Literary Analysis on the Odyssey
English 201 A
With admiration for the epic The Odyssey, Homer portrays the nature of father-son relationships as structured in ancient patriarchal Greece. The promise of a long life and stature depended on the strength and courage a man possessed . Society vaunted at the achievements of man, and sons were often prized when promised to follow in their fathers footsteps. Telemachus, son of Odysseus desires to reunite with his father, all the while becoming him in the case he doesn't return. Fathers are proud of their sons, and sons proud of their fathers. Vital to understanding the father-son relationship is distance. Greek culture both public and private are linked to the ideal relationship of these two men. Homer beautifully grasps the concept that distance can define the nature and characteristics of not just ourselves,but our relationships as well.
The Odyssey begins with the Telémachia, which largely focuses on Telemachus, the son of Odysseus. Book I begins by giving a sense that Telemachus yearns for his father deeply, and is saddened not knowing his whereabouts or if Odysseus will forever be just a memory. Telemachus is a man in his younger 20's; he is no longer a boy, but not yet equal to a man. For all young men it is a crucial time of drastic changes, and the situations that one encounters are often naturally difficult appearing as catalysts to drive forward the transformation from boy to man. At this point in the story Telemachus has only lived in his father's shadow, burdened by the expectation that he must make his own mark on the world in order to become someone as mythical as his father. Book I lines 281-288 read:
“Were his death known, I could not feel such pain-- if he had died of wounds in Trojan country or in the arms of friends, after the war.
They would have made a tomb for him, the Akhaians,
And I should have all honor as his son.
Instead, the whirlwinds got him, and no glory.
He's gone, no sign, no word of him: and I inherit trouble and tears---and not for him alone...” It is within a passage such as this that one can see how the implications of the relationship between Telemachus and Odysseus extends beyond the personal sphere to the public sphere of Greek society. Homer manages to showcase Telemachus' personal sadness, but doing so touches on feelings that would be shared by many other children and their families in Greek society at this time. It was not uncommon for the head of household to leave for long periods of time because of war, work or other obligations. This yearning that Telemachus expresses for his father would have been very easy to relate to for many members of Greek society. This aspect of the father-son dynamic of Greek society is what makes distance such a defining characteristic in formulating the relationships between his characters. Homer goes on to show the reader the kind of man that Telemachus is struggling to become in the absence of his father when Telemachus ushers an assembly to Ithaca to publicly announce his title. Book II demonstrates these attempts as Telemachus strives to assert himself as expected within Greek culture. This is apparent in the way in which he presents himself before the assembly. He does not dress in the manner of a boy or even a young man, but in the robes of a politician, asserting his authority and position over the people of Ithaca. It is a vain attempt to showcase his manliness, and the superficiality of his actions is revealed when after giving a dauntless declaration of person and title, he “dashed his staff to the ground and burst into tears.” It becomes clear that although Telemachus desires to be seen as equal to his father, he finds it difficult to fill the shoes of a man whom seems so much greater than he is. The toll of his father's absence weighs greatly on his heart…