One of the central themes in Homer's epic, Odyssey, is Telemachus' coming of age. In the beginning, although he is in his early twenties, Telemachus acts as though he is a child. He weeps over trivial matters and does not have the ability to think on his own. As the story progresses, Telemachus' maturity develops considerably. He becomes an independent thinker and no longer seeks the approval of those around him in order to support his ideas. Telemachus' development of these new abilities demonstrates that during the course of Odyssey he matured into an adult who may think and act out of his own accord.
In the first book of Odyssey, Telemachus is displayed as an immature coward. He is offended by the suitors' invasion of his home and by their breakage of the hospitality rules, yet he remains passive about the situation because of his cowardliness. Once the goddess Athena becomes involved, she gives Telemachus a detailed plan of action to find his father. After describing her plan to Telemachus she states, "You've got to stop acting like a child. You've outgrown that now." (1.313-314). By calling Telemachus a child, Athena is blatantly enforcing that Telemachus has not yet matured and that he needs to change his childish ways in order to rid his house of the suitors. Athena's harsh words set Telemachus off on his symbolic journey toward maturity.
A pivotal moment in Telemachus' coming of age happens in book 22 when Odysseus orders Telemachus to slash the disloyal women with swords until they are dead. Telemachus believes the women deserve a more severe punishment than what Odysseus wanted, so he hangs the women instead. Before he hangs them he says, "I will not allow a clean death for these women-- The suitors' sluts--" (22.485-486). Through these lines, Telemachus shows he feels very strongly about the severity of the punishment that the "sluts" deserve. Telemachus followed through with what he thought was right, which shows that he no longer seeks the approval of those around him.