Every boy would like to be characterized as a man. Most look to age or the way they see their own maturity to determine manhood for themselves. Neither age nor self-image can determine whether or not you have become a man. In that time, arete would be used to determine ones manhood. Early in the Odyssey, we see Telemakhos daydreaming as an untrained boy. The book says, “…-for he, too, was sitting there, unhappy among the suitors, a boy, daydreaming”(277). He is no comparison to Odysseus as a leader or fighter. As the book goes on, we see Telemakhos become more and more like his father. By the end of the fight with the suitors we see him now matured from the youth we saw into the man he should be.
Telemakhos tries to be like his father to the best of his ability, even though his father has been away since he was merely an infant. The only father he knew was from stories told by people, including his mother. He also dreamed constantly of the man his father must have been, thinking, “What if his great father came from the unknown world and drove these men like dead leaves through the place, recovering honor and lordship in his own domains”(277). It is as if Odysseus did raise his son in some ways, through the dreams and stories, perhaps being a better figure to look up to rather than in person. In the dreams and stories, you can be built up to be more than you really are. In person, you can see how flawed the person really is, which may lower your opinions and ideals. But still, one would not want to sacrifice that for the intimate father and son love and memories that would have been attained during childhood. The better father would be the one that was always there.
By traveling far from home and risking his life to learn about his father, Telemakhos is forced to mature at a tremendous rate. He learns more from his trip than he could have by staying at home with the suitors. From Nestor and Menelaos he learns courage, bravery, and how to be both a man and a host. He learns that he must fight against what the suitors represent, to stop them from claiming what is his. Nestor and Menelaos guide Telemakhos, with Athena’s help, toward manhood, a destination long overdue.
When Odysseus finally reaches home the first person he reveals himself to, besides Athena, is Telemakhos. Their reunion is full of joy and emotion leading to tears. Odysseus immediately treats him like an inferior telling Telemakhos his plans while expecting him to carry them out. This is a role that Telemakhos still deserves, though not for long. After the plans are laid, Telemakhos gathers the suitors spears and shields, along with his fathers display of weapons, while his father finds out how strong the suitors are. Telemakhos does very well in gathering the arms and keeping the suitors busy while holding his temper at the mistreatment of his disguised father. He does not want to jeopardize a triumph with ignorance. He acts very mature, having learned from the best sources in the land. He has definitely changed from the boy he was.
Telemakhos does equal his father by the end of the book. He strings the bow that only Odysseus could string and stops only because of his fathers plan, and he said, “Blast and damn it, must I be a milksop all my life”(549)? Saying this, he proves he has wisdom over pride because he could have proved equal to his father with everyone watching. Instead he gained much arete by using his wisdom over selfish ambition. He obviously has the strength and wit of Odysseus and it is clear that Athena favors him as she does his father. When time comes for Odysseus to reveal himself, the suitors mock the decision of the queen to let the beggar try to string the bow. Telemakhos says, “Mother, as to the bow and who may handle it or not handle it, no man here has more authority than I do-…”(555). Then he tells her to go to her room so that she will be safe.
Telemakhos changes greatly during the Odyssey. He matures, grows smarter and wiser, and becomes much more like his father. He learns a lot from Nestor, Menelaos and Athena, but when Odysseus returns home he is finally able to take his rightful place as equal and son of Odysseus.