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Two Journeys Home: The Odyssey vs. O Brother, Where Art Thou?

By imari123 Feb 25, 2013 778 Words

Two Journeys Home

When movies are made out of books there are many differences, but also many similarities. The director has a very difficult job; he or she has to make sure that parts of the film are recognizable as being in the book as well. The epic poem the Odyssey is a book about the Greek hero Odysseus’s journey home from the Trojan War. So, it is hard to believe that a book so very old can be made into a modern day movie. Though the film and the book have some different things in the plot, they both have to do with the same traditional Greek beliefs. In Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey Odysseus, the epic hero, travels to many different places and completes some very herculean tasks such as going to the Underworld, battling the suitors, and getting away from Polyphemus, the Cyclops. Though portrayed in different ways, Everett, Delmar, and Pete go on similar journeys in Coen’s film O Brother, Where Art Thou?

In The Odyssey, Odysseus goes down into the Underworld where Agamemnon warns him about the dangers of women. Agamemnon told Odysseus his story and warns Odysseus of “women’s twisted wiles” (Book 11 Ln 496). Agamemnon tells about how women are untrustworthy and that Odysseus should “never reveal the whole truth” to his wife (Book 11 Ln 501). This scene is very similar to when Everett and Delmar were in the movie theatre and Everett tells Delmar to “never trust a female” (Coen, O Brother). Everett gave this advice to Delmar because of his past experiences with fickle women. Agamemnon gave this advice to Odysseus because of his experience with his wife and his wife’s lover that he did not want to happen to Odysseus as well. Not trusting women is a recurring theme throughout not only the book but the film as well.

The battle with the suitors was an unforgettable event in The Odyssey. After returning home from his long, troublesome journey, epic hero Odysseus plans the attack of the suitors with the goddess Pallas Athena. The suitors were a group of about a hundred men in line for Penelope, Odysseus’s loyal wife, hand in marriage. Odysseus, with the help of Pallas, his loyal servants, and his trusty son defeats the suitors. This scene is portrayed in the film O Brother as smaller scaled, but just as important. When Everett returns home to find that his wife was re-marrying and that she told his children that he was “hit by a train” he become very upset (Coen O Brother). Out of his anger, he begins a fist fight with his wife’s fiancé. Even though Everett’s former wife had “spoken [her] piece and counted to three” he refuses to give up on her (Coen O Brother). This scene describes very well the frustration of Odysseus in The Odyssey. Though Everett lost this battle, he did not allow this minor road block to discourage him from winning back his wife. This scene from the movie and the book, though portrayed in different ways, shows Odysseus and Everett’s perseverance and drive to get what they want.

For each story, the book and the movie there are obstacles holding them back. Odysseus was warned of many things by many prophets throughout the whole of The Odyssey. While in the Underworld, Odysseus is approached by “the shade of the famous Theban prophet”, Tiresias (Book 11 Ln 100). The prophet warns Odysseus that he will “never escape the one who shakes the earth”, or Poseidon, the angry god of the sea who has been after him during his whole journey (Book 11 Ln 114). Everett and Delmar also get advice, not from a prophet, but from an old friend. Pete warns the two men while they are in the movie theatre to “not seek the treasure” (Coen O Brother). While being tortured by the devil, Pete accidently tells the villain that the men were in search of a treasure. In every good story there is always a villain trying to deter the protagonist from reaching their goal, as proven in The Odyssey as well as O Brother, Where Art Thou?

The whole reason that Delmar and Pete agreed to go along with Everett was that they were led to believe that there was a treasure. Everett’s treasure was money, while Odysseus’ treasure was the chance to be reunited with his family. The two protagonists both endure quite a long journey just to get back to their loved ones. This proves that in Greek times as well as modern times, if someone has a goal, they will stop at no lengths the reach it.

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