Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Growing Up

At the beginning of the Odyssey, Telemachus seems young and powerless. He is completely passive in the face of the suitors abuses and they treat him like a pushover. As he embarks on a journey and the epic wears on, how and why does the character of Telemachus change?


  1. In the beginning of the epic, Telemachus is not yet a man and not quite sure of himself yet. Because of that, the suitors are able to push him around and he does not fight back. As the story progresses, he starts to understand what is expected of the man of the house and how he should act. An example of this is when Telemachus tells his mother to go to her quarters and do her duties as a women and he will tend to ruling his house. He does that because she snaps at the bard for playing a sad tune. That shows he is starting to take on and understand the duties as the master of the house. Telemachus is trying to become a man to fill the place his father left in his house. Another example of Telemachus changing and growing up is him commanding the suitors to leave his house and feast some place else. When they did not leave, planning on how to get revenge on the suitors for destroying his wealth and plaguing his mother. A large part of becoming a man is achieving vengeance on those who dishonored you. A third example of Telemachus becoming a man is how he speaks to King Nestor and King Menelaus about his father. He speaks to them, with respect and poise, the proper way to talk to a king. This shows Telemachus growing up because as a man, he is expected to know how to act towards a king. Telemachus is forced to grow up quickly in the epic to fill the place of his father and protect his house.

  2. In books II through IV, Telemachus doesn’t seem to change at all, he learns a lot about his father and his father’s journey but he hardly matures. The real transition for him happens in book I with Athena’s inspiration. She comments how Telemachus’ father Odysseus would treat his mother’s suitors if he were home. Athena brings up the point about “what glory Prince Orestes won throughout the world when he killed that cunning, murderous Aegisthus, who’d killed his famous father” (1. 341-345). Athena is making a comparison to how Telemachus can prove his manliness and maturity. This comment sparks an idea in Telemachus of how he can prove himself of his maturity.

    After Athena and Telemachus’ conversation, Telemachus changes quite rapidly. For many years, he allowed his mother’s suitors to stay in his palace, eating and drinking and killing his animals whenever they pleased without complaining. But after his conversation with Athena, he decides that he’s had enough. He announces to them directly “You must leave my palace! See to your feasting elsewhere, devour your own possessions, house to house by turns” (1. 430-431). Even the suitors are astonished at his sudden maturity and strength “And they all bit their lips, amazed the prince could speak with so much daring” (1. 437-438).

    While Telemachus may grow up in small parts throughout the rest of the book, book I is where he does most of his maturing. Telemachus learns that in order to understand the reality of his father’s disappearance, he must take control of his situation. This one conversation with Athena inspired Telemachus to go out into the world and find out what truly became of his father, and to take back the home which he had never truly had.

  3. Daniel, I agree with your point completely. I believe that Telemachus finally realized after 19 long years of waiting for his father that he had to fill the shoes of Odysseus. Telemachus looked at his situation and saw the multiple suitors trying to acquire his mother’s love. However, while doing so, Telemachus realized the suiters were taking all of the family’s goods, such as animals for food. After this realization, Telemachus became determined to protect his mother by forcing the suitors to leave Penelope alone. Telemachus attempted to accomplish this goal by calling a town meeting, which had not been called in many years. During this meeting, Telemachus called out all of the suitors, by saying, “Trouble has struck my house- a double blow. First, I have lost my noble father… But now this, a worse disaster that soon will grind my house down, ruin it all and all my worldly goods in the bargain. Suitors plague my mother- against her will” (2.49-.55). This meeting shows how much Telemachus has grown up, because he finally stood up for his family and called out all of the suitors. Furthermore, Telemachus even thinks of himself as more mature, by saying, “Isn’t it quite enough that you, my mother’s suitors, have ravaged it all, my very best, these many years,while I was still a boy? But now that I’m full-grown and can hear the truth from others… I’ll stop at nothing to hurl destruction at your heads” (2.343-.51). I believe that the most important step of maturity is to actually accept and embrace it, which Telemachus clearly did by telling everyone he was a boy, but is now a man. Telemachus further reinforces this point by even threatening the suitors, which also shows how greatly he has grown throughout the years. For the previous 19 years, Telemachus was just a kid, but I believe that realizing he had to fill the shoes of Odysseus by calling this town meeting was the turning point on his path to maturity.

  4. In the beginning of the Odyssey, Telemachus is not ready to become a man. His father, Odysseus, is the king of Ithaca. Therefore, Odysseus should be the man of the house. Odysseus, however, is stuck down in the Aegean Sea with the bewitching nymph, Calypso. Most people believe he’s dead, but Telemachus is convinced he still lives. Because he still hopes for his father’s return, Telemachus does not take charge. Only the man of the house takes charge. He is not the man of the house yet. Telemachus allows the suitors to treat him like a pushover. They take advantage of him and eat and drink all night long at his palace. They kill his livestock and celebrate with a feast. Telemachus does nothing. Because he’s just a boy in the beginning, it’s not his place to stand up to the suitors.

    When Athena comes to visit, Telemachus realizes no one is really sure whether Odysseus is dead or not. He embarks on a journey to find his father. He may be dead; he may yet still be alive. Telemachus now changes at this point. Because there is a chance Odysseus is dead, that would make Telemachus the new man of the house. His transformation into a man begins when he stands up to his mother when she pleads the bard to stop singing. He realizes he must put her in her rightful place as a woman. “So mother, go back to your quarters, tend to your own tasks, the distaff and the loom, and keep the women working hard as well. As for giving orders, men will see to that, but I most of all: I hold the reins of power in this house.” (1.409-414) Telemachus is discovering he must fulfill his father’s place in the palace. His father is gone, and may be dead. This is the time to become a man and walk away from his childhood. His mother and his suitors no longer hold the position of power. Women have their weaving. Men have the ruling. But he, Telemachus, King Odysseus’ son, has the ultimate power.

    This turning point in Telemachus’s life helps him stand up to the suitors. He orders them to leave at once. It is his palace and they must eat their own food and kill their own animals. As a man, one will stand up for himself and his family. Telemachus’s must become the new man of the house and fill his father’s place of power.

  5. In the beginning of the poem it is obvious that Telemachus has yet to "grow up". Book two through four he has not shown any sings or anything of him "growing up". Like what Daniel said before that he is not yet a man or not quite sure of himself yet is a big part of the suitors pushing him around. Though he traveled to a few places and met some people, the most important thing he talks to is the goddess Athena. Athena explains the glory of prince Oredtes for avenging his father's death by killing Aegithus. Telemachus could also avenge Odysseus by killing the men, the suitors, who are trying to marry his mother and replace his father, Odysseus. All of this made Telemachus change a lot right away as he told the suitors to leave and to go eat their own foods and use their own possessions. Obviously the suitors did realize a change in the once young and powerless Telemachus as he sparked up and spoke to them with surprises on their faces. After all of that he sets out on a quest to look for his long lost father trying to get hints of his whereabouts as he speaks with many kings asking about his father. This shows Telemachus is maturing by setting out on his own journey looking for his father and talking to powerful people with great poise. At the emd of the epic poem, i believe we will all see a great change in Telemachus and notice the maturity change in him throughout the story.

  6. Telemachus' journey to maturity is a key theme in the first couple books of The Odyssey. I agree with Henry's point that while at first, the tentative Telemachus was unable to control the suitors or handle their manipulation. However, Telemachus does come to the realization of their abuses and their intentions to marry his mother. Under the direction of Athena, Telemachus determines that he must run the suitors out of his home to stop them taking advantages of them. So he takes action. Telemachus calls an assembly of the citizens of Ithaca in order to determine what to do about the "suitors". One example of his transition from youth to adulthood. Also while addressing one of the suitors in his home he says, "Isn’t it quite enough that you, my mother’s suitors, have ravaged it all, my very best, these many years,while I was still a boy? But now that I’m full-grown and can hear the truth from others... I’ll stop at nothing to hurl destruction at your heads" (2.343-.51)This showcases Telemachus' true revelation that the suitors are truly abusive and that he must rid of them. The other suitors followed by mocking him and insulting him in his journey to "Pylos to hire cutthroats" (2.363) Yet what this all meant was that Telemachus has fully matured, taking on the Suitors accusing them of abusing his hospitality. Thus marking a transformation from the pushover Telemachus we found at the beginning of the story.