Telemachus' Change in the Odyssey

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Jason Chu
Dr. Spencer-Cooke, Period 4
Honors English 1
11 December 2011
Emergence of Telemachus’ Heroic Traits in the Telemecheia Joseph Campbell’s ten archetypal heroic traits appear in many literary protagonists. Physical strength, eloquence, leadership, and ties to supernatural forces are characteristics that are pervasive among heroes. King Gilgamesh, in the Epic of Gilgamesh, possesses the Campbellian traits of unmatched physical strength, confident leadership, and ties to gods. Whereas in the case of Telemachus in Homer’s Telemecheia, the young prince has not matured to Gilgamesh’s prominence, but several of Campbell’s attributes become apparent in the story. As Telemachus undergoes his journey, he begins to develop the heroic characteristics of having (1) connections with the gods, (2) eloquence, and (3) leadership.

(1) Athena spurs Telemachus to develop his heroic traits by inspiring and assisting him. Prior to the goddess’ help, Telemachus is timid and submissive towards his mother’s suitors. Thus, Athena descends to Ithaca to “rouse Telemachus/to a braver pitch [and] inspire his heart with courage” (Book 1. Line 105). She emboldens him by telling him to “not cling to [his] boyhood any longer” and sending him on a quest to find news about Odysseus (1. 341). Furthermore, she references Oreste’s glorified revenge as an inspiration for Telemachus. Consequently, Telemachus becomes motivated and calls for an assembly where he rebukes the suitors. Athena then abets the prince by “lavish[ing] a marvelous splendor on [him]” to make the entire audience amazed by the prince’s magnificence (2. 12). Another intervention by Athena is that she “showers sweet oblivion over the suitors” so Telemachus can effortlessly escape (2. 436). As Athena and the prince reach the ship, the divinity helps by “assum[ing] the pilot seat [and] send[ing] them a stiff following wind” (2. 458, 461). Athena’s assistance permits Telemachus and his crew...
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