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The Cohen Brothers' O Brother, Where Art Thou

2270 words - 10 pages

O Brother, Where Art Thou, a film written and directed by the Coen brothers, is a modern day interpretation of Homer’s ancient epic the Odyssey. The opening credits of the movie quote the invocation of the Muse from the first lines of the epic: “Oh Muse sing in me, and through me tell the story of the man skilled in all the ways of contending, A wanderer, harried for years on end”. The film follows Ulysses Everett McGill (portrayed by George Clooney), a depression era Odysseus, and his men Delmar O’Donnell (Tim Nelson), and Pete Hogwallop (John Turturro). The three men are escaped convicts, running from the law through the Deep South in an effort to reach home and split a (truly non-existent) treasure. The leader of their group, Ulysses Everett McGill (from here on referred to as Everett), is a smooth talking self-professed lawyer with extreme egotistical issues. Pride is a theme in both the movie as well as the original epic. In both the Odyssey and O Brother, Where Art Thou his pride is the source of many dilemmas. The visual symbol of this pride throughout the movie is Everett’s Dapper Dan pomade.
The character of Everett has many Odyssean qualities: his cunning, his intelligence, his mastery of words, and, most notably, his stubborn pride. Odysseus’ downfall in the Odyssey is his overwhelming need to be remembered in name and deed. As a hero this is his tragic flaw. By the time he is introduced in the epic he has already been wandering for many years. He then narrates how he ended up in such a sad state, unable to reach his home in Ithaca. It all started with his encounter with the Cyclops, Polyphemus, on his way home from the Trojan War. Polyphemus is the son of Poseidon, the god of the seas. He entraps Odysseus and his men inside his cavern and proceeds to eat many of them in a grotesque fashion. In order to escape Odysseus must come up with a clever plan. He tells Polyphemus that his name is Nobody before he stabs him through his eye, blinding him. During the attack Polyphemus unwittingly screams, “Nobody is attacking me”. By stupidly screaming “no one” is attacking me he receives no aid from his fellow Cyclops. The following morning Odysseus and his remaining men make their way out of the cavern in disguise to reach their waiting vessel. The escape would have gone off beautifully had Odysseus simply left. But, his pride got the better of him and, as he fled, he called out his true name to the wounded creature. He could not stand the idea of “Nobody” getting the credit for such an ingenious deception. But, this last rash act gave his enemy the power to curse him. Polyphemus called upon his powerful father requesting, “Hear me, Poseidon, dark-tressed Earth-Bearer, if I am your son, if you say you are my father, let Odysseus, sacker of cities and son of Laertes, never reach his home on Ithaca: yet if he is destined to see his friends and his fine house in his own country, may he come there late and in sore distress, in another’s ship,...

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