The source for the research has been decided after an extensive search on the topic. The main issue about selecting a reliable and comprehensive source was to go for an article which would have a clear picture about the analogy. This article in context has all the descriptions which prove the relation between the text and the film. The most intricate of details have been delved deep into in the article named ‘The Common Man’s Odyssey: Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou, brings freshness (and a wider audience) to Homer’s Epic’. The source which has been used as a reference for this paper enables one to break the film into sequences and even identify the individual characters and thus draw the comparison with The Odyssey. This is a very convincing and logical piece of work which establishes the links and testifies to the fact that the film by Coen brothers, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, is, indeed, a modern day rendition of the age-old story of Odysseus.
The article goes on to discuss the similarities between the film and the text. The author starts his argument by talking about the costumes, music and the setting of the film by Coen brothers. These, in unison, evoke the nostalgia of the audience and set up the dais for the analogy with The Odyssey. A tell-tale sign of the film being based on The Odyssey is found in the out-of-sequence events and the reference to other epic movies along with the compression of multiple characters into a few major players in the course of the film. The parallels between the film and the text become clearer as the film progresses. Everett is the Odysseus of the modern day and his wife, Penny, is Penelope. The directors aptly replace the journey of the sea by that of railroads as this is the most common form of transportation in the present day. Everett’s escape from the chain gang along with Pete and Delmar can be considered the returning for the war. There is a sequence in the film where Pete falls and thus drags both Everett and Delmar out of the boxcar in which they were escaping. This resembles the scenario when Odysseus would fail due to the downfall of his crew members and his ships would be lost.
On finally reaching Ithaca, Everett finds out that Penny has told the girls of his demise, being hit by a train. Just like Penny goes on perpetuating the story of his death, in The Odysseus, Penelope too was insisting on the untimely death of Odysseus in the sea. The sheriff in the film is analogous to Poseidon. However, he has been portrayed as the supernatural being which is signified by the flames, while Poseidon was the God of the water. Just like the wrath of Poseidon led to the destruction of many of Odysseus’ ships in the sea, the sheriff burns down the barns in his search for Everett and his companions.
Another major character of the film, Tommy, represents Telemachus of The Odyssey. In a scene from the film, Tommy is about to be killed by the KKK and this is a parallel of the conspiracy hatched by the suitors to put Telemachus to death. Also, the fiery cross that is present at the Klan meeting is symbolic of the fire-hardened stake with which Ulysses extinguishes the eye of Polyphemus. The film portrays the character of Pappy O’Daniel. He is the Governor of Mississippi and his character and portraiture is analogous to Menelaus, the King of Lacedaemon, from The Odyssey.
In the course of the movie, Penny goes on to assert that Everett is not her husband and believes him to be a drifter, while Waldrip hits him black and blue. This is a parallel of Penelope’s strong belief of Odysseus to be just another ragged beggar. In the text, the suitors insult him and throw things to drive him away. Another strong similarity can be found at the time of confrontation between the two characters. Everett, in his mustache and beard, endeavors to convince Penny to accept him and pulls down his beard. Instead of saying “go away” right in the beginning, she says “no” signifying she is not ready to accept the fact that it is Everett. This is exactly how Penelope behaves in The Odyssey when Odysseus reveals his identity to her.
Both Everett and Odysseus are optimistic in their resourcefulness. Everett requires bringing their wedding ring to Penny to get married, while Odysseus has to identify their marriage bed. Both the protagonists are put to test. While Odysseus has to travel to sea again, Everett comes back with the wrong ring, thus completing the similarity. He has to search for the ring again to get married to Penny.
Thus, there are many identifiable similarities between the movie and the text which testifies the fact that this cinematic work is a modern-day adaptation of the Homeric epic. After going through the article, the entire perspective of a viewer gets transformed. One can see with clarity the subtle as well as prominent parallels. How the characters and scenario of the ancient work of literature is timeless is aptly established.
I did not have any prior idea about The Odyssey before this. However, after the research and reading, I believe I have been left in the trance of the artistic quintessence of the work. I have come to understand the topic with utmost clarity. A close reading of this article is bound to broaden the domain of discussion on the film as well as the text. The relevance of the text in modern times and the comparative study between the two works would surely evoke the scholarly interest of many a student of the realm of study. The topic proves to have a lasting impact on the mind as the aesthetic excellence of the directors and the universality of the Homeric epic leaves one to think of the matter with much insight. The works prove that the events of history might occur in a cyclic process and an event never loses its relevance. The best way to teach The Odyssey is by showing this film and then drawing a comparison between the two works. A power-point presentation incorporating the main features can also be very helpful.
Longster, R W. ‘The Common Man’s Odyssey: Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou, brings freshness
(and a wider audience) to Homer’s Epic.’ Web. 15 June 2014.