The 2000 film O Brother, Where Art Thou has the basic things that make up a great movie. It is a classic jail-break adventure between three different, yet similar men who avoid the law and seek out hidden treasure. These three men, Everett, Pete and Delmar experience an array of troubles, deception, chivalry and unexpected success with their song, Man of Constant Sorrow. The movie even won Best Album of the Year in the 2001 Grammy’s. The film is by far in my top five favorites.
About a year ago, I discovered something about the plot that completely blew me away. Never in my life would I have expected such a unique story such as O Brother, Where Art Thou to have such ancient undertones. What I found increased my appreciation for the film exponentially.
The plot of O Brother, Where Art Thou is amazingly similar to Homer’s The Odyssey. I know, I was surprised when I found out, too. Although the film does not directly follow the adventures in The Odyssey, there are certain parts of the movie that are either vaguely, or almost exactly like the great epic.
Here are some similarities between the two stories. The first and most obvious example would be the very beginning of the film when the line, “O Muse! Sing in me, and through me tell the story…” shows up before the opening scene. Many people tend to dismiss it as just a nice quote to go along with the story when in reality, it outlines the story altogether. Next is Everett’s first name, Ulysses, which is the Latin translation of the Greek name Odysseus. Everett’s friends are not excluded either. The two of them are representatives of mutiny and foolishness which are the roles that Odysseus’ crew took on. Pete represents the actual character who turns rebellious against Odysseus, Eurylochus. The role played by John Goodman, who wears an eyepatch, is a representative of the Cyclops who only has one eye which is damaged by Odysseus. In the film, John Goodman’s eye is almost destroyed by a flag pole just before a flaming cross falls on top of him to expire his life. Another obvious parallel is the scene with the sirens who sing to the three men to seduce them. Later, Delmar believes the sirens turned Pete into a toad and presumes him dead when actually, Pete was captured by law men and sent back to prison. Everett and Delmar find Pete later on which parallels Odysseus’ decent into the underworld.
There are approximately 33 different allusions to The Odyssey, each one unique and fitting for a film that I believe to be a classic – both American and Greek. So the next time you watch O Brother Where Art Thou, look for the similarities and “seek the treasure” for yourself.