For our discussion, I would like you to watch, or possibly rewatch, O Brother, Where Art Thou? This text is a feature film by the Coen Brothers. The Joel and
Ethan Coen are a well-known writer/director team responsible for Raising Arizona, The Big Lebowski, Fargo, Miller’s Crossing, and others. O Brother, Where
Art Thou? was released in 2000.
In the opening title sequence of the film, there is a quotation from Homer’s Odyssey. The Odyssey, for those of you who have not been exposed to it before, is
an ancient Greek epic poem attributed to Homer. The poem tells the story of Odysseus, a hero/king of Ithaka, a Greek island. Odysseus is the clever Greek
hero, unlike Hercules and his ilk. Odysseus brings an end to the Trojan War by coming up with the idea of the Trojan horse. The Odyssey is the poem story of
his ten year journey back home to Ithaka after the Trojan War. It takes him ten years because he and his men offend a god or two on the way, and get blown
off course, and fall in with nymphs, and sorceresses, and Odysseus goes to the underworld, and overcomes various obstacles, only to arrive home and
discover that his wife, Penelope, has been harassed by unwelcome suitors in his absence, who he has to destroy, with the help of his son, Telemachus.
The Coens have taken the skeletal outline of the ancient epic Greek poem, and reset their version of the story in the 1930s (the Depression era) and in the
southeastern United States. Aside from the basic journey home plot, there are many other elements in the movie through which the Coen brothers pay
homage to the Odyssey. What are some of the elements you notice? For instance, the main character of the movie, Everett McGill (George Clooney),
introduces himself to Pete’s cousin as Everett Ulysses McGill. The name, “Ulysses,” is the Roman version of the name, “Odysseus.” If you are not familiar with
the Odyssey, (there is a film version, and there are sparknotes and enotes to summarize for you) then consider what the word “odyssey” means and what kind
of story with what kind of elements we mean when we say a story is an “odyssey” Where do you see these elements in the film?
You may also discuss the ways in which the protagonist of this film, Everett, is a trickster hero. See the essay assignment on the Content page for more
information about the term, “Trickster hero”
You might want to watch this film with the captions or subtitles on, as the richness and hilarity of the dialogue is one of the best things about it. For example,
one of my favorite lines is when Everett is told that the auto parts he needs for their stolen car will take two weeks to arrive, and that the hair pomade he
prefers will also take two weeks to order: “Well, ain’t this place a geographical oddity? Two weeks from everywhere!”

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