Why do Telemachus and his mother need Odysseus?

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Telemachus and Penelope both occupy relatively lowly positions in ancient Greek society. Although Telemachus develops considerable maturity throughout the poem, as a relatively young man he still isn't strong enough to be able to take on his mother's suitors and expel them from his father's palace. For that, he will need the assistance of Odysseus. Hence the importance of setting off on his voyage to find his long-lost father.

As a woman in Greek society, Penelope is expected to be subservient to men. She doesn't like or admire any of the suitors, but she knows that at some point she'll have to give in and marry one of them. In the meantime, all she can do is stall them, using trickery to delay the dreaded hour when she will have to choose one of the suitors to be her new husband. But she too cannot remove the suitors from the palace; only Odysseus, with his physical strength and authority as king of Ithaca, can do that.

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Penelope has little status and no power as a woman, though she does have great wealth. Telemachus, though he is now over 20, has never proven his manhood. In one respect, neither "needs" Odysseus. Penelope could agree to marry the least offensive of the suitors, and would thus provide Telemachus with a step-father. But that is not Odysseus' fate, and such a conclusion would have been repugnant to the Greeks.

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Telemachus and his mother need Odysseus so that they can rid their house of the suitors that eat their food and drink their wine and waste their goods. Without Odysseus Telemachus' mother Penelope cannot get rid of them without choosing a suitor. Although she did not want to remarry any of them, with her husband gone for ten years, she has no choice but to consider them, and no way to get them out of her home.

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