Essay on Homer's Odyssey - Comparing Odysseus and Telemachus

Essay on Homer's Odyssey - Comparing Odysseus and Telemachus

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The Parallel between Odysseus and Telemachos in Odyssey

    In Odyssey, Homer creates a parallel between Odysseus and Telemachos, father and son. The two are compared in the poem from every aspect. One parallel was the quest of Telemachos, in correlation with the journey of his father. In this, Odysseus is developed from a childish, passive, and untested boy, to a young man preparing to stand by his father's side. This is directly connected to the voyage of Odysseus, in that they both lead to the same finale, and are both stepping-stones towards wisdom, manhood, and scholarship.


Through these voyages certain parallels are drawn concerning Odysseus and Telemachos: the physical journeys, the mental preparations they have produced, and the resulting change in emotional makeup. These play an immense role in the way the story is set up, due to the purpose of each character's journey, their personal challenges, and the difficulties that surround them.


As Homer makes it apparent, there are other underlying themes embedded in the story that would just confuse the reader if they were not there. An example of this is the emotional aspects of both characters. If one does not understand this key element, their is no way that the sequence of events would cohere. "Why didn't Telemachos look for his father earlier? Why did Penelope wait twenty years to consider remarrying? How did this affect Odysseus in his journey?".


These are questions that would go unanswered unless the reader reaches within the emotions of the character. In the case of Telemachos, his emotions shaped his well being. For example, had it not been for Athene giving him confidence, by no means would he ever have thought of taking such a voyage, hence, Telemachos would have never participated in his "final test" against the suitors either. His sorrow and anger from the loss of his father and his mother constantly being attacked and proposed to by piranha-like suitors were also driving forces towards his journey.


Some of these are brought out in different situations, both positive and negative, such as Menaleus's mention of his father, which caused a sudden out-burst of tears, and the proud and accomplished feeling he received from leaving Sparta.. Odysseus's situation was only slightly different. He, like Telemachos had his worries about family-life, and his kingdom at stake, but also had concerns about his wife, possibly triggered by the mention of Agamemnon's by Proteus, who was killed by the hands of his own wife.

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These factors probably had taken their toll on Odysseus. At the same time he had the wrath of Poseidon to contend with.


Another factor which could have also lead to this distress could have been his visit to the underworld, and in his entire journey, losing friends and comrades regularly. The last object of these journeys and possibly the most important to the reader, is comprehending how these travels actually led to the final test: The battle against the suitors. This is considered the poem's mental perspective. Odysseus had many things to overcome before he would be ready to take on this responsibility. His journey prepared him for that. For one, if he had not have perfected his tolerance abroad and finely tuned his hubris problems there would have been no possible way for him to undertake a role such as the beggar, where he must be constantly enduring both verbal and physical attacks.


There is also no way that Odysseus could have sacrificed and begged forgiveness to the sea-god Poseidon if he had not learned his lesson about respect from Polyphemos and Zeus (eating Helios's cattle). These factors play an immense role in the outcome of the poem. If it had not been for these events, the story could never have taken place.

The same circumstances applied for Telemachos as well. His goal was to reach a level of adulthood and to stand by his father's side, to mature into a man, and most importantly to gain respect, and to withhold and protect family kleos. This happened when at first Athene inspired him to go in search of his father. At that stage he was an inactive, and boyish young prince. When the challenges rose, however (assisted by Athene), Telemachos rose to meet those challenges. His first items of business were to set the suitors straight at home. Although he was not completely effective, he surprised them a great deal with his authority, and even his own mother in later books. That proved that Telemachos was gaining a new awareness, not only about his father, but about the kingdom, his mother, and the role he needed to partake. By the end of his long emotional journey, Telemachos realized what it took to be a man, which could not have been possible without his escapades to Pylos and Sparta.


In Odyssey, Homer created a parallel for readers, between Odysseus and Telemachos, father and son. Telemachos was supposedly learning the role of his father, the king of Ithaca, to follow in the footsteps. The two are compared in the poem from every aspect. However, in analyzing Odyssey, one may also presume that Homer had not intended for the Telemachos to be as great a hero as his father. This may be due to the fact that, for example, he never had a Trojan War to fight, his setting is in a time of peace unlike his father's, and more notably- although matured, Telemachus never really learned true leadership or chivalry as did his father.  Homer has presented the world with poetry so unique and classic, so outstanding and awesome, that generations of students to come will challenge themselves interpreting them.


Works Cited and Consulted

Griffin, Jasper, Homer: The Odyssey  Cambridge UP 1987

Thalmann, William G., The Odyssey : an epic of return. New York : Twayne Publishers. PA4167 .T45 1992
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