In what ways is the Telemachy important to the Odyssey as a whole? What would the poem lose if these first four books were removed?
Homer’s the Odyssey is the epic tale of Odysseus’ return home from the battle of Troy, yet we do not truly get to the hero in action until after we are drawn through the story of his son life in the absence of his father in Ithaka. In the first four books, we see how Telemachos, Odysseus’ son, matures and through his eyes Homer shows us the unrest and troubles of Ithaka without Odysseus’ presence. The Telemachy proves its importance to Odyssey showing the audience the characters and setting the scene for the Odysseus’ tale whilst foreshadowing the events in order to heighten the audience’s expectations. But is it possible that the Odyssey would still be as powerful without the first four books.
The Telemachys most obvious role is as an introduction. The Telemachy proves its importance by being performing many roles. Perhaps one of the most important is the setup for the Hero, Odysseus, first of we are shown Odysseus’s Character. In Book One Odysseus is talked about by Homer, ‘They perished through their own arrogant folly’. Here Homer shows Odysseus in a good light by absolving him of the blame for the loss of his men. This tied in with the epithets that Homer uses, ‘Noble’ and ‘Godlike’ these begin to build up an image of Odysseus in the listener’s mind as a great hero. Telemachos’ travels also build up Odysseus’ heroic character as the great kings Nestor and Menelaus speak of Odysseus achievements and clearly view him with great respect. I feel that this is important because it creates a fuller character for Odysseus and really pulls the audience in. This build up of Odysseus as a great person and hero is also important as he must contrast with the suitors, so that the audience feels more empathy towards Odysseus’ cause. Although it is justifiable to say that Odysseus gains the readers acknowledge meant more through his adventures where he truly gets to showcase his talents and respectable qualities. It is not only his character which is set up but also his cause, we really see the need for Odysseus’ return as his house comes under the rule of the Suitors and Penelope weeps for him ‘the husband I have lost and long for’. The audience not only see more of the character of Odysseus in a positive light but also their empathy for his cause is greatly increased. The Telemachy also shows us the characters of Telemachos and Penelope. We see Telemachos maturing, and becoming the man he needs to be by calling an assembly in Book Two and rebuking the suitors, also Penelope is characterized not only as the woman weeping for her lost husband but also as a suitable match for Odysseus through her cunning with the stitching of Laertes funeral shroud to trick the suitors.
The Telemachy is not only important for the set up for the characters of The Odyssey also to set-up the entire epic. Through Telemachos we are shown the horrific things that are happening to Odysseus’ home of Ithaka, this generates sympathy for Odysseus and makes the suitors more villainous in our eyes. This is done in many ways; Homer gives the audience many references to use as judge of character such as the laws of Xenia. Homer creates a benchmark by using the laws of hospitality to show the good from the bad. Telemachus for instance follows the laws of Xenia perfectly whilst the suitors totally ignore these laws, making them sacrilegious, which in Ancient Greece was huge flaw. Their lack of respect for the Gods mirrors their selfish personalities making the audience dislike them and empathise more with Odysseus. This ideal is drilled into the audiences mind throughout the Telemachy through Telemachos’ journeys, Nestor and Menelaus both give good examples of Xenia and they are greatly respected figures in this epic. This Benchmark of Xenia is a running theme throughout the Odyssey with the audience using it as a moral...
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