Assess the environmental meanings in O Brother! Where Art Thou?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I tend to think that one particular element of environmentalism comes out of the plot structure that compels the men to find the supposedly buried money in the valley that will form Arkabutla Lake.  Given the entire questioning of authority and lack of faith in the authorities that is present in the film, the use of public funds to make a hydroelectric power source has to be viewed with some skepticism.  Public authorities, such as Governor Stokes, are not viewed with the fullest of confidence.  Thus, the invocation of large scale initiatives to generate power sources using natural resources can be questioned.  The film seems to be slightly implying that such notions can be used by those in the position of power to strengthen their own position.  The flooding that is seen at the end, almost divine in scope, can also be a small statement about rising waters that result from global warming.  Everett's skepticism is quieted in the end, reflecting almost a statement about those who become silent in the face of irrefutable evidence and experience regarding climate change.  It might be in these two areas where I think that some level of environmental thought can be generated from the Coen brothers' work. 

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ebishirl eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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"O Brother, Where Art Thou?" is loosely based on Homer's epic poem, "The Odyssey." Like the hero Odysseus (or Ulysses) in the poem, the three main characters in the Coen brothers movie -- Ulysses Everett McGill, Pete Hogwallop and Delmar O'Donnell -- set out on a long journey fraught with obstacles.

The three travelers' quest is a supposed treasure ($1.2 million in stolen cash) that McGill claims to have buried outside his Mississippi home, soon due to be flooded to build a dam for electricity generation. Much of the story explores the Old South-vs.-New-South theme, with "old-timey" bank robbers, KKK cross-burnings, chain gangs, lynch mobs and Depression Era poverty giving way to a "brave new world."

Ulysses Everett...

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