MBTI: O Brother, Where Art Thou?

obro10There aren’t many filmmakers that could successfully retell The Odyssey but the Coen brothers might be the only ones who would have wanted to retell it in 1937 Mississippi.

While much emphasis was placed on the soundtrack, which was as fitting as it was memorable, the characters themselves were just as creatively executed and it may be all three principle actors’ best roles. Arguably. No, it’s their best.

Ulysses Everett McGill- ENTP


The most obvious clue to Ulysses’ permeation as an ENTP is the fact that he’s a know-it-all that just doesn’t shut up. ENTPs are pretty happy with themselves and they don’t mind showing it. While their sensor cousin, the ESTP, is of a similar nature in their penchant for verbalizing everything thought that comes to their head, the ENTP is more likely to ramble on about thoughts that never seemed practical until it was declared with such confidence and practicality….which isn’t to say they aren’t full of crap either.

The first spoken lines of the film are as follows-

“Say, any of you boys smithies? Or, if not smithies per se, were you otherwise trained in the metallurgic arts before straitened circumstances forced you into a life of aimless wanderin’?”

The issue with this statement from Ulysses is that, while on a moving train, instead of helping his partners in crime up to the platform (whom he is chained to), he immediately forgets them and begins talking his jaw off. ENTPs are known to be a bit selfish when it comes to their own pursuits, letting those around them fall to the wayside while on a quest for whatever it is they’ve set their sights on.

The entire story of O Brother actually hinges on this, seeing as how Pete and Delmar decide to breakout with Ulysses due to his promises of buried treasure when there isn’t really any. While he plans to get back to his wife, he uses the men he’s chained to so he can accomplish his own goal. It’s not that ENTPs are constant liars, but lying or telling the truth, they’ve got a way of convincing others to help them in their pursuits like few other types can.

And this is what you get.

And this is what you get.

As usual, one of the biggest ENTP issues is the same one that Ulysses suffers from and this the issue of following through. Like ENFPs, ENTPs lead with Ne; seeing the possibilities in everything. Once the possibilities have been combed through, it’s likely in many cases for these lead Ne users to get bored and move on. This of course rarely results beneficially.

And speaking of ENTP staples, the entire reason Ulysses was imprisoned was due to practicing law without a license. For whatever reason he decided to, real-life ENTPs also have an issue with going over the finer details, often choosing to only focus on the bigger, more fun aspects of whatever project they’ve taken on.

Pete Hogwallop- ESTJ


Pete’s main reason for escaping prison to chase a treasure he isn’t sure even exists so he can start his own restaurant. It’s the stability of the SJ that can be found in every character that shares this type. While Pete isn’t very agreeable through much of his screen time, it’s the hot-and-cold nature of the ESTJ to be in charge. And if you’ve got someone as talkative as Ulysses around, there are bound to be disputes.

ESTJs are natural leaders even if their way of dealing with people is by yelling at them.

With inferior Fi, it’s the feelings of people that get in the way of what they want to accomplish…that is until something they understand enters the equation. Pete’s loyalty to family is tested when his cousin sells the trio out for money, but even then he shows where his allegiance lies when he finds out Ulysses has stolen from Pete’s cousin who called the law on them-

Pete: You miserable little snake! You stole from my kin!
Ulysses: …Who was fixin’ to betray us! 
Pete: You didn’t know that at the time!

Does it surprise you this guy would turn you in for money?

Does it surprise you this guy would turn you in for money?

The three things ESTJs hinge their lives on are principles, family, and whatever hobby they take very seriously (Currently, it will often be football). When family is involved, the normally brash ESTJ is more likely to become what seems like a very different person; from barking to squeaking and Pete isn’t an exception.

One reason Pete is distrusting of Ulysses aside from the fact that Ulysses is untrustworthy is that Pete, as an ESTJ is unfamiliar with and unsure of the more intuitive side to life. While many some sensor types are more likely to go with the flow, regardless of how much they understand the more abstract side of life, ESTJs (and ISTJs for that matter) become like stones buried deep in the ground.

ESTJs don’t budge and won’t listen to anything they’re unsure of unless whatever argument they’re being sold can work, but going off of faith alone isn’t a general ESTJ trait. They must be shown how the plan can work. Leading with Te makes someone very sure of what they have known, but clueless in anything they haven’t, as opposed to the compare and contrast of Ti.

Delmar O’Donnell- ESFJ


While the above video is the same as this below, it’s a perfect example of the ESFJ’s way of dealing with others.

There’s a reason ESFJs are so likable and it’s in part because they’re so friggin’ agreeable. It’s not as though they only agree with you because it makes things easier, but because the higher on the “functions list” a user’s Fe is, the more like they are to see your side of things…often times leaving them unsure of what they believe. Delmar’s reaction is priceless in the way that an ESFJ’s proneness to keeping the peace overcomes their decision making abilities.

Many ESFJs that you know cause problems only in ways they don’t realize; telling someone what’s best for them at the behest of the person they’re trying to better and so on.

ESFJs will often become overcome with emotion in events and moods that are meant to bring out said feelings. There’s a reason SJs have an association with religion- order, authority, and tradition all fall under the ESFJ umbrella. Remember how overtaken Pete and Delmar were when they came across the revival? While Ulysses mockingly stayed back, Pete and especially Delmar, jumped on in the river to be reborn.


“Oh, you can have the whole thing. Me and Pete already had one apiece. We ran across a whole gopher village.”

When the trio come across George “Babyface” Nelson, who has just robbed a bank and happens to pick them up, Delmar thinks nothing of all the money flying out of George’s satchel and out of the window.

“Friend? Some of your foldin’ money’s come unstowed.”

ESFJ’s sensitivity is what allows them to read others’ thoughts and motivations and when they go by their gut instincts can be quite adapt at reading others. The problem comes into focus when they’re lied to or tricked, which can be quite easy. Their inferior Ti is forced in times when serious thought is provoked and the ESFJ is overcome with thoughts, as opposed to their normal strength, feelings.

Put simply? Delmar is an idiot. When the Sirens trick the three into drinking too much, Ulysses and Delmar awake to Pete’s clothes. Delmar immediately jumps to the idea that only Pete’s heart has been left behind and when it’s found out to be a frog (or toad), Delmar naturally assumes Pete has been turned into a frog.

It’s things like this that get the ESFJ labeled as gullible and who could argue? The real problem may be that everyone should be a bit more like the ESFJ in the way that they often expect everyone to be as honest and straightforward as them. Unlikely? Yes. Unfair? Not at all.


5 Responses to “MBTI: O Brother, Where Art Thou?”

  1. Nicole Says:

    One of my favourite movies, it has so much symbolism and cross-cultural references. What do you think is the mbti of Ulysses’ wife or the devil, she seems quite manipulative and future oriented, both some kind of NJ?

    • Taylor Says:

      Funny you mention it; out of all the times I’ve seen it, it was only my most recent viewing where I put it together that he was the devil, otherwise I wouldn’t know what you were talking about. For the portrayal of the dedicated law man that speaks no words and works steadfastly with no signs of fatigue, I want to go with ISTJ. But if he really was meant to be something more then we could assume his way of just “appearing” was something supernatural and there’s more to him than some guy just doing his job…THEN I’d want to say INTJ.

      But for Satan himself, I’ve always thought of his as having an ENTJ personality: charismatic, persuasive leader type with no regard for those they lead, just himself and the goal. But that’s also in part because of what he’s typed as in Paradise Lost.

      The wife, Penny, strikes me as ESFJ, just being a doting mother and wife looking out for her kids and being a product of the harsh 1930s times where her number one priority is taking care of her family and Ulysses just isn’t reliable enough. ESFJs can be manipulative too, though it’s not in the way an intuitive would be. It’s in a more controlling, dominating way- “Well, if YOU can’t take care of me, I’ll find someone who’s MAN enough!” Things like that.

      But as far as types go, ENFJ and ESFJ are very similar to me more so than most types so I’m not against ENFJ either. What say ye?

      I say Big Dan is ESTP, by the way.

      • Nicole Says:

        Yeah I also really had to look into it to figure out who he was supposed to be. I actually haven’t watched it in a while and ISTJ seems to match his persistence and he is probably the shadow of the hero so the strong Si would make sense, but he tricked the ENTP in the end and I thought the only person who could do that would be an INTJ 😛 and I have to agree, the general devil fits the NTstereotype quite well, I could also see him as ENTP, spreading chaos like the Joker.

        The wife is quite hard to type because her appearance is short, but SJ makes more sense in retrospect. Stability is clearly her priority. Hehe yes, definitely ESTP.

        • Taylor Says:

          Yeah, I guess a lot of it would have to do with intentions, and we don’t know any of that guys’…still, seeing him as the devil actually made the movie better, I feel like I should’ve caught on quicker.

          When it comes to real life ISTJs winning out over ENTPs, it seems no matter how clever and ENTP is, there’s no defense against the blatantly headstrong attitude of an ISTJ- something that annoys the piss out of me to this day. Still, gotta love’em.

        • Taylor Says:

          My ego is forcing me to add that “there’s ALMOST no defense against the blatantly headstrong attitude of the ISTJ…”


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