There have been many stories, and most of them touch on the lost trying to find their way to where they belong. There are stories that are told, and then later they are implemented in movies as some adaptation of the former. The protagonist goes through a series of challenges fighting his way which he has to overcome for him or her to come out as a victor. This is the archetypical way of telling stories that have been passed over to most of the other authors. When these stories are retold by way of movies, sometimes there are similarities and a few differences in the themes and other symbols. It is interesting to note the similarities and differences between some of the most popular pieces of such works which could be movies, plays or poems. This paper will be comparing Homer's The Odyssey and the film O Brother, Where Art Thou by Ethan Coen.
The Odyssey is a long poem that features the life of Odysseus who has been away from his home for a period totaling 20 years. The first half of this duration was spent in the Trojan War, and then the rest was the struggles to get back home. Odysseus and his wife face different forms of struggle while the former was fighting mystical characters the latter together with their son were struggling from suitors who were interested in taking them up (Dougherty). Both struggles took a similar duration and culminated in the two parties triumphing over these trials (Thury and Devinney 178). The culmination of the war is when Odysseus wins over a contest that was meant for him to prove his identity, beheads the suitors and takes over the throne of Ithaca. This is a poem that spans thousands of lines but based on a single subject. There were some epics that were created to be performed from the memory whereas that of Odysseus was to be achieved with musical accompaniment at the same time. The movement from Troy by Odysseus takes a total of ten years which was equivalent to the duration of the war. The return trip should have been short, but unfortunately, it took extraordinarily long as a result of encountering several antagonists along the way. According to Dougherty some of these were the Poseidon the god, some mystical creatures and the character of his men whose greed and laziness could also not help in the trip. The principal item behind Odysseus success in the epic was not his bravery and strength but his cleverness or wisdom that was paramount for him to outwit his enemies and challenges.
O Brother, Where Art Thou begins with the three main characters escaping from prison and outwitting the chain gangs who were their main focus and making their way to Pete's cousin's home. A blind man that they come across on their journey prophesizes about them not getting their treasure but rather coming across other benefits. While the cousin assists them to remove the shackles, they get surrounded by the police while they are sleeping but get to escape. These are among the hindrances that they get along the way on their quest to get to the buried treasure and unearth it. They pounce on churchgoers who are getting baptized and Delmar and Pete seize the opportunity to also get baptized. Along the way, they interact with Tommy whom they convince to join them to record a song as ""The Soggy Bottom Boys"" (Coen). They escape from police who get them and get to a river who were washing clothes, and they lure them away from the journey, but they make it leave them and proceed. Pete escaped alone but ends up being caught by authorities. Meanwhile, Everett and Delmar while riding the truck come across the formers daughters and his wife engaged to another man who beats him up. That night they organize for Pete's escape from jail, and they stumble upon Ku Klux Klan members planning to lynch Tommy which the boys would not allow. They regroup with Tommy and go back to town to perform as the Soggy Bottom Boys and end up endearing the fans that chase Homer Stokes a gubernatorial candidate from the town leaving his opponent to take over, and he pardons them from their earlier crimes (Coen). Everett gets Penny to get married to him on condition that she gets to the cabin and retrieves their original ring. On their way to get it, they are caught once again and are to be hanged. They end up being saved from execution by water that floods the area but with the wrong ring.
There were numerous similarities in the two pieces of works although the poem was older than the movie which came later with heavy influence from the poem. The two versions had men who as protagonists who were in dire need to get to certain locations with Odysseus in the written piece and Ulysses Everett McGill in the movie (Thury and Devinney 261). The two of them have their companions who also share in their mixture of experiences with some lasting longer than others. The main characters are not derailed by these but remain focused on their principal ultimate goals. Their companions had their individual needs and care that appeared not to be in line with those of the main actors which would have derailed them from the main goals. At the end of these pieces of works, the protagonists emerged the victorious and ended up being reunited with their loved ones whom they were dedicated to and cared about more than anything else in the setups. The two pieces of work could be summarized and reduced to a basic idea, but they ended up being longer than anticipated with turns and twists with the written work being 12,000 lines and the film lasting about an hour and twenty-five minutes (Thury and Denney 596). It would appear that the experiences made them and their family members wiser and more dedicated to each other to overcome easily any other similar incidents that they were to face in future.
There is some parallelism in the two pieces with parts where the main characters have to retell their past to make the audience understand what is taking place. This was meant to relate why for example a character could be in one location and not the other or why they had to take on some actions as a group. There is a part of Homer's poem where Odysseus had to recount past events for the audience to come to some understanding of how the background events relate to the current scenario (Dougherty). Similarly, there are parts of the story where it looks like it focuses on other characters as the focal point at the time. When the focus is shifted in the film, there is a utilization of the same concept of parallel editing. There is a part where it looked like Everett was leading his companions to financial destruction but he admitted on having received a letter from his wife who was to get married to someone else and hence the need for his escape from prison. According to Thury and Devinney, this allows the audience to relate this to earlier events without which there could have been no correlation (735). There were also two separate storylines at some point with one focusing on the main character Everett and the other on the political story that will have some significance in the final part of the story. The meeting of the two is what facilitated the pardoning of the musical group members after they led to the liking and wining of a gubernatorial candidate who was favoring them.
Coming to Odysseus and Everett the principal characters in the two pieces of work it is observed that while former was a famous king and warrior, the latter was a condemned criminal who had escaped from prison. Odysseus is working towards getting back to his people and regaining his rightful place in the society while Everett is working on the opposite by running away from his initial position of a convicted individual. Coen observes that Everett had to escape from prison to prevent his wife from getting married to another man. The two are arrogant and self-centered in their quest for their goals without wanting to consider the needs of the ones who are assisting them in their journey. Thury and Devinney (827) note that at the end of it all Odysseus becomes the king and is provided this right by the soldier but Everett, on the other hand, gets his freedom from jail. They are both obsessed with their physical appearance but in different ways, with Odysseus, it was his fine clothes and the way he attracted women, and for Everett, it was his hair and repeatedly proclaiming that he is a "Dapper Dan man" (Coen). They were both using others to achieve their goals and care less if they sacrificed their lives along the way.
There is a difference in the significance of the supporting characters and the offspring in relation to the main characters. In the case of Odysseus, he was motivated to return home by Telemachos who had some people that were planning to murder him and thereby taking over the king's position. Dougherty argues that Telemachos also takes up his role by setting out to look for his father and fighting off the enemies that he encounters and also merging victorious just like the father. Everett's children are all daughters, and from the few places where they are mentioned it turns out that they are not in any danger that is worth their being protected. Odysseus is defeated by Polyphemus who turns out to be stronger and who blinds him before escaping. As for the film, there is a one-eyed Bible salesman who beats and robs from Everett. The bible salesman and Polyphemus attacked the heroes, but they all got destroyed by meeting their deaths. The two principal characters get wooed by Sirens with Odysseus being prevented from falling to their acts by his friends, but it is not clear what happens to Everett and his friends in the same scenario (Thury and Devinney 739). What appears to be critical is that they overcame these and other similar obstacles set along their way to realize their goals.
There are numerous examples of differences and similarities that point out to the comparison of the two pieces. There is sufficient evidence to show an overwhelming influence of the film by the written works although they were not meant to be completely similar. There are situations where filmmakers have attempted to recreate such works but get limited due to the impossibility of adapting some of the scenes in a film, and they end up adding some twists and turns to make it more interesting to the audience. It is up to the director to prove his art mastery by coming up with new twists and perspectives of the same story to make it take on a life of its own.
Coen, Joel, et al. O Brother, Where Art Thou?. New York: Faber & Faber, 2014.
Dougherty, Carol. The Raft of Odysseus: The Ethnographic Imagination of Homer'sOdyssey. Oxford University Press, 2015.
Thury, E. M., & Devinney, M. K. (2016). Introduction to Mythology: Contemporary approaches to classical and world myths. New York
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