“You ain’t no kind of man if you ain’t got land” Delmar O’Donnell

I will explore the film O Brother, Where Art Thou? by the Coen brothers. The film takes place during the Great Depression in rural Mississippi. The environment of this era and place contains several volatile issues. Institutionalized racism, an economic depression, advancing technology, and reforming politics are some of the environmental aspects that are integrated into the film through the story of Ulysses Everett McGill. I will analyze these dynamics and reference them with concepts discussed by Henry David Thoreau. In particular Thoreau’s economic, social, and political points of view will be relevant to the context of 1937 Mississippi.

The main character of the film, Ulysses Everett McGill is somewhat of a man before his time. He regularly philosophizes, holding intelligent points of view on topics similar to what Thoreau writes. As an extreme individualist surrounded by possibly unwanted and less intelligent company, McGill will have plenty to discuss with Thoreau. Having said that, Ulysses’ comrades occasionally have ideas to offer that might interest Thoreau. One such idea is Delmar O’Donnell’s obsession with his family’s farm. I wonder if this obsession exists due to the fact that Delmar is emotionally and possibly spiritually connected to that specific piece of land.

The film is a modern satire of Homer’s Odyssey. Thoreau is certainly fascinated with mythology and feels America needs its own form in order to relate to its environment. Perhaps this film (film in general?) is some kind of an answer for Thoreau’s desire? It will be a fascinating activity to examine where environment meets mythology in this film and how that can be entangled with the works of Thoreau.


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