Homer uses the character Telemakhos, the son of the main character Odysseus, to help convey the themes of the story. From the beginning when Telemakhos goes out to seek for his father and after he helps his father defeat the suitors, we witness the changes in his character, as we see him grow and mature. His character is shown to be an example hospitality, while he proves himself to be hero like his father and claims his family honor. Hospitality is a very important tradition in antiquity. We can see in the Odyssey that Telemakhos displays many examples of hospitality towards strangers.
For example Telemakhos greets Athena who appears as a beggar in this manner, Greetings, stranger! Welcome to our feast. There will be time to tell your errand later, (I:151-152) He says warmly to Athena. Telemakhos greets the stranger and cordially invites him to the feast without question. In the Odyssey, Telemakhos is the epitome of hospitality. The reader knows that the stranger that Telemakhos invites is actually Athena in disguise, to assist Telemakhos in his journey.
This reinforces the theme of hospitality, because in Greek myth, gods and goddesses often pose as strangers and beggars to test the peoples generosity. Thus people were inclined to treat others with hospitality. Those who treat others with generosity are often rewarded, such as Telemakhos who is awarded with knowledge of his father and assistance from Athena. Likewise those who lack this trait are often punished by the gods. Take for example the suitors, who compared to Telemakhos, are the opposite of everything hospitality stands for.
The suitors according to Telemakhos, are intruders. He describes the suitors in his speech, My house and my good estates are being ruined. / Each day my mothers bullying suitors come/ to slaughter flocks of mine and my black cattle;/ enemies crowd our home. (IV :336) The suitors are the antithesis of hospitality.
They serve as a foil to Telemakhos in that they represent everything that is against Telemakhos. The contrast between Telemakhos and the suitors highlights their different characteristics, showing that Telemakhos is a wonderful generous host while the suitors are ravaging intruders. The suitors, despite rules of hospitality, invite themselves to the homes of others and feast on their hosts expense. They are not only rude; but they invite themselves to the home of Penelope and insult Odysseus in his own home.
Telemakhos shows further acts of hospitality when Odysseus poses as a beggar in rags and approaches Telemakhos. Telemakhos welcomes the beggar into his home and treats him like his own father. Telemakhos is the paragon of hospitality in the Odyssey. Hospitality is not taken lightly during Odysseys time. Their views differ vastly from ours.
All wanderers and beggars come from Zeus. What we can give is slight but well-meant all we dare, said Eumaios. The Odyssey emphasizes the importance of hospitality to the point where it is almost a religion. It is decreed by Zeus that people must treat these wanderers and beggars with generosity.
Besides the theme of hospitality, both Odysseys and Telemakhos are in search to prove their heroic mettle. There are many similarities between Odysseus and his son Telemakhos. Throughout the story, Odysseus goes through a struggle to reach his final destination, which is Ithaca. One of the themes of the Odysseys is about the heros struggle to discover himself.
Odysseus ultimate destination is of course Ithaka his own country, where his wife, family and homeland are awaiting him. Telemakhos on the other hand also has similar goals like his fathers. His goal is to defeat Penelopes suitors, and help his father in his goal to return to Ithaca. One suitor comments on Telemakhos, Well now, who knows? Telemakhos might be lost at sea, just like Odysseus/ knocking around in a ship, far from his friends. (II: 345) This quote illustrates the significance of Telemakhos journey.
Telemakhos is also figuratively lost in a sea like his father. He is alone in his journey in that he is surrounded with obstacles in Ithaka as Odysseus is surrounded with his obstacles on his journey home. Their journeys are quite the same despite the physical differences in their obstacles. Telemakhoss journey parallels Odysseus journey.
Both characters are on a journey to discover their heroism. Their goals are almost impossible. It is apparent that the odds are against them. Telemakhos for example is up against more than a dozen of suitors while Odysseus is up against the gods.
Although both their journeys are difficult, the Goddess Athena guides both characters in their journey. Odysseus and Telemakhoss goals converge as Odysseus returns to Ithaca as they plan to defeat the suitors. Preserving the honor is also a major theme in the epic Odysseus. “Your father? Well, I must say I marvel at the sight of you: your manner of speech couldnt be more like his one would say No; no boy could speak so well.
” (III:129) said Nestor. When Telemakhos visits Nestor and Menelaos, they praise him for his well manners and his eloquence, much like his father. He represents his fathers honor and reputation. Furthermore Menelaos praises Telemakhos, My lad, what you have said is only sensible, and you did well to speak.
Yes that was worthy a wise man and an older man than you are: you speak for all the world like Nestors son. (IV:214) Telemakhos is constantly praised for his hospitality. Likewise Nestor and Menelaos treat Telemakhos in the same manner. From Telemakhos treatment toward others, we can see the growth in his character. His character evolves as he discovers more about himself.
He is often referred to as Clear-headed Telemakhos and speaks thoughtfully. Telemakhos begins the story as a nave boy who does not know his way around, but he matures into a man who understands the world and who is up to par with his father. The epic the Odyssey is about a whimsical journey to the unknown. Odysseus encounters exotic lands on his journey home while his son Telemakhos travels different journey to discover his honor and heritage.
Throughout the story the themes are revealed through the characters, mainly Telemakhos. The story teaches us the importance of hospitality and that people should treat strangers with the utmost generosity. The Odyssey is a wisdom book in that it teaches us about hospitality, heroism and honor. It depicts Telemakhos as the ideal man that everyone should emulate. Aside from the lessons we learn from the Odyssey, we learn about the culture and traditions of the past by speculating on the Odyssey.Bibliography: