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What does Mentor do for Odysseus in the Odyssey?

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Throughout Homer’s epic, Mentor largely assists Odysseus in all his struggles. When Odysseus departs for the Trojan War, he leaves Mentor to teach and oversee his son Telemachus. He protects Penelope against all her suitors. Then, he helps Odyssey conquer them after returning to Ithaca.

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In Homer’s Odyssey, Mentor is Odysseus’s assistant and advisor. Odysseus refers to him as an “old comrade“, a person who used to serve in combats with him. When Odysseus decides to participate in the Trojan War, he needs to find someone wise. Someone to bring up his son Telemachus and take care of the entire household. It is the moment when he remembers the old and loyal friend. Odysseus hands the household over to him. He believes that Mentor would keep his family matters adequately managed.

In total, the Odyssey includes nineteen mentions of Mentor and ten direct personal appearances. Meeting Mentor for the first time occurs at a crisis moment. He emerges in Book II and helps Telemachus in his appeal to Ithacan’s against the suitors. In this part, he demonstrates his eternal loyalty to Odysseus and his principles. He also applies to his wisdom and life experience, searching for the right words, and persuading the Ithacans to follow Telemachus.

Mentor plays an essential role in the development of Telemachus’ character. He instructs him how to behave like a real king. Mentor teaches him the heroic legacy of his father and all his ancestors. He conveys the mental strength necessary for a 20-year-old man, who still does not fully understand his place in society. Without the help of Mentor and Athena, Telemachus would likely be killed by the suitors. Thus, Mentor’s role was saving the life of Odysseus’s son. Without Telemachus, all his father’s efforts to return home would be pointless.

Homer portrays Athena as Mentor in Odyssey in many cases, thereby making the latter the goddess’s voice. While appearing under such disguise, Athena assists not only Telemachus but Odysseus himself. When Odysseus is in grave danger of losing his fight against suitors, she addresses him with the words intended to raise his fighting spirit. Inspired by Athena, Mentor turns from an old man into a warrior tipping the scales in the fight against suitors. Thus, his bravery serves as an encouragement for Odysseus not to give up and continue the noble struggle.

Mentor’s character analysis reveals deep synergy between him and Odysseus. It is based on the deep trust of the two men towards each other. They follow different paths in their lives but share similar goals and values. Mentor embodies the varying and even contradicting roles of a teacher, counselor, guide, and protector for Telemachus. Successfully fulfilling them, he emerges as a critical assistant for Odysseus, enabling him to go through all his ordeals. The valuable role of Mentor and all the good deeds he did for Odyssey were highly appreciated. He became a symbol of a good teacher and a guide for the young generations. His name turned into a generic term. Nowadays, a mentor is “an experienced person who helps someone who has less experience.” Mentor’s role is crucial for professional and spiritual development. This is a reminder of the Mentor’s significance for Odyssey. He was his loyal supporter and the person he could entrust his nearest and dearest.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'What does Mentor do for Odysseus in the Odyssey'. 26 November.

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