O BROTHER WHERE ART THOU: Treasures of the Heart | FCC 125

In O BROTHER WHERE ART THOU, Everett has promised his chain-gang colleagues Pete and Delmar a treasure beyond comprehension, but none of them expected the obstacles that would come their way – many of which are caused by Everett’s own insulting of God. Join us as we discuss these Christian themes and so much more on the Finding Christ In Cinema podcast.

For your convenience you will find each podcast segment at the time referenced below:

  • 00:00:00 – Introduction and Previous Episode Recap 
  • 00:02:20 – Movie Discussion
  • 00:22:21 – Christian Themes in O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU?
  • 00:49:32 – Listener Challenge and Feedback
  • 00:55:26 – Well-mannered Frivolity
  • 01:00:23 – Lightning Round 
  • 01:03:16 – Upcoming

Seeking the Treasure…

Immediately after prisoners Ulysses Everett McGill, Pete Hogwallop, and Delmar O’Donnell make their big escape from the jailhouse, they meet an old, blind prophet on a handcar. The oracle prophesizes their impending journey from beginning to end and warns them about the obstacles (“ob-STAK-cles”) in between. Perilous or not, the boys continue on their journey.

Each member of the trio has his own plan for his share of the $1.2 million treasure, and they share their plans around a campfire. Pete wants to open up his own restaurant and serve his patrons with love under the moniker of Jiffy Pete. Delmar wants to walk right up to the bank that repossessed his family farm and buy it back.

Everett, however, doesn’t share his plan with the rest of them. We as the audience can only watch the campfire scene and know that Everett is lying to his “friends” about the treasure in retrospect.

Everett’s real plan isn’t about the money at all; it’s about getting back to the loving arms of his family. When he was arrested, his wife Penny left him and told their kids that he was hit by a train. Everett’s quest, then, isn’t to be rich but to reclaim his identity as a bonafide pater familias (Latin, literally, for “father of the family”; our colloquial equivalent to “man of the house”).

He wants this so much that he cons his cellmates into becoming fugitives and running from the law by alluring them with the imaginary treasure – a nasty but effective trick.

This image from O BROTHER WHERE ART THOU shows George Clooney, Tim Blake Nelson, and John Turturro as Ulysses Everett McGill, Delmar O'Donnell, and Pete Hogwallop.

In any case, the monetary treasure that these men are seeking is not the endgame of their journey. It is only a means to an end which each man finds more superior than earthly wealth. Pete doesn’t just want to open up a restaurant; he wants to be able to never go hungry again. Delmar doesn’t just want to buy back the family farm; he wants to be able to call himself a man.” Everett seeks the love of his wife daughters.

In short, each man wants to leave behind the chained-down convicts of their past selves and embrace the idea and identity of the bonafide man. That is their real treasure, and that is where their hearts truly lie.

…While Constantly Mocking God

Unfortunately, their quest is fraught with many obstacles. Pete’s cousin Wash (yeah, his name is Wash) turns the boys in for a bounty. They get mixed in with the notorious criminal George “Babyface” Nelson and are then sidetracked by sirens. Pete gets turned into a toad, and Bible salesman “Big” Dan Teague squishes him right after he roughs up Delmar and Everett. They are caught up in a Ku Klux Klan lynching mob as they try to save their friend Tommy. Finally, the boys face the devil himself and, although they’ve been pardoned by Governor Pappy O’Daniel, are caught and prepared to be executed by hanging from the neck.

One only has to consider Homer’s Odyssey to understand why all these things are happening. In the epic poem, it is the Greek gods who continually prevent Odysseus from returning to his family from the Trojan War because Odysseus constantly insults them.

Likewise, Everett continually insults God and those who choose to rely on Him. He calls those who believe in the cleansing power of baptism “dumber than a bag of hammers.” He calls the entire Christian faith “backwards” and “spiritual mumbo-jumbo.” Granted, the Christian faith represented in the film is a romanticized culture touchstone rather than a personal relatioship with God, but the case still stands.

This image from O BROTHER WHERE ART THOU shows Tim Blake Nelson as Delmar O'Donnell.

O Brother Where Art Thou Key Texts

Let these passages be your guide as you watch this film with friends and loved ones on your double decker couch.

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” — Matthew 6:21 ESV

O Brother Where Art Thou is a cautionary yet heartwarming story that illustrates the power that follows setting your heart in whatever treasure you decide to set it in. Jesus speaks about this power in his Sermon on the Mount by urging his followers to not store for up themselves physical and earthly treasures but spiritual treasures that can’t be destroyed by moth and rust.

Jesus almost says it like a cause-and-effect relationship; whatever you objectively value the most, your heart will become subjectively attached to it. It’s a maxim that can work both ways for humans – for better or worse. It just depends on what your treasure actually is.

“No wisdom, no understanding, no counsel, can avail against the Lord.” — Proverbs 21:30 NRSV

Tellingly enough, Everett’s treasure is his own intellect and wit. It is the same intellect and wit that lands him in so many trials of adversity because he uses that intellect and wit to insult God, and God will not be mocked. And while Everett may find a kind of social redemption in that he is rejoined to his family in the end, it is less likely that he finds true redemption. Even after the flood saves him from being executed, he still says the flood is just a result of Man making himself better and not God coming to the rescue. We as the audience can see that such is Everett’s mistake and can thus surmise that his example is not one we want to follow.

Finding Christ In Cinema is the show where we discover Christian themes in movies past and present. Join us and together we’ll dig deeper into the silver-screen classics of yesteryear as well as the box-office hits of today. Brought to you by the Great Commission Transmission Network. View the complete show notes – including links to articles discussed – by clicking here.

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About Brenden Taylor

Brenden is an educational assistant and tutor by day and a theatre practitioner by night. He has his M.A. in Theatre Arts and is always looking for a good way to use stories to soften peoples' hearts. Find him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @LeviTheBeliever.
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