen brothers is the cinematic perspective of Homer’s The Odyssey because of similar experiences including Odysseus’ adventures battling monsters, his family, and his own ego.

One way that this film is related to The Odyssey is how Ulysses faced physical obstacles on his journey home. In The Odyssey, Odysseus’ physical obstacles were monstrous creatures, but Ulysses’ physical obstacles were people. For example, Ulysses has conflict with a man named Daniel Teave, which represents the Cyclops that Odysseus quarrels with. In the movie, Daniel Teave is a big, scary man who tempts Ulysses’ curiosity until he turns out to be a violent liar. Similarly, in The Odyssey, Odysseus visits the cyclops because of his interest in the creature, but the Cyclops kills many of his men in the process of the visit.  During the film, women, also known as Sirens, attempt to lure the characters into their trap by their distinguished singing. The Sirens are portrayed the same way in The Odyssey: innocent women that are luring the characters into seducing them. The only difference between the book and the movie is that in the book, Odysseus was warned about the Sirens and avoided them. In O Brother Where Art Thou?, however, the men fell for the Siren’s trick. The physical challenges by Odysseus and Ulysses appear as hardships in their journeys to symbolize their fear amongst their braveness. 

Another way that The Odyssey is connected to O Brother Where Art Thou? is that both Odysseus and Ulysses’ family don’t recognize them when they arrive at home. In the film, Ulysses returns home to his daughters, but they tell him that their father got hit by a train. This connects to The Odyssey because when Odysseus comes home disguised as a beggar, his own family does not recognize him. Instead, his nurse recognizes him. Telemachus, his son, and Penelope, his wife, do not recognize him because of his disguise and absence in the past 20 years. Ulysses’ daughters thinking that he died leads him to feel neglected and melancholy. He became more vulnerable because he endured this long journey to be back with his wife, not to be ignored. In relation to O Brother Where Art Thou?, The Odyssey also portrays feelings of abandonment in Odysseus. When Odysseus returns to Ithaca, he feels upset that his family would underestimate his power in returning home from the Trojan War. Although he feels upset, he trusts in Athena that his disguise will work in the end. The feelings of rejection in both the movie and the film provide an emotional obstacle for the character that leads to personal growth. 

The final way that The Odyssey and O Brother Where Art Thou? are parallel to one another is because of Odysseus and Ulysses’ personal obstacles. In the beginning of the movie, Ulysses is conceited and a liar to his friends. Odysseus shows traits of recklessness in the beginning of the story as well. He was smart with his tactics, but acted quickly many times because he was desperate to get home. His desperation caused an individual barrier that made his journey home more difficult. After Ulysses’ journey home ended in him being forgotten, he admitted to his friends that he lied to them and learned humility. Odysseus started his personal growth after he learned the consequences of killing Poseidon’s son, the Cyclops. From there, he started to learn prudence and caution. When he arrived home, he learned family values and trust from Athena. Although Odysseus and Ulysses faced obstacles with their own ego, they had a deserved growth in their personality as heroes.

Both O Brother, Where Art Thou? and The Odyssey create obstacles for the characters including battling monsters, neglect with their family, and their own egos. Odysseus and Ulysses battle physical monsters that create action and adventure that teach lessons and wisdom. These obstacles introduce other characters that either help or hurt them. Problems with the character’s families also cause a battle with their own feelings. Their feelings create a hurdle and a type of pain that changes the characters point of view on their connections with friends and family. Their egos create a personal battle that is the most difficult to overcome. In order to defeat their own self-confidence, they had to learn qualities such as rationality and meekness. O Brother Where Art Thou? is a perfect connection to The Odyssey because of its symbolism. It follows the same plotline, but changes the obstacles to be more illustrative and realistic. With both the book and the film being historically popular, they are figures of art that create imagination and entertainment for all people to enjoy.

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