What does Telemachus tell the suitors to do in Homer's The Odyssey?

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In The Odyssey, Odysseus' return journey home after the end of the Trojan War takes twenty years. In that time, everyone believes he has died, so suitors overrun his home, take advantage of Odysseus' wife, Penelope, and her hospitality (with the intent of winning her hand in marriage and taking all that was Odysseus'—not just his wife.) They also treat Telemachus poorly. (In Book 15, the suitors try to ambush Telemachus when he is away from home, intent upon killing him.) Since his father has been gone, Telemachus has grown into a fine young man, and he does his best to protect his mother.

Before Telemachus departs to try to find his father, he orders the suitors to pack themselves up to leave, or they will be sorry:

Telemachus spoke, “Shameless,” he cried, “and insolent suitors, let us feast at our pleasure now, and let there be no brawling [...] but in the morning meet me in full assembly that I may give you formal notice to depart, and feast at one another's houses [...] If on the other hand you choose to persist in spunging upon one man [...] Zeus shall reckon with you...

Telemachus is frustrated because there is no way to know that his father has died and that he is lord of the house, for if he were, he would throw the suitors out. However, Athena, visiting in disguise, convinces him that his father lives and that he should go find him. In learning of this father's general circumstances, Telemachus has a stronger sense of self and of his place in his home, demanding that the suitors stop eating their food and behaving abominably. Even the suitors take notice of this change in Telemachus:

The suitors bit their lips as they heard him, and marveled at the boldness of his speech.

They hope, however, that he will never be "chief in Ithaca" as his father had been: they must see something unsettling as Telemachus begins to grow into a man more like his father.

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