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The Relationship of a Father and Son in Homer's Odyssey

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The Odyssey tells the story of Odysseus and his both literal and figurative journey home to Ithaka. When the great king, Odysseus travels to Troy on the account of war, many obstructions hinder him from returning home. During his absence, his deprivation of being a father to his son, Telemachus, causes great disappointment. Without a father, his son strives to grow and mature yet he has not the slightest idea of where to. However, as Telemachus struggles to reach manhood and his father struggles to return to Ithaka, their seemingly separate journeys are connected. They both learn values that turn a boy into a man and a great man even greater. In the epic poem the Odyssey, Homer uses parallel rites of passage with Odysseus and Telemachus to develop the importance of the father son-bond.

Early on in both of their stories, Odysseus and Telemachus learn to practice strong will in initiating their own journeys. Even though Telemachus reaches the cusp of his childhood, the individuals around him plague him into believing he remains a boy. In the Odyssey, gods are considered to control vast things such as fate or choose to intrude in the lives of mortals. One of these goddesses, Athena, desires to aid both Odysseus and Telemachus in their journeys. In disguise, she gives Telemachus inspiration to initiate the steps to adulthood by saying, “you’ll never be fainthearted or a fool, /Telemachus, if you have your father’s spirit; /he finished what he cared to say,” (Homer 27). With this he commences the hardship of finding his father by immediately calling an assembly and defying the men around him who thought him incapable. Meanwhile, Odysseus has already faced trials testing his determination. He evades the many temptations of immortals su...

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...lts of the insolent suitors in his own home. The anger of Odysseus is only matched by Telemachus whose restraint is forcefully elevated in order to hamper his new mature instinct of defending his father. Meanwhile, Odysseus is forced to couple this with control over holding his love, Penelope, in his arms. Yet, both characters are able to avoid the impediments and at last battle side by side against their foes.

The relationship of father and son between Odysseus and Telemachus allows their progress in maturity to be linked. It creates an intangible journey that, although separated by distance, could be shared. Therefore, when the journey they share becomes tangible, “a boy daydreaming,” (5), can become the “true son of King Odysseus (301).

Works Cited

Homer. The Odyssey. Trans. Robert Fitzgerald. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1998. Print.
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