Two men. Two men alike in two different stories, in two different time periods, characterized in ways that fit their culture and the social structure of their audience. Efficient changes in characters tend to help the reader or the viewer better understand and relate to modern day circumstances. Ulysses Everett McGill in O Brother, Where Art Thou? is the most effective adaptation because he retains certain core qualities from the original character of Odysseus at the same time as he is modernized.
Significant, core characteristics in both Odysseus and Everett that are essential in making the adaptation between Odysseus and Everett effective and essential in keeping the story alluring are the ambition, the boldness, the drive, and the leadership qualities they possess. In every story, there are always those characters that have this persona, and most of the time having these qualities is the rudder that steers the plotline. Being bold and ambitious causes Odysseus and Everett to be extremely willful. Ambitious people have a distinct plan they want to stick by, and they want that plan to go their way.
Any story needs this kind of character so that the story line stays strong. Just as it was in Greek times, in more modern times, an audience still has a natural focus on these types of characters because of their potent personalities and hard-driven hearts. Even after hundreds of years, strong, courageous personalities are still, and will probably always be, an inspiration to people. If Everett in O Brother, Where Art Thou? had not had these same qualities, he would not have pulled off the same effect that Odysseus did in The Odyssey.
The story would not have even been the same, since one of the main focuses of The Odyssey is Odysseus iron-willed drive that eventually gets him home. Everetts obsession to get home to his wife and kids as well as Odysseus passion to do the same is what made this story so strong. If either character had been passive or unassertive, both stories would have lost a lot of its power and effect. Being a king calls for the job of being a leader, and since Odysseus ambitious aspirations are what get him home, it becomes quite an inspirational story to anyone who reads it.
Odysseus was quite a leader, and in an authoritative position with his crew members, just as Everett was between him, and his two crew members, Pete and Delmar. It is obvious that the drive and ambition in these two characters make them the decision-makers of their group, which is also a strong, effective feature. Odysseus shows all these qualities and more in trying to lead his army back to Ithaca. He shows great leadership and wisdom when encountering such obstacles as the sirens and the Cyclops, just as Everett also takes control in leading him and his friends through barriers along the way.
The will power in Everett and Odysseus plays a huge part in making them the most effective adaptation. Another important quality that has been adapted and modernized is Odysseus and Everetts susceptibility to temptation. Though their aggression and determination can certainly get them far, it is natural and obvious that not everything will go as planned, especially when tested with difficult situations. Temptation occasionally gets both Odysseus and Everett into trouble, but what kind of story would the audience be interested in if there were not a few things that got them into trouble?
Odysseus is often tempted by other women (Circe, Calypso, etc. ) to satisfy both his and their sexual needs. It may have been more accepted for the men to do that sort of thing in that era than in the time period of O Brother, Where Art Thou? , but it still breaks a trust and loyalty issue. Though Everett is also slightly tempted by the sirens in the movie, just as Odysseus was tempted by Circe and Calypso, he does not commit adultery quite like Odysseus does, which was good for the story in that the main reason for Everetts journey was to get his wife back (p. 212, line 33-37).
And though Odysseus was tempted by these women, his heart is still with Penelope (p. 212, line 37-41). Also, both characters are at some point distracted by food and hunger issues that get them into trouble. Odysseus, in the Cyclops chapter, gets in a dilemma over Polyphemus cheese, and Everett, at the picnic with Big Dan, seems to be more focused on what he is eating to realize that his friend has just been knocked down (pp 218-220, line 253-305). This particular weakness in each character is a very important part to keep because it shows that not all heroes of a story are perfect.
Everyone can fall, and everyone can mess up, and it is not something that was only significant to show in Greek times. Everett retains a weakness factor from Odysseus that portrays a valuable, imperfect quality to show that not all people are faultless. Every audience likes conflict, temptation, sin, and imperfection. That is what makes it so appealing and that is what makes the characters most successful, especially when overcoming that shortcoming in the end. One other effective adaptation where Everett is modernized from Odysseus in O Brother, Where Art Thou? s the sign of powerlessness Everett showed around his wife.
Odysseus remained pretty consistent in staying in that audacious, confident, leadership position, over his wife. The whole twenty years Penelope was without Odysseus she felt that things were not in control. He was not there to place some boundaries on the suitors, though if he had been there, she would not have had suitors to begin with. She depended on him to take care of her and the house, which shows what kind of man Odysseus is. He was the man of the house and he brought home the bread.
Generally, men rule over women, husbands rule over their wives, and this was even more evident in the time period of the Odyssey. For example, when Odysseus has to leave Penelope after Telemachus was born to go to war in Troy, it is implied that Penelope is submissive to him by letting him go and understanding why he has to go, rather than saying or doing anything to try and hold him back from what he needs to do. Everett also carries those same audacious, confident, leadership qualities all throughout the movie, until he sees his wife again.
Penny seems to know what she wants and demands it, and one cannot condone that Everett, though very strong and ambitious, is much a slave to her needs. Everett spends so much of his energy trying to gain his wifes trust back that he would do nearly anything to get her and his daughters back. Before Everett and his band sing up on stage, he tries to get the attention of Penny by saying, I wanna be what you want me to bea perfect example of how Everett just wants to cater to her needs. In no way does Odysseus demonstrate this side to Penelope.
When Penny says that she wont marry Everett unless he gets their old wedding ring back, is another example from the movie that shows Everetts servitude to Penny. This part makes the adaptation of Odysseus to Everett the most effective one in that it shows the change in the role of women over time. Though women are still somewhat portrayed as people that submit to their husbands, the rise of women and their roles in society have greatly changed. Today, most women stand up for themselves, get jobs, and become more than just a housewife.
Penelope, as sweet as she is, is very passive, a follower, a human-doormat so to speak, but that was the role of women at that time. It was not appropriate for women to act much differently back then, when it is very socially acceptable for women to act in such a way today. This change in character, this somewhat surrendering attitude that Everett displays towards Penny also provides more comedy for the film, whereas The Odyssey was not necessarily a typical comedic novel, nor was that what the audience during that time period was exposed to.
A contemporary audience is more often exposed to humor, and that is what this transformation of the strong-willed Odysseus to the strong-willed, weakened-by-Penny, Everett does to a contemporary audience, especially taking it into consideration that Everett probably would not admit to groveling to his wife. The men enjoy laughing at the situation, while women enjoy relating to it, giving off the most effective adjustment to a modern day audience.
Some would say that Odysseus to Everett is not the most effective adaptation of The Odyssey in O Brother, Where Art Thou? They would argue that the change from Penelope to Penny is the best adaptation because neither character retains core qualities of the other, and that perhaps is a more effective adaptation. There is more of a difference in character between Penny and Penelope than in Everett and Odysseus. Penny and Penelope are quite opposite and the extreme change between these characters could be looked at as more effective for this very reason.
The modernization from Penelope to Penny could be looked at as being more effective to the viewer, more of a change in character to fit modern circumstances. From what has been shown though, it seems that Odysseus and Everett still play the stronger role in actually retaining some core qualities of each other. Their characters are more appealing, more captivating, more interesting, simply for the reason that their personality calls for that kind of attention.
Even though it seems like Penny has a little more control over Everett than Penelope does over Odysseus, Everetts qualities in Odysseus, the wit, charm, confidence, and ambition, are still more attractive to the eye. The main character of a story usually has more influence over an audience because they are, in fact, the characters that are shown the most, have the most lines, and carry the most responsibility, thus making the adaptation a more efficient one.
Overall, evidence shows that the adaptation between Odysseus in The Odyssey and Everett in O Brother, Where Art Thou? is the most affective adaptation. Their motivated, striving personalities, their vulnerability to temptation, and their way of reacting to the role of women, all display perfect examples of how an old story can be correspondingly transformed into a more modern one, adjusting certain qualities according to the time and the audience, and keeping core ones.
Everett definitely portrays many of the same qualities that Odysseus does, being in a leadership position, fearless, and confident. This is an important concept to consider in that modernizing a character can help the view better connect with the person and better understand the importance of such an adaptation, perfect for the time. It becomes clearer and more evident that character adjustments and modernizations are the rudder that steers the remake of an original.