I have a mixed feeling about Don Quixote. On the one hand I quite enjoyed Cervantes’ wit and beautiful prose, but on the other I disliked the absurdities. I just could not force myself to believe there are people so contradictory like Don Quixote and Sancho Pança, who at a time were so wise, but at others so stupid. I know that Cervantes made it absurd on purpose, but that’s why I could never really like it.
Alonso Quixada was a gentleman who lived quietly in La Mancha. He was obsessed by books of chivalry in his personal library. The idea of knight-errantry poisoned his mind, that one day, in his thoroughly frenzied mind, he felt a strong impulse to become a knight and sought adventures in order to relieve the weak and oppressed from their sorrows. He followed every rule he had read from his books, and was suddenly transformed into a Don Quixote de la Mancha. He recruited a country farmer called Sancho Pança as his squire, and took a peasant woman to be his adored-lady—just because a knight in books used to have a squire, and a lady to whom he dedicated all his deeds. Mounting on his skinny horse—which he fancied as a stout one—he left La Mancha to seek adventures.
And indeed, a lot of adventures he got along the way. However, far from helping people, Don Quixote often ended up bringing trouble to others. It’s because he himself had fancied that those people were in trouble and needing his help—while in reality they didn’t. In the urge of having problems to solve, Don Quixote used to create them in his fantasies. In these fantasies, either people, or animals, or even things might become his worst enemies. One of his, probably, most memorable (and funniest) adventure is when he attacked some windmills which he imagined as giants! But you might wonder, if the adventures were mere fantasies, how did he react when they were failed? When things went wrong, Don Quixote blamed it on enchantment or works of a magician.
If he was so deluded, why didn’t his squire or others lead him to the truth? Sancho was quite a man of sense, but he was also deluded by illusion of power. He was so sure that one day Don Quixote would be a King, and would grant him island to govern. But other than that, Sancho was an amiable man. And maybe, besides his childish trust to his master, he was the most natural character of others, and has become my most favorite character in this book.
Now, along his adventures, Don Quixote met so many people. Interestingly, none of them seemed really appreciate Don Quixote’s main aim by entering knight-errantry profession, which was to help others. This was a noble dream, but people failed to see it as it was, and focused instead on the crazy ways he tried to achieve it. The curate, the barber, and the bachelor tried hard to bring him home and cure him. In their eyes, Don Quixote was a poor deluded old man who only humiliated himself by his knight-errantry. The Duke and Duchess were much worse; they put (too) much effort to create adventures for Don Quixote just to amuse themselves—it’s bullying, and I hate them for it! There were still many other characters, some were kind to Don Quixote and Sancho, but some were quite rude. But all of them saw the same thing from our knight: a mad man; either they pitied him or were annoyed by him.
So, that is how Cervantes saw the world in his era. The nobility and moral value had been decaying, and people only saw what appeared on the surface. The biggest irony in this story is how people regarded Don Quixote as a deluded man, while in fact it was they who were deluded. Strange and unreasonable as he was, Don Quixote was the only one who still strongly believed in nobility and the need of helping others; while the others—normal as they believed they were—could only see a strange old man, and failed to see his much deeper and important quality as a human being.
Only after I finished this book, did I see why Don Quixote has been a very important work in our literary world. Cervantes is indeed great in conveying his ideas through this entertaining satirical romance, which became the first complete novel ever published. Don Quixote is actually divided into two parts. In the first one Cervantes wrote it as if he presented us a history of a certain knight, written by a Moor called Benengali. Interestingly, in the second part, Cervantes took a more active role, by putting another author who has been writing the sequel of Don Quixote without his permission, and made Don Quixote met people who have read the false history of him. The meta-story style could also be found in part one; actually one of them: “The Impertinent Curiosity” is so engaging I even think I love it better than the original story! And this is very interesting, considering it was written some four centuries ago.
All in all, I realized that Don Quixote is a special and genius piece of literature, but somehow, I could not like it as I thought I would. I got bored many times, and used to skip few pages, before continuing. Maybe, if Cervantes didn’t put too many adventures, I would like it more. But in the end, three and a half stars are the best I could give for Don Quixote, one memorable story but too tedious for my liking.
I read Wordsworth Classics paperback
This book is counted as:
2nd book for 2014 TBR Pile Challenge
1st book for Back to the Classics 2014
67th book for The Classics Club Project
16th book for WEM Self-Project