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Isn't it pretty?

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

The Parent-Child Relationship in The Odyssey

The Odyssey is full of portrayals of the relationship between a parent and child. A character is hardly mentioned without the additional identification of their father's name. I wonder at the appropriateness of the reality of the relationships portrayed between the parents and their children in The Odyssey. Odysseus leaves his son, Telemachos, when Telemachos is only a baby. He is gone for twenty years. When Odysseus finally comes back to Ithaka, Telemachos welcomes him with open arms, and immediately begins to follow whatever Odysseus tells him to do. This is contrasted in his relationship with his mother, Penelope, whom he questions and seems to distrust, even though she has been with him his entire life. I have to wonder at Telemachos' trust of Odysseus. Odysseus left the family 20 years ago, he doesn't know Telemachos at all. I feel like Telemachos would have at least asked for more proof that Odysseus is who he says he is (as Penelope later does). I also feel like the level of trust would not be present that is depicted in the book. Another interesting parent-child relationship is the relationship of Odysseus to his parents. Odysseus meets his mother in Hades. She died out of her despair about his life. The scene is so sad, it made me want to cry. While Odysseus shows a bit of remorse about the fact that his mother dies from her sorrow over him, I don't feel like he cares so much about it. And when he finally goes to his father after being gone for twenty years, does he apologize for the heartache he has given him, for the fact that his wife died from grief over him? No, he taunts his father and lies to him before finally revealing himself. I feel that Odysseus really abuses his relationships in The Odyssey. I want to feel sorry that he had to go through so much to get home, but the way he treats the members of his family, and the fact that he deceives them so much really puzzles me. Does he value his family? Or does he see his image as more important than what everyone else is going through emotionally? I hope I give more in my relationships with my family members than Odysseus does.

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