After being inspired by the goddess Athena to search for his father, Telemachus assembles the noblemen of Ithaca. He gives them a speech urging them to support his quest. He assumes that his position as Odysseus's son and heir will sway them. A few of his father's old friends listen, but for the most part the lords laugh at Telemachus and even threaten to silence him. Telemachus realizes that by speaking up he put himself in danger. He secretly steals away from Ithaca that night and travels to the mainland of Greece to look for Odysseus himself.
Telemachus learns a great deal in his unplanned journey. He develops bravery in the face of danger. He learns the importance of respecting others' beliefs and practices. Perhaps based on his painful experience at home, he develops a remarkable tact and ability to converse politely with the lords and ladies whom he visits. For someone who grew up isolated,1 he fosters an admirable friendship with several of the other young people he meets. Since he must depend on the goodwill and hospitality of others, he learns humility. Since he leaves home in a rush, he learns also to rely on himself.
Perhaps the greatest lesson for us from Telemachus's journey is that, to develop these abilities, Telemachus needed to get away. He was in danger at home, not only from his father's rivals but also from his own complacency. He was unhappy. But he had little opportunity or incentive to improve his situation. He was ...