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Quests for Self-knowledge In Homer s the Odyssey, there are two major quests. One quest is that of Odysseus, King of Ithaca, and the other is that of Prince Telemakhos, son of Odysseus. Both quests are alike in that both men search for self-knowledge and eventual happiness in Ithaca. In the quests of the King and Prince, both of the two undergo a great metamorphosis. Odysseus goes from a great warrior who lacks self-control to a great mature man whose understanding of life is far superior to most men. Telemakhos goes from a boy without aspirations to a manly prince who gains self-knowledge along the way. Telemakhos, the son of the great Odysseus, was a simple boy at the beginning of the epic who used his quest as a rebirth to grow into a great man like his father. The main reason of Telemakhos quest was to find his father who he had never met. However, the quest would permanently change the young boy s life. Telemakhos traveled to the Island of Pylos then to Sparta, where King Menelaos lives. Here, Telemakhos learned that his father was indeed alive. Near the end of prince Telmakhos quest Athena comes and tells the king s son that he must return for he is the only one that can save his father s property, both his land and his lady, Penelope. Telemakhos then rushes to speak to Menelaos. Lord Marshal Menelaos, royal son of Atreus, I must return to my own hearth. I left No one behind as guardian of my property. This going abroad for news of my great father- Heaven forbid it be my own undoing, Or any precious thing be lost at home. (p.270 lines 115-120)It is almost as if Telemakhos grows right before the reader s eyes in this passage into the great man he is destined to be. He immediately realizes how important he is to the fate of Ithaca. The quest of Odysseus is similar to that of Telemakhos in that the King of Ithaca must rebirth into a more mature man who gains self-knowledge. Odysseus quest is far more challenging than that of his prince son. Odysseus must endure obstacles that most men would not even dream possible in his search for home. On one island that Odysseus visits he must battle a giant Kyklops who is the son of Poseidon. After Odysseus blinds the monster he shows his immaturity by yelling at the Kylops and committing hubris. Kyklops, if ever mortal man inquire How you were put to shame and blinded, tell him Odysseus, raider of cities, took your eye: Laertes so, whose home s on Ithaka! (p.160 lines 549-552)

Odysseus is punished later by the god Poseidon for this, which serves as a learning experience for the great King. Odysseus learns that a great man, who he is to be, should not be arrogant in such a situation. When Telemakhos returns home to Ithaka he realizes that he must act like the mature man he has become and protect his home and his mother, the wife of Odysseus. Telemakhos immediately takes action in protecting his father s land by telling his nurse he is going to retrieve Odysseus armor. Nurse, go shut the women in their quarters while I shift Father s armor back to the inner rooms- these beautiful arms unburnished, caked with black soot in his years abroad. I was a child then. Well, I am not now.I want them shielded from the draught and smoke. (p.353-54 lines 21-26)Telemakhos, for the first time, announces that he is a man in these lines. This is proof that he has indeed gone through a rebirth from a boy to a manly prince. Telemakhos continues to take charge of preparing for a battle, as a true man would. The son of Odysseus final example of maturity is shown when Penelope learns from her maid that her son had been keeping the great secret of Odysseus return to Ithaka a secret from everybody for days. It is true, true, as I tell you, he has come! That stranger they were baiting was Odysseus. Telemakhos knew it days ago- Cool head, never to give his father away- Till he paid off those swollen dogs! (p.430 lines 28-32)In this passage the maid of Penelope refers to Telemakhos as remaining cool headed by not mentioning to a soul the biggest event of the prince s life, the return of his father. When Odysseus returns home to Ithaka, he is not the same man he was when he left. Odysseus learned much about himself in his quest home. He learned that he as well as the rest of mankind is not invincible: Of mortal creatures, all that breathe and move, earth bears none frailer than mankind. What man believes in woe to come, so long as valor and tough knees are supplied to him by the gods? Bt when the gods in bliss bring misseries on, Then willy-nilly, blindly, he endures. Our minds are as the days are, dark or bright,Blown over by the father of gods and men. (p.340 lines 165-171) Odysseus, in these lines, finally begins to understand that his life, as well as all mortals, is very fragile and precious. Odysseus realizes that the gods can do as they please with his life.

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