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The Odyssey

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Slide show comparison of the film "Oh Brother Where Art Thou" to the novel "The Odyssey".

Slide show comparison of the film "Oh Brother Where Art Thou" to the novel "The Odyssey".

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  • 1. COMPARISON ON “THE ODYSSEY” AND “OH BROTHER WHERE ART THOU” 2002 film, “Oh Brother Where Art Thou” based on Homers novel, “The Odyssey”
  • 2. OH BROTHER WHERE ART THOU • Loosely based on Homer's "Odyssey," the movie deals with the picaresque adventures of Ulysses Everett McGill and his companions Delmar and Pete in 1930s Mississippi. Sprung from a chain gang and trying to reach Everett's home to recover the buried loot of a bank heist, they are confronted by a series of strange characters--among them sirens, a Cyclops, bank robber George "Baby Face" Nelson, a campaigning governor and his opponent, a KKK lynch mob, and a blind prophet who warns the trio that "the treasure you seek shall not be the treasure you find."
  • 3. PLOT OVERVIEW Ulysses Everett McGill (George Clooney), a suave, fast-taking convict, escapes from incarceration in Mississippi during the Great Depression. He is chained to two other prisoners, slow-witted Delmar (Tim Blake Nelson) and hot-tempered Pete (John Turturro), so the three must escape together. Everett convinces them that he has hidden $1.2 million after robbing an armored car, and promises to split it with them. They hitch a ride with an elderly blind man on a railway handcar, and he foretells that they will indeed find a treasure, though it may not be the one they seek. They travel on foot to visit Pete's cousin, Washington Hogwallop, who removes their shackles and allows them to sleep in his barn. However, the trio is awakened by the authorities after Hogwallop turns them in for the reward. The barn is set ablaze, but Everett, Pete, and Delmar escape with the help of Hogwallop's rambunctious young son (who drives them out of the fiery barn in a car). They continue their journey, and encounter a religious congregation in the midst of a mass baptism. Pete and Delmar are drawn in and are baptized as well, but Everett resists. They later pick up a hitchhiking young black guitarist, Tommy Johnson (Chris Thomas King), who claims he sold his soul to the devil in exchange for musical talent. They hear that the nearby WEZY radio station pays people to sing into a can, so they pay a visit to the blind disc jockey (Stephen Root), and sing a version of "Man of Constant Sorrow" with Tommy accompanying them. Calling themselves The Soggy Bottom Boys, they are paid cash and leave satisfied. However, unbeknownst to them, their record becomes wildly popular around the state, with no one knowing the identity of the band.
  • 4. PLOT OVERVIEW CONTINUED That night the police track them down and find their car near their campsite. Everett, Pete, and Delmar part ways with Tommy as they escape. The next day, they meet famed robber George Baby face Nelson (Michael Badalucco), on the run from police, and accompany him in robbing a bank. He gives them a share of the stolen loot and departs. The trio encounters three sirens: beautiful women washing clothes in the river, and are seduced by them. Delmar and Everett discover the next morning that Pete has disappeared, and Delmar believes the women had turned him into a toad (which was found in Pete's abandoned clothes). Carrying "Pete" in a shoebox, Delmar and Everett go to a restaurant where they meet Big Dan Teague (John Goodman), a one-eyed Bible salesman. Thinking that their box contains money, Big Dan lures them to a field for an advanced tutorial on salesmanship. He violently beats the two men, kills the toad after finding no cash, and steals their car. Everett and Delmar arrive at Everett's hometown, where he attempts to speak to his wife, Penny (Holly Hunter), mother of his seven daughters. He finds that Penny is engaged to Vernon T. Waldrip. Rejected, Everett and Delmar attend a movie, where a chain gang is in the audience. Pete, it turns out, was turned into the police by the Sirens, and is once again in chains. In the theater, Pete advises his friends to abandon their quest. That night, Everett and Delmar stealthily break him out of jail. Pete tearfully confesses that, after threatened with death by the authorities, he revealed their plans to find the armored car loot to the mysterious Sheriff Cooley, who has been hunting them across the state. However, Everett reveals that he fabricated the story to entice Pete and Delmar to escape with him. Everett had
  • 5. Comparisons At first glance, the obvious comparisons of the movie, “Oh Brother Where Art Thou”, to the novel, “The Odyssey”, are the characters. The main characters in the movie, Ulysses and Penelope, are the same as those in the novel; the Latin equivalent of the Greek name Odysseus is Ulysses. The movie comes up with interesting ways to incorporate other characters from the novel; along with one-eyed Big Dan as the Cyclops. They catch a ride on a hand-pumped railway that is being operated by a blind prophet, who tells them that they will not find the treasure they seek. The prophet character in the Odyssey was Teiresias, whom Odysseus consulted in the underworld when he needed information on how to get home again. "Pappy's" given name, Menelaus, is the same as the king who declared war on Troy in the first place. Coincidentally, Pappy's opposition for Governorship has the first name Homer.
  • 6. Comparisons Focusing on the scenes of the movie, the director mirrored many events in the book to the events in the film. "Sing in me O Muse...", the line at the beginning of the film, is the first line of the Odyssey. In the beginning of the film, we are told that Penelope is marrying another man while Ulysses is away. Although some of the details are quite different, the same event occurs while Odysseus is away. Many suitors come to Ithaca to marry Penelope, Odysseus’s wife. Another big event portrayed from The Odyssey is the killing of the cattle of Helios by the "fools" in the Odyssey; which is mirrored by the character in the movie, Baby Face Nelson, shooting the cows while running from a bank robbery. Another interesting facet of the movie is the music. The song which plays throughout the movie is called "Man of Constant Sorrow“. Odysseus means "man who is in constant pain and sorrow." - a man of constant sorrow is also a description of Odysseus. Another big comparison between the characters are “the bard” from the film, and Homer. There is a "Blind Bard" who pays the boys to "sing into his can." Homer was often (and probably erroneously) thought to be a blind bard who told his stories verbally to his students. Much like the cave scene from the novel, in which Odysseus and his men hide from the Cyclops by dressing as sheep, the KKK scene in the film mirrors the characters, who dress as KKK members to escape being caught by “the Cyclops”.
  • 7. COMPARISONS • The movie “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” is strikingly similar to Homer’s “Odyssey” in both plot and character description. In fact, one critic notes, “O Brother Where Art Thou?” is a Homeric journey through Mississippi during the Depression.”(Ebert p 1) Thus, we find the modern film depiction of the troubles of a man during the depression is molded by the ancient struggles of Odysseus in Homer’s Odyssey. Specifically, three parallels surface in the discussion of the similarities between Homer’s classic epic and “O Brother Where Art Thou?” The Cyclops encounter for instance, is transcendent between both works. Furthermore, each story contains a comparable perspective of the Lotus Eaters. Finally, the strongest parallel between the “Odyssey” and “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” is the mystical call of the Sirens and the powers of the witch goddess Circe.
  • 8. COMPARISONS • The Cyclops encounter is transcendent between both works. The Cyclops, in the “Odyssey” and “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” has obvious physical traits that connect the two pieces of work. The Cyclops in each story is a large man, who only has one eye. One website describe the Cyclopes race as, “a rough and uncivilized race of one-eyed giants.”(Spark notes p1) Odysseus describe the giant as, “ A prodigious man who slept in his cave alone, and took his flocks to graze afield---remote from all companions, knowing none but savage ways, a brute so huge”(Wilkie p378). The encounter of the Cyclops shows a great similarity in both of these stories. Odysseus, the main character of the “Odyssey” and Ulysses, the main character of “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” are taken from of state of tranquility and savagely attacked. As described by Odysseus, “So there all day, until the sun went down, we made our feast on meat galore, and wine”(p 377). This quote describes Odysseus and his men relaxing and enjoying a feast. Quite similar in “O Brother Where Art Thou,” Ulysses was enjoying a picnic when the savage Cyclops attacked him. When Ulysses and Odysseus were about to enjoy a peaceful day they are overtaken by the Cyclops either imprisoned or robbed. Both Ulysses and Odysseus mentality of a warrior allows them to fight back and eventually defeat the Cyclops. In each story an attempt to blind the creature offers a distraction for each
  • 9. COMPARISONS • Secondly, each story contains a similar perspective of the Lotus Eaters. When you eat the intoxicating fruit of the lotus, as described in the Odyssey, 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 leered to the fruit, that it becomes a mindless obsession. “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” becomes parallel to the story of the LotusEaters 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.”
  • 10. COMPARISONS • Finally, the strongest parallel between the “Odyssey” and “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” is the mystical call of the Sirens and the powers of the witch-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” (p 421). Both Ulysses and Odysseus use wax to avoid the Sirens. Ulysses hair smelling of wax, (hair wax) and Odysseus instructing his men to put wax in their ears is enough to avoid the Sirens seductive song in each story. 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 epic, one of Ulysses men was supposedly turned into a frog. These two strong parallels sum up an obvious influence of Homeric work in “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”

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