Classical Civilisations Essay: Telemachus

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Felicity Cohen L6ELL        

Classical Civilisations Essay

Classical Civilisations Essay: Telemachus

Why does Homer decide to send Telemachus on his travels in books 1-4 of ‘The Odyssey’? What does he need to learn? What help is he given? What does he actually find out about his father? Do you think Homer is presenting Telemachus as a sympathetic character?

The first four books of the Odyssey are sometimes known as ‘Telemachy’. It is a self-contained section that could in fact be easily removed, allowing the story to begin with Odysseus without damaging the plot. They deal with Telemachus’ struggle and coming of age through his travels and quest.

Telemachus is sent on his travels because although he has grown to adulthood, when Athene first visits him in book one, he is somewhat pathetic, lonely and very much a young boy and is not strong enough to remove the suitors from his father’s palace:

“Sitting disconsolate among the Suitors, imagining how his noble father might come back out of the blue, drive the Suitors headlong from the house, and so regain his royal honours, and reign over his own once more”

Telemachus had no one strong to support him and there were 108 suitors for his mother. Telemachus at this point would not impress the great Odysseus (his father).

As Telemachus was only an infant when his father left for Troy, he was desperate for some news about him. Telemachus says that he knows that he is Odysseus’ son only by what he has been told and he is also very negative about ever finding his father, and his conviction that he is dead is obvious:

        “My father’s unhappy end”

Also, his grandfather Laertes was not at the palace and so he has no male role model to lead him on the right path to becoming a man.

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His travels also give Telemachus a chance to develop his own identity and Kleos and become a man. He develops somewhat in books one to four. Kleos in Homeric context meant what people said of you and defined how you’d be remembered when you were dead. Telemachus needs to see the world and achieve heroic status and get ready to help his soon to return father.

Also, Homer is creating suspense by delaying the meeting of Odysseus and the reminiscences build up his character and image.

The death of Aegistmus is emphasised in the novel because ...

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