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In Greek Mythology, children cannot escape their lineage. Even Zeus, king of Olympus is referred to as "son of Cronus" (1:79). For some, being the child of a hero means great honor and prestige. But Telemachus, son of Odysseus, feels burdened by his heritage. He is expected to be like his father, who is often described as godlike by Homer. But Telemachus knows he cannot meet these expectations, and he despises his situation to the point of wishing he were "the son of a happy man/whom old age overtook in the midst of his possessions!" (1:252-253).

When Athena asks Telemachus if he is "truly Odysseus' son" (1:239), he admits the truth - he may look like Odysseus, but is nothing like him. Though roughly 20 years old and bearing an "uncanny resemblance" (1:240) to his father, Telemachus is described by Homer as "young" (1:248) and "heedful" (1:293), a boy in a man's body. Though Ithaca is his birthright, Telemachus' lack of a father figure leaves him woefully unprepared to accept this kind of responsibility. Even Penelope admits that Telemachus is "just a youngster/ still untrained for war or stiff debate." (4:920-921). Telemachus' lack of experience is apparent early on as suitors plague Odysseus' house while his son looks on helplessly. Indeed, Telemachus lacks his father's fighting spirit and prefers "daydreaming . . . among the suitors" (1: 138), instead of taking action against them. Though angered by their presence, he dares not speak up, for fear that "they'll grind me down as well." (1:293). His cowardice evident, Telemachus imagines it would be easier for his long lost father to "drop from the clouds" (1:134) and deal with the suitors, than for him to rise up and expel them from his house. Thus he is weary when responding to Athena's question - he understands his responsibility as Odysseus' son, but lacks the strength to step out from his father's shadow.

Telemachus response to Athena reveals his reluctance to accept his heritage. After 20 years, Telemachus is hardly the successor to Odysseus' royal line - he is a mere boy. But his progression towards manhood begins when Athena inspires him to speak out against the suitors - an action that no one expected. When Telemachus declares with authority, "I hold the reins of power in this house" (1: 414), he takes hold of his destiny at last. When this happens, Homer describes him as "poised," (1: 398) "cool-headed," (1:445) and "handsome as a god" (2:5), a prince deserving of the title Son of Odysseus.