Focus on a Character’s Journey in both Homer’s the Odyssey and Harper Lee’s to Kill a Mockingbird

Quite often novels focus on a character’s journey towards maturity and this is evident in both Homer’s The Odyssey and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Bildungsroman is the literary genre that follows a character’s journey from immaturity to maturity, emphasizes a character’s growth, and is displayed through a character’s various physical, mental, social, or emotional traits. Unquestionably, the characters of Telemachus in Homer’s The Odyssey and Jem and Scout Finch in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird represent this genre and manifest different levels of growth. Even though they all experience these changes, Telemachus undergoes the more significant evolution.

Maturation in these areas represents growth in these characters’ values and beliefs and leads to their transformation into individuals that can be admired by the reader due to the characters’ newly found morality and integrity. In Homer’s The Odyssey, Telemachus demonstrates more maturation than the characters of Scout and Jem Finch do in Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird because he exhibits greater growth with respect to being principled and caring. Assuredly, the character of Telemachus in The Odyssey embarks upon a journey towards maturation by becoming more principled. At the start of Book 1, Telemachus is not principled because he does not protect his home from being taken over by his mother’s suitors. The narrator explains the following: First by far to see her was Prince Telemachus, sitting among the suitors, heart obsessed with grief.

He could almost see his magnificent father, here… in the mind’s eye — if only he might drop from the clouds and drive these suitors all in a rout throughout the halls and regain his pride of place and rule his own domains! (Od.1.132-138) Telemachus is extremely upset because his mother’s suitors are in his home. He almost envisions his father reappearing from the clouds, driving the men away, and protecting their home. Telemachus fails to demonstrate that he is principled by not standing for justice and defending his home himself. Instead, he sits with the suitors, wishing his father would return to eliminate them rather than taking action himself.

In Book 2, Telemachus shows growth by becoming more principled when he addresses the suitors about their injustice in ravaging through his home. He makes a proclamation to the suitors: ‘Isn’t it quite enough that you, my mother’s suitors, have ravaged it all, my very best, these many years, while I was still a boy? But now that I’m full-grown and can hear the truth from others, absorb it too– now, yes, that the anger seethes inside me… I’ll stop at nothing to hurl destruction at your heads, whether I go to Pylos or sit tight here at home.’ (Od.2.346-352) Telemachus speaks to the suitors about their injustice in invading his home and destroying his things since he was young. He explains how angry he is and that now that he has grown up, he will do everything he can to destroy them.

By doing this, Telemachus matures immensely in terms of being principled because he realizes what the suitors have done to his home is unjust and he stands up for what is right and fair. Additionally, in Book 3, Telemachus also shows growth when he speaks to King Nestor about how he would take revenge on the suitors. He declares, “‘If only the gods would arm me in such power / I’d take revenge on the lawless, brazen suitors / riding roughshod over me, plotting reckless outrage’” (Od. 3. 233-235). Telemachus describes how if the gods would give him special powers, he could retaliate against the suitors for ignoring his rights and recklessly taking over his home. Telemachus shows great maturity in becoming more principled here because he is willing to make a positive difference and take action against the suitors’ unacceptable behavior. He is able to differentiate right from wrong and learns that it is his responsibility to protect his home and belongings.

In addition, the character of Telemachus in The Odyssey embarks upon a journey towards maturation by becoming more caring. In Book 1, Athena questions Telemachus about why the banquet is taking place at his home. She inquires the following: “What’s this banqueting, this crowd carousing here? And what part do you play yourself? Some wedding feast, some festival? Hardly a potluck supper, I would say, How obscenely they lounge and swagger here, look, gorging in your house. Why, any man of sense who chanced among them would be outraged, seeing such behavior.” (Od.1.261-267) Athena asks Telemachus why the crowd has gathered for such a tremendous feast in his home and what his part is in the celebration. She comments that the men are lying around eating voraciously and that their actions would be seen as unacceptable by any man that was sensible. This emphasizes that Telemachus is still immature because he is uncaring about the suitors’ disrespectful treatment of his home.

He allows them to carelessly roam around his abode without reprimanding them. In Book 1, Telemachus begins to show growth in his caring at the banquet when Athena urges him to take action against the suitors: “But you, I urge you, think how to drive these suitors from your halls. Come now, listen closely. Take my words to heart. At daybreak summon the island’s lords to full assembly, give your orders to all and call the gods to witness: tell the suitors to scatter, each to his own place.” (Od.1.312-317) Athena tells Telemachus to force the suitors out of his home. She suggests that he make the suitors attend an assembly and that he explain that the gods want them to leave the home and go elsewhere. In Book 1, Telemachus follows Athena’s advice and tells the suitors to gather in his home. He experiences growth in caring when he insists that the suitors leave: “You must leave my palace! See to your feasting elsewhere, devour your own possessions, house to house by turns.

But if you decide the fare is better, richer here, destroying one man’s goods and going scot free, alright then, carve away! But I’ll cry out to the everlasting gods in hopes that Zeus will pay you back with a vengeance–all of you destroyed in my house while I go scot-free myself!” (Od.1.430-437) Telemachus addresses the suitors and insists that they leave the palace and feast somewhere else. He urges them to go devour their own belongings because if they stay in the palace, he will summon Zeus to retaliate against them. This illustrates Telemachus’s maturation due to his growth in caring because he takes the advice of Athena and shows his personal commitment towards his family and home by taking action against the suitors’ disrespect and abuse of his property. Additionally, In Book 2, Telemachus exhibits growth in caring when his servant, Eurycleia, urges him not to search for his father.

He makes a reassuring plea: “Courage, old woman,” thoughtful Telemachus tried to reassure [Eurycleia], “there’s a god who made this plan. But swear you won’t say anything to my mother. Not till ten or a dozen days have passed or she misses me herself and learns I’m gone. She mustn’t mar her lovely face with tears.” (Od.2.410-416) Telemachus comforts his servant because she is worried about him leaving to search for his father, Odysseus. He tells her that the gods want him to go and begs her not to tell his mother until she absolutely must. He does not want her to cry and worry about him. This emphasizes Telemachus’s growth in caring because even though Athena instructed him to find rumors and information about Odysseus, Telemachus worries about his mother’s well-being before he leaves for Pylos.

Since the suitors caused havoc in his palace and are angry with Penelope for not marrying them, Telemachus feels he should not make his mother feel any worse, which indicates his maturation in caring. Similarly, this is also true of the character of Jem Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird because he exhibits maturation by becoming more principled as the novel progresses, only to a lesser extent than Telemachus does in The Odyssey. Jem’s immaturity and lack of being principled is evident at the start of the novel when his father, Atticus, asks him for an explanation about where his pants are. Scout describes, “Atticus spoke, ‘Where are your pants?’‘We were playin’ strip poker up yonder by the fishpool,’ he said” (Lee 73). Atticus asks Jem where his pants are and Jem tells him that the children were playing strip poker by the fishpool.

Actually, Jem lost his pants while crawling through the fence of Boo Radley’s house. He lies to Atticus and his dishonesty shows that he lacks integrity. Jem demonstrates that he becomes more principled when he admits that he ruined Miss Dubose’s flowers and is punished by Atticus. Scout describes the interaction as follows: “Jem,” he said, “are you responsible for this?” “Yes sir.” “Why’d you do it?” Jem said softly, “She said you lawed for niggers and trash.” (Lee 138) Atticus questions Jem about whether he is responsible for what happened to Mrs.Dubose’s flowers and Jem admits he was at fault. When Atticus asks Jem why he did it, Jem is forthcoming once again, telling him it was because the woman had said Atticus was a lawyer for black people and trash. Jem is immediately honest and owns up to his actions.

This shows his maturation in principle since he shows integrity and is truthful. Also, when Atticus explains why Tom Robinson was found guilty, Jem reacts by remarking, “‘Doesn’t make it right,’ Jem said stolidly. He beat his fist softly on his knee. ‘You just can’t convict a man on evidence like that-you can’t’”(Lee 295). Jem tells Atticus that the fact that Tom Robinson was found guilty was not right. He explains that merely because the evidence showed the word of a black man against a white man does not make it acceptable that in such a situation the white man always wins. Once again, Jem displays growth in being more principled in this instance because he demonstrates that he knows racism is wrong and he respects Tom Robinson right to have a more fair trial.

Although Jem does demonstrate overall growth by becoming more principled, he shows less growth than Telemachus in this respect. Telemachus showed growth as an adult with respect to the future of his own home, which is more significant than Jem, a teenager, learning that destroying someone’s property is wrong or owning up to his actions because he still has years of growth ahead of him and his ideas can change very easily. Telemachus, on the other hand, is an adult who, as mentioned previously, develops principles that affect both his life and those of his family when he admonishes the suitors and decides to search for his father, yet spare his mother unnecessary worry. In the same fashion, the character of Jem Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird exhibits maturation by becoming more caring, but not as much as Telemachus does in The Odyssey.

At the start of the novel, Jem is selfish and not very caring because he is not willing to be near or help Scout in school. Scout describes Jem’s instructions: When we slowed to a walk at the edge of the schoolyard, Jem was careful to explain that during school hours I was not to bother him, I was not to approach him with requests to enact a chapter of Tarzan and the Ant Men, to embarrassed him with references to his private life, or tag along behind him, at recess and noon. (Lee 20) Scout describes how Jem instructed that while they were in school, she was not allowed to bother him, make requests of him, embarrass him by speaking about his life or walk behind him at recess or at noon. This illustrates that Jem lacks caring because he is not acting in a loving way towards his sister.

Later, Jem shows maturation when Atticus asks him to walk Scout to school. He comments, “‘You know Atticus would never let you go to the schoolhouse by yourself’” (Lee 341). Jem tells Scout that Atticus would not allow Scout to go to school alone. Jem exhibits growth in caring because he does not complain about having to do this. He is glad to do this because he wants to make sure his sister arrives at school safely and is not harmed. This shows his caring and personal commitment to the lives of others around him. In addition, when Bob Ewell attacks Jem and Scout, Jem tries to fight off Bob to save his sister. Scout details, “Someone rolled against me and I felt Jem. He was up like lightning and pulling me with him but, though my head and shoulders were free I was so entangled we didn’t get really far” (Lee 351).

Scout recounts that Jem rolled against her and quickly grabbed her, but even though her head and shoulders were free, she was still stuck and the children could not escape. Jem shows maturation in his caring as a brother because he is brave and loving when he tries to do whatever is necessary to make sure Scout is safe. In spite of the fact that Jem shows growth in caring in To Kill a Mockingbird, his level of growth is less than Telemachus’s in The Odyssey because although Jem matures, he does not mature to the extent that Telemachus does. Telemachus defends his home against multiple suitors that are threats to his home and life. Jem, on the other hand, places himself into a dangerous situation as a teenager that can end both his life and his sister’s rather than trying to find help instead.

Similarly, the character of Scout Finch, Jem’s sister in To Kill a Mockingbird, exhibits maturation by becoming more principled, but to a lesser extent than Telemachus does in The Odyssey. From the start, Scout shows that she is principled by acting with honesty and integrity. She recalls, “I told Jem if he set fire to the Radley house I was going to tell Atticus on him” (Lee 17). Scout tells Jem that if he sets the Radley house on fire, she will tell their father, Atticus, that he did that. Scout manifests growth in her principles by acknowledging that setting fire to a person’s’ home is wrong and that she will be honest and tell Atticus if Jem participates in such behavior. Furthermore, Scout shows growth when she becomes even more principled by confronting the violent mob at the courthouse. Scout reveals, “He yanked Jem nearly off his feet. ‘Don’t you touch him!’ I kicked the man swiftly. Barefooted I was surprised to see him fall back in real pain”(Lee 204).

At the courthouse, a man pulls Jem and lifts him up off the ground. Scout yells at him, telling him not to touch her brother. Then she kicks him and he falls backward due to pain. Scout becomes even more principled by attempting to protect her father by confronting the violent mob at the courthouse. She does this because she is maturing and realizes that racism can lead to violence. In a similar fashion, Scout also shows growth in Chapter 26 when she thinks about Boo Radley as she walks past his house.

She contemplates, “I sometimes felt a twinge of remorse, when passing by the old place, at ever having taken part in what must have been sheer torment to Arthur Radley….”(Lee 324) Scout explains that she sometimes regrets having tormented Arthur Radley in the past when she passed his house. Scout shows maturation in her principles when realizes that what she and Jem did to Arthur Radley was wrong and takes responsibility for her actions and the torment she caused her neighbor. She develops compassion and respect for Boo Radley, which shows her growth. However, Scout’s level of maturation is less than Telemachus’s is in The Odyssey because she shows that she is principled at the start of the novel, but Telemachus does not, hence he experiences more growth.

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Focus on a Character’s Journey in Both Homer’s The Odyssey and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. (2022, Apr 09). Retrieved May 18, 2022 , from
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