Through modern culture, most people are familiar with the whole storyline of The Odyssey. Odysseus leaves Troy and embarks on an epic journey filled with adventure and fantasy. However, most readers are unaware that there are actually two journeys that are unfolding simultaneously throughout Homer’s epic. Telemachus’ journey greatly differs from that of his father, Odysseus. While it might not be filled with as much adrenaline and adventure as his father‘s journey, Telemachus’ quest is certainly one that should be noted since the first four books are dedicated to him. It is the story of Telemachus’ coming-of-age as he matures into a more capable young man. However, it is debatable if he will ever become the man that Odysseus is.
When the reader first encounters Telemachus in Book One, he is portrayed as a young adult, about the age of 21. Telemachus is unhappy among the suitors as a boy daydreaming about his father. “What if his great father / came from the unknown world and drove these men / like dead leaves through the place, recovering / honor and lordships in his own domains?” (1. 145-148). Odysseus had left him and his mother Penelope for Troy while he was still a toddler. In any culture and time, growing up without a father figure can be tough. Without a model for him to imitate, he is left with struggling to learn traits that only a father could teach. He is almost the complete opposite of Odysseus. Since his early days, Odysseus has always been known to be confident and aggressive. Even his name Odysseus, describes someone who is angry or wrathful. His grandfather had given him this name after an encounter with a wild boar in which he received a scar from. “An old wound, a board’s white tusk inflicted, on Parnassos years ago.” ( 19. 460-463). Unlike his father, Telemachus just doesn’t seem to have the “fight” inside of him.
The suitors often put him down because of his timorous personality. They exist only with the hopes of courting his mother in his father’s absence. Because of this, he miserably yearns for his father’s return. “I wish at least I had some happy man / as father, growing old in his own house / but unknown death and silence are the fate / of him that, since you ask, they call my father” (1. 261-264). This quote also expresses the difficulty of being uncertain about his father’s fate, whether Odysseus died with kleos or not. He is concerned that his father might have died a pitiable death at sea instead of one of glory on the battlefield. Telemachus is worried that he might have been deprived of his father’s kelos. With the suitors taking over his father’s palace, an inexperienced Telemachus is left to deal with them.
Although he may lack confidence, he is very familiar with the idea of hospitality or as the Greeks called it, xenia. He graciously welcomes Athena into his home while impressing her with his politeness. As she had already taken a liking to Odysseus, she generously assists Telemachus with his journey to...