Relationships in the Odyssey

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“The main action of the poem’s first four books is a son’s search for news of his father, as that of most of the subsequent books is a father’s return to his family” (Clarke, 1967, p. 27). Several examples of father/son relationships are provided, including those of Odysseus and Telemachus, Laertes and Odysseus, Poseidon and Polyphemus, Nestor and Pisistratus, and Eupithes and Antinous. Through these relationships, Homer illustrates the idea of continuity between generations as traits of the fathers are carried forward and reflected or as they are rejected and refused in the sons. By tracing the relationships between fathers and sons as they relate to Odysseus and Telemachus and each other, Homer shows not only how the strength of family can overcome seemingly insurmountable outcomes, but also how the continuity of traits and characteristics between generations can help a family succeed or bring it to ruin. At the same time, he refers to an archetypal myth identified centuries later by Carl Jung as something of supreme importance in the father/son relationship.Odysseus and Telemachus necessarily have an absent relationship despite the fact that they are father and son. Despite this, the traits of the father can still be recognized in the activities and thoughts of the son. Because Odysseus embodies the values of hospitality, good manners, loyalty, intelligence and patience, the reader should be able to see these traits in his son. However, having not had his father’s influence, Telemachus instead demonstrates an inability to manage his houseguests and awkwardness in cultured manners when he arrives in Pylos at the beginning of the tale. These are aspects of his character that take the goddess Athena by surprise when she decides to send him on a hero’s quest. “Although the goddess is at once impressed by Telemachus’ physical resemblance to his famous father, his insecurity is such that he is even unsure of his own identity and never refers to his father by the name”.