Essay Sample on Emotively vulnerable
Understandably, the initial portrayal of Telemachus is one of a very emotionally vulnerable and isolated man, he can see the quandary his nation state has been left to in the wake of his fathers departure alongside the suitors callous abuse of his hospitality yet feels incapable of rectifying the situation. Furthermore, this sense of self-doubt has perpetuated his inability to take control – to the extent that he feels incapable of facilitating the expectations left by his father’s memory and even makes inclinations that he wishes he could negate his royal obligations (Cook, Book I, l. 215-218 “my mother calls me the son of the man [Odysseus]. But I myself do not know…ah would that I were the fortunate son of some man whom old age came upon with all his possessions!”).
As well as this, there is an almost paradoxical set of traits belonging to Telemachus’ persona in the early stages of the poem. The author propagates this by balancing his callow inexperience with a subtext inclining toward his adult potential. After Athene installs a new confidence within him, Telemachus calls an Assembly and exerts his mastery over the household – stating unambiguously that he will fill Odysseus’ shoes.
This is important as it highlights two Homeric qualities in Telemachus that are common within all heroes of epic poetry; the ability to take command and an oratorical skill – reiterated in his bold decision to “seek reports of his father” and challenge to the suitors (Cook, Book I, l.414-416 “I put no trust in a message, wherever it comes from, And I give no heed to any divination my mother Might ask of a diviner, calling him to the Hall”) – which is full of Odysseus’ fabled guile. However, these encouraging signs are directly conflicted with his immature frustration in his emotive release after his encounter with the suitors (Cook, Book II, and l. 80-81 “so he spoke, in anger He threw the sceptre down on the ground, bursting out in tears”).
This culminates in the presentation of an emotively vulnerable Telemachus at the beginning of the poem – a man unable to supersede or detach himself from the father’s memory, which in turn proliferates a tension between him and his mother (Penelope). This is evident in their numerous exchanges, but predominantly in his conversation with Athene (Book I) – in which he refers to her state of indecision with very disparaging tones (Cook, l.249 – 251 “She neither refuse the hateful marriage nor can she make an end of it”). Yet another example not only of Telemachus’ confused nature that he seeks to blame those around him for a wholly unwarranted situation but of his immature frustrations.
However, after his conversation with Athene, Telemachus becomes a changed man – Book III highlighting this as he commands the attention of the established hero Nestor, who affirms that he strongly resembles Odysseus in both speech and demeanour (Cook, Book III, l.124-125 “yes, indeed your speech is like his. You would not think a man so young could speak in such a likely way”). This is ratified later by Menelaus, (Cook, Book IV, l.149-151 “his feet are the same as that man’s, his hands are the same, And the glances of his eyes, and his head, and the hair upon it. Yes just now I was remembering about Odysseus”) – again fulfilling the Homeric condition of epic heroes ability to command a powerful diction. Also, this reiterates Telemachus’ potential, as actions such as these are worthy of kleos – a theme commonly associated with Odysseus throughout the poem – and an entity common amongst Homeric protagonists.
In short, the introductory figure portrayed of Telemachus is that of a man in his seminal years attempting to transcend his self-doubt and broach the problems left in the wake of his father’s absence. His plight is summarised concisely by Athene, who dismisses his melancholic demeanour saying, “…no need to indulge in childishness. You are not that age” (Cook, Book I, l. 296-297).
A character prevalent in the development of Telemachus’ persona during the poem is that of Athene, the Goddess that aids Odysseus as well as Telemachus during the poem, alongside representing them in the council of the Gods. One factor intrinsically linked to Athene throughout is that of her ‘divine plan’, reiterated after each of her interactions with the main characters (Cook Book I, l.444 “…pondered in his mind the course Athene had shown”). However, it is important to discern the fact that Athene’s aid does not diminish the heroic qualities of either of the aforemented; though she expounds the qualities and actions necessary for them to succeed, they themselves must carry out each respective task under their own volition. This is evident in Books I and II as Athene, after convincing Telemachus to leave Ithica, makes him travel the seas without her divine intervention (albeit initially).
In fact, throughout Books I to V, Athene adopts a removed position from major events, choosing instead to influence matters from a more indirect angle. Athene receives little characterisation initially beyond her desire to help the two heroes, yet is more involved in the portrayal of the poems principal themes. She often appears to Telemachus in Books I and II under the guise of Mentor, highlighting the poems consistent motif of adopting deception and cunning for a greater good (an ideal employed repeatedly in the later books by Odysseus on his travels). One example of this is when she first meets Telemachus in Ithica, disguised as a traveller where she gives him a false account as to the fate of his father (Cook, Book I, l. 197-199 “He is still alive somewhere…on a flood-circled island, and troublesome men hold him, Savages…against his will”). This is not only to spare his feelings of dejection at the thought of his father being held captive by a semi-divine being (Calypso) but also to convince him that the situation can be rectified (Cook, Book I, l.203 “not much longer now, surely, will he be away “).