Telemachus's Journey to Manhood

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Telemachus’s Journey to Manhood

“’You must not cling to your boyhood any longer – it’s time you were a man’” (1.341). These are the words of Athena, the Goddess of Wisdom, in her attempt to motivate Telemachus as he embarks on a rite of passage to manhood. Throughout the epic poem, Athena assists and inspires Telemachus, imbuing him with confidence and courage so he may follow in the footsteps of his father, the great Odysseus. After his first encounter with Athena, we witness Telemachus mature from an unmotivated, helpless daydreamer, into a young man who has the confidence and ability to speak eloquently in an assembly of his peers, travel to foreign courts, and confront his mother’s suitors. In the epic poem, The Odyssey by Homer, the author effectively portrays Telemachus’s transformation into a man through his interactions with, and the reactions of, his mother, her suitors, and contemporaries of his father, who are all awed by his self-assured presence and his authoritative words. Telemachus’s confidence shines as lures in his detractors with his wise words, not only gaining a newfound respect, but also fulfilling his destiny as the true son of Odysseus. When The Odyssey begins, we are introduced to a “cautious” Telemachus with a “heart obsessed with grief” (1. 133). Athena finds him sitting among a group of suitors who are attempting to court Telemachus’s mother, Penelope, and have overrun his home. They treat Telemachus like a child and insult him in their conversations, as Eurymachus assures the men of Ithaca “’Who’s there to fear? / Surely not Telemachus, with all his tiresome threats’” (1.221-222). Immediately after Telemachus’s first encounter with Athena, we see the beginnings of Telemachus’s transcendence when he rebukes his mother while she is pleading with the bard Phemios to stop playing. He tells her to return to women’s work and he will tend to the house for he “” hold[s] the reins of power in this house’” (1.414). His mother is...
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