Don Quixote Book I
Everybody Plays the Fool: A Comparison of King Lear’s Fool and Don Quixote’s Squire
The first time the Fool enters in Shakespeare’s King Lear he immediately offers Kent his coxcomb, or jester’s hat. Lear asks the Fool “My pretty knave, how dost thou?” (1.4.98) This initial action and inquiry of the Fool is representative of the relationship between the Fool and the other characters throughout the entire play. In general, the Fool will say something nonsensical, or act seemingly illogically, and then explain his words and/or actions to let the reader know that he is actually the wisest man in the play. In the case mentioned above the Fool unexplainably offers his coxcomb to Kent. At first it seems that the Fool is just being foolish, for even the King cannot figure out the meaning of the Fool’s action and words. After he explains himself, however, the reader realizes that the Fool is not only not a fool, but in fact has a sharper wit than the King’s.A similar situation presents itself in Cervante’s Don Quixote. Even more so than King Lear, Don Quixote is out of his mind, and even though his squire, Sancho Panza, is constantly trying to help Don Quixote recapture his wits by pointing out his various insane hallucinations, Don Quixote generally refuses to listen to his inferior servant. It should be noted that both a king’s fool and a knight’s squire are positions of servitude; the fool is used for entertainment purposes while the squire is a sort of knight janitor (pun intended). But as both Shakespeare and Cervantes point out, these servants of powerful men are being used for the wrong purposes, and their words of wisdom are brushed aside by the men who need them most. If King Lear and Don Quixote had listened to their “foolish” servants, they both would have been spared great pain, and ultimately their lives.By the end of both King Lear and Don Quixote the reader is left wondering: why were the idiots the kings and knights while the true wise men were the fools and squires? There are innumerable explanations for why Shakespeare and Cervantes both chose this particular form of irony. One explanation that is made particularly evident in both works is that the ironic reversal of roles, where the leaders are the fools and the servants the wise men, illustrates the injustices suffered by the lower classes, not because they are intellectually inferior, but because they lack money. There are many scenes throughout Don Quixote which highlight the fact that Sancho Panza never would have agreed to the continual suffering and terrible mishaps his master exposed him to unless there was an economic reward, in this case an island, promised to him. Likewise, in King Lear, the Fool must stay with his master even though he knows his master has “grown foppish” (1.4.171).Despite their lack of wealth, however, both the Fool and the Squire are wise enough to realize that they are better off intelligent and poor rather than rich and crazy. Furthermore, suppression of their intelligence is a necessary part of their jobs. The Fool lets the reader know of his wise decision to refrain from exhibiting his real intelligence through the words of his song “Have more than thou showest/Speak less than thou knowest” (1.4.122-3), as well as when he says “I had rather be any kind of thing than a Fool. And yet I would not be thee, nuncle” (1.4.189-91). In Don Quixote we see that even though Sancho Panza desires economic prosperity, he is comfortable with his peasant status: “Even if it’s only bread and onion that I eat in my corner without bothering about table manners and ceremonies, it tastes to me a great deal better than turkey at other tables where I have to chew slowly…” (85). For all his failures at social graces, Sancho realizes that it is better to be a peasant with no table manners than a gentleman who is so concerned with conventions and etiquette that he loses his mind.Even though both the Fool and the squire both realize that their livelihoods depend on masking the fact that they are more intelligent than their masters, there are times when they break through the character mold of the submissive servant. In King Lear the Fool comes dangerously near to letting the King know he is being mocked when the Fool says “The sweet and bitter fool/Will presently appear/The one in motley here/The other found out there” (1.4.148-51). In this line the Fool is arguing that he is a “sweet fool”, because he is aware of when he is being foolish, and thus wears a “motley” or jester’s costume. The King, who cannot realize his folly until after he has done something foolish is the “bitter fool”. After the Fool points this out the King asks “Dost thou call me a fool’ boy?” (1.4.151) and the Fool quickly comes up with another joke to put the King’s mind at ease. Later in the scene, however, the King threatens to have the Fool whipped (1.4.185).A similar situation arises between Don Quixote and Sancho Panza during their adventure in which they remain paralyzed in fear for a full night of what they discover in the morning to be six fulling-hammers. After this discovery Sancho Panza is so amused by the superfluous exclamations of gallantry and bravado Don Quixote had given the night before that he laughs until “he had to hold his sides for fear of bursting” (p. 158). Like King Lear, however, Don Quixote is quite angered at being mocked by his own servant. Cervantes writes “When Don Quixote realized that Sancho was making fun of him, he got so furiously angry that he lifted his lance and dealt him two blows which would have relieved the master of the duty of paying his squire’s wages…had they caught him on the head” (p.158). Even though the servants in both works dare to mock their masters for a moment, it is short-lived, and they quickly resume their obedient roles.As Shakespeare writes in another one of his plays, Twelfth Night “This fellow’s wise enough to play the fool/And to do that well craves a kind of wit” (3.1.68). For all of their shortcomings, the Fool and Sancho Panza both have a certain kind of wit that allows them to survive their masters’ insane outbursts. One of the greatest ironies in both of these books is that the master demands the servant to serve, and he does, but not in the way that would best help the master. In other words both King Lear and Don Quixote would have been much better off had they employed their servants as respected advisors. In both works these servants had much more common sense than the masters who employed them.Finally, the relationship between a fool and a king (or in Cervantes’ case a knight and his squire) can be compared to a jester’s hat and a king’s crown. A jester’s hat, or coxcomb, is typically made of cloth, and is adorned with bells, while a king’s crown is made of gold and precious gems. Both hats are gaudy and attract a lot of attention. The king’s crown, however is precious and valuable, whereas the flimsy jester’s cap just makes noise. As Shakespeare and Cervantes have shown, however, people have a tendency to respect the hat, and not the head beneath it, when judging character and intelligence.
Liberty in Cervantes’s Don Quixote
In the Prologue to Don Quixote, Cervantes presents his protagonist as a Ã¢dry, shriveled, whimsical offspring… just what might be begotten in a prison, where every discomfort is lodged and every dismal noise has its dwellingÃ¢? (41). But if conceived in an Iron Age of limited religious, social, and intellectual freedoms as the product of CervantesÃ¢s own poverty and privation, Don Quixote liberates himself through his transformative capacity, first of his will and imagination and later of his reason. Alongside this is the parallel tale of the squireÃ¢s own pilgrimage to personal freedom. Cervantes uses the characters Don Quixote and Sancho Panza to advance his argument for liberty in literature and society, and when this is not possible, in the individual.Don Quixote can be read not as an Ã¢invective against the books of chivalryÃ¢? but as an invective against the abuse of literature (46). As Part I opens, Don Quixote has Ã¢stumbled upon the oddest fancy that ever entered a madmanÃ¢s brain,Ã¢? one that moves him to take up arms as a knight-errant and venture out into the world, Ã¢redressing all manner of wrongsÃ¢? (59). He is enslaved to a chivalric fiction, though this is a fiction of his own narration: he chooses what he sees, turning inns into castles, wenches into ladies-in-waiting, and giants into windmills. To the point of fault, Don Quixote is irreverent not only to the constraints of society but to its demands; thus, his liberty develops only as his idealism begins to wane in Part II. Here, Cervantes continues to manipulate the motif of conflicting authorship and duality of characters to establish his quarrel between reality and fantasy. As Don Quixote begins to recognize that his life is descending into a staged presentation of himself, his defiance grows. He shows less willingness to serve for the enjoyment of others, for the Dukes and Duchesses and Don Antonios of the world. As he writes in his letter to Sancho Panza, Ã¢when it comes to the point, I must comply with my profession rather than with their pleasureÃ¢? (895). In a faintly concealed assertion of CervantesÃ¢s own authorial liberty and command, Don Quixote acts in defiance of the actions set forth in the false sequel by Avellaneda, who has brought the knight to Saragossa. Don Quixote proclaims, Ã¢For that reason, I will not set foot in Saragossa, and so the forgery of this new historian shall be exposed to the eyes of the world, and mankind will be convinced that I am not the Don Quixote of whom he speaksÃ¢? (953). Don Quixote asserts his freedom by refusing to be merely a character proposed by another, losing his own identity in the process. However, at this point, he is still not truly free but only a character proposed by himself.It is in his death, when all delusion releases him, that Don QuixoteÃ¢s liberty achieves its highest form. He dies as his own master, who, Ã¢though he was conquered by another, nevertheless conquered himselfÃ¢? (1038). It is not the contrivance of the Ã¢Knight of the White MoonÃ¢? that ultimately frees Don Quixote but rather his own mind; he dies renouncing his knight-errantry and with his judgment Ã¢clear and unfetteredÃ¢? (1045). Should the DonÃ¢s journey therefore be viewed simply as one that takes him from the bondage of living in an idyllic past to the freedom of an Ã¢unfetteredÃ¢? mind? Cervantes seems to suggest otherwise, passing his final judgment on Don Quixote through the mouthpiece of Sansn Carrasco, who writes in the epitaph for the heroÃ¢s tomb:He reckÃ¢d the world of little prizeAnd was a bugbear in menÃ¢s eyesBut had the fortune in his ageTo live a fool and die a sage (1049).Both the life of the fool and the death of a sage are acts of Don QuixoteÃ¢s own free will; it is his immense fortune, in an Iron Age that constrains ideas, to have lived and died both. The novel takes the knight from an imaginative liberty that Ã¢reckÃ¢d the world of little prizeÃ¢? to a liberated and rational reality. Cervantes believes that both types of liberty embodied by Don Quixote, of the imagination and of reason, have value for the reader in claiming oneÃ¢s life as oneÃ¢s own. Earlier in the novel Sansn tells the knight that Ã¢his life did not belong to him, but to all those who needed him to protect them in their misfortunesÃ¢? (554). But in his defiant life and defiant death, when those around him are hesitant to relinquish him and to end the charades, Don Quixote proves that his life does belong to himself, both as the Knight of the Rueful Figure and as Alonso Quixano the Good. He is its sole author as the knight and its sole savior as Alonso.But the novel is not just the romance of a strong individual character, Don Quixote, who affirms the possibility of freedom in a constraining environment. Within CervantesÃ¢s treatment of the theme of liberty are many layers that support and articulate the others. Although Cervantes does profess an explicit goal to overthrow Ã¢the ill-based fabric of these books of chivalryÃ¢? through his satire of the genre, he tries to reconcile this with his belief that literature can be liberating to the reader (47). This is accomplished not only through his account of Don Quixote as an imaginatively liberated figure but also through Sancho Panza, who discovers his freedom along the way and forces us to reflect on our own. As Sancho Panza sets out in Part I, Cervantes describes him as a Ã¢laboring man . . . with very little wit in his pate,Ã¢? a Ã¢poor wightÃ¢? who is coerced into playing the role of squire for Don Quixote (95). Yet, even as Sancho sets out, his subsequent development is foreshadowed by the image Cervantes gives us of Sancho astride Ã¢his ass like a patriarchÃ¢? (96). The image at this point in the novel is comical, but should not be dismissed because it prefigures SanchoÃ¢s move to grasp the autonomous rule of his own, if humble, domain.This move is symbolically represented by SanchoÃ¢s forsaking of his governorship and return to Dapple, the Ã¢friend and partner of [his] toils and troublesÃ¢? (909). As Sancho says, Ã¢Make way, gentlemen, and let me return to my former liberty. Let me go in search of the life I left, and rise again from this present deathÃ¢? (909). Sancho would rather Ã¢rest under a shady oak in the summer and wrap [himself] up in tough sheepskin in winter, at [his] own sweet will, than lie down, with the slavery of a government, in holland sheetsÃ¢? (910). The squire recognizes the sweet drudgery of ruling himself. If he follows Don Quixote now, it will not be because of ambition but because of his Ã¢own sweet will;Ã¢? because, as he tells the squire of the Knight of the Wood, Ã¢I love him as I love the cockles of my heart, and I canÃ¢t invent a way of leaving him, no matter what piece of foolishness he doesÃ¢? (613). SanchoÃ¢s association with the Don has not only brought him to an understanding of his own personal liberty, but it gives him something of the imaginative liberty the knight fiercely displays. No longer the Ã¢poor wight,Ã¢? Sancho in his ingenuity deceives his master in the adventure of the fulling-hammers and later transforms a peasant girl into Lady Dulcinea by invoking the knightÃ¢s own panacea of enchantment. When Ricote questions the possibility of SanchoÃ¢s governorship of his island by telling him, Ã¢Hush, Sancho, islands lie out in the sea; there are none of them on the mainland,Ã¢? Sancho replies, Ã¢Why not?Ã¢? (917). In this single statement, Sancho incorporates both his masterÃ¢s defiance and his insistence on the sovereignty of his own will.But SanchoÃ¢s pilgrimage is not simply one toward self-awareness. It also encompasses CervantesÃ¢s subtle criticism of his time, an era of oppressive class structures and limited speech. In Part I, Cervantes presents a disturbing episode of the whipping of the servant-boy Andrs that is left unresolved and worsened by Don QuixoteÃ¢s involvement. This is a dark portrait both of the destructive potential of Don QuixoteÃ¢s delusion and the incorrigibility of the provincial social structure. The knightÃ¢s renunciation of his disillusion solves the first problem, but what of the second? Cervantes offers some resolution in Part II, when Don Quixote attempts to whip Sancho in order to disenchant Dulcinea. The possibility of physical violence in this scene is reminiscent of the violence suffered by Andrs. Sancho overpowers the Don, who cries, Ã¢How, traitor! Do you dare raise a hand against your master and against the hand that feeds you?Ã¢? Sancho replies, Ã¢I neither mar king nor make king. I only defend myself, who am my lord. If you promise me, master, that youÃ¢ll let me alone and not try to whip me, IÃ¢ll set you freeÃ¢? (956). In this parable of the reversal of roles, Cervantes indulges in a type of wish fulfillment where the limits on freedom Ã¢” here the fabricated norms of knight-errantry but also the norms of a hierarchical society Ã¢” disintegrate. As Sancho questions authority and asserts his own basic rights, Cervantes questions the limits on human freedom in society even while conceding that these limits exist.The suppression of speech is a secondary target of CervantesÃ¢s social commentary articulated through Sancho. Don Quixote tells Sancho, Ã¢you must abstain and curb your desire for so much talk with me in the future, for never in any of the innumerable books of chivalry I have read have I found a squire who talked to his master as much as you do to yoursÃ¢? (196). But although Don Quixote takes his squire to be Ã¢a perverter of good language,Ã¢? Sancho recognizes that his words, even when lacking in precision and laced in proverbs, are no worse than the Ã¢balderdashÃ¢? his master spouts about knight-errantry and enchantments (661, 693).Ã¢I know you, Sancho,Ã¢? replied Don Quixote, Ã¢so, I pay no heed to your words.Ã¢?Ã¢No more do I to yours,Ã¢? said Sancho, Ã¢even thoughyou beat me or kill me for those IÃ¢ve spoken or mean to speak if you donÃ¢t correct and mend your ownÃ¢? (693).SanchoÃ¢s unwillingness to compromise his free speech leaves the reader of Don Quixote with a lasting consciousness of and appreciation for SanchoÃ¢s speech in all its idiosyncrasies. Because the squireÃ¢s words persist, the series of exchanges between master and squire on the matter of speech are not merely humorous, but testify to the triumph of speech over a force that threatens to suppress it, a force not nearly as restraining as the literary censorship of the Spanish Inquisition but suggestive of it. Through the course of the novel, Sancho develops an awareness of his own worth and autonomy, circumvents the master-servant relationship, and makes a case for freedom of speech. Cervantes presents SanchoÃ¢s journey to freedom with a bittersweet longing that this could be the case for each Ã¢poor wightÃ¢? (95).Don Quixote and Sancho Panza are complementary characters that together express CervantesÃ¢s commitment to the cause of liberty, both in society and in literature, where ideas should be given free reign. Don QuixoteÃ¢s journey shows that both the imagination and the mind are liberating Ã¢” if one can have the fortune both Ã¢to live a fool and die a sageÃ¢? (1049). Sancho brings this concept further, illustrating that the individual can liberate himself. As Don Quixote leaves the castle of the duke and duchess, he turns to his squire and says, Ã¢Liberty, Sancho, my friend, is one of the most precious gifts that Heaven has bestowed on mankind . . . For liberty, as well as for honor, man ought to risk his life, and he should reckon captivity the greatest evil life can bringÃ¢? (934)2E Perhaps this is the attraction of knight-errantry to Don Quixote: the disciplined rule of self and the crusade to emancipate the oppressed. His is that Ã¢noble mind . . . ranging freelyÃ¢? in the castles of his imagination before coming home and liberating itself (935). But if Don Quixote breaks free from the prison in which he was conceived, perhaps Sancho does so even more. Throughout the novel he advances his personal liberty, and when he returns to La Mancha, the reader remembers the image of the squire atop Ã¢his ass like a patriarchÃ¢? (96). But this time the image is not just a caricature but an affirmation of the fiercely individualistic freedom he has found and that is available to us all.
Courtly Love vs. Real Love in Don Quijote: Cervantes’ View
One recurring motif in Don Quijote is love relationships that develop between males and females and the many different consequences these relationships can have. In fact, most of the “stories” found within the text of the novel are driven in some way by the force of love. The actions of Don Quijote himself are all supposedly spurred on by his love for his lady Dulcinea del Toboso, a woman whom he incidentally has never physically met. Throughout the course of the work, Cervantes seems to be criticizing the notions of courtly love and how it would function in real society, saying that the idealistic belief in courtly love does not translate well into the real world2E Love, to Cervantes, cannot exist under false pretenses and phony emotions; it should be based on genuine feelings of compassion and exist only between two individuals who share an equal bond of respect and understanding.The first significant story where love plays a major role is the tale involving the shepherdess Marcela and how her incredible beauty inflames the desires of those around her. The former student Grisostomo falls in love with this lady due to her other-worldly beauty; a physical attraction that stems only from the desire of sexual gratification and is not rooted in any type of actual human love between two people. Eventually, Grisostomo’s feelings grow so strong that they induce him into a state of extreme despair that he eventually perishes from. While such a situation may seem far-fetched today, Cervantes is perhaps over-dramatizing events so as to effectively satirize some of the concepts and ideas about love that might have been prevalent in his time.It is made clear in the telling of the story that Marcela tried in no way to lure the desires of men onto her heavenly body or cause them to fall hopelessly in love with her. In telling the story to Don Quijote, Pedro says, “No, she was so careful about her honor that, of all those who wooed and courted her, not one ever boasted, and in truth not one of them could have boasted, that she’d given him even the tiniest, smallest prospect of getting what she wanted.” (66). The acknowledgment of this statement should automatically render all complaints against Marcela’s coyness as absurd; she does not entice the men to love her so thus she should not be blamed for any of the consequences of their physical attractions.Those who pine for Marcela become so consumed by their obsessions that they fail to see where the blame lies for their anguish and falsely place it on Marcela’s shoulders. Just a few sentences after his previous statement of how Marcela never leads her suitors on, Pedro adds, “And yet, living this way, she does more damage, here on this earth, than if she carried the plague, because her pleasantness and her beauty draw the hearts of those who deal with her, and then they court her, and they love her, but her scorn and honesty drives them to despair, and they don’t know what to say to her, except to call her cruel and ungrateful, and other things like that, which is in truth how she acts.” (66). Because of this attitude towards her, many of the people place guilt on Marcela for the death of Grisostomo, sometimes even acting as if what she did to him was tantamount to murder. On pg. 67, one of the men refers to her as “the murderous shepherd”, while Grisostomo’s best friend Ambrosio does not hesitate to pin the burden of responsibility on Marcela’s shoulder. He says, “It was here…where Marcela that last time so scornfully, so bluntly put an end to it, and drove him to finish off the tragedy of his miserable life” (72).Though many would blame Marcela for the death of Grisostomo, Cervantes subtly criticizes the actions of her suitors by portraying them as irrational and sometimes pathetic. Clearly he does not try to evoke pity from us over Grisostomo’s fate; instead he uses his death as an instrument for which to illustrate the pit-falls and ridiculous consequences that can result from courtly love or love based merely on physical desire. The words of Marcela herself seem to speak most reasonably and illustrate plainly Cervantes view on the matter. Marcela defends herself, exclaiming, “Heaven…has made me beautiful—so very beautiful that you are moved…but I do not understand how, because it is loved, that which is loved for its beauty is obliged to love whoever loves it” (77). Marcela then goes on to define the difference, in her eyes and probably Cervantes, between love and desire. She says, “…for everything beautiful does not inspire love…Some beauty is good to see, but does not give rise to affection…And according to what I have heard, true love is not divisible, and must be voluntary, not forced.” (77). Marcela clearly does not love those who love her, nor does she attempt to augment the desires of those who love her. She therefore can not be blamed for the demise of Grisostomo; the man was a victim to his own false view of love.The love between Cardenio and Luscinda is perhaps the best example in the novel of what Cervantes thinks true love should be. The affection between these two people is mutual, as Cardenio says when relating his story to Don Quijote and Sancho: “I loved, longed for, and adored this Luscinda almost from the moment I was born, and she loved me, with all the innocence and simple good will of childhood.” (144). When Don Fernando treacherously steals Luscinda from Cardenio, Cardenio goes crazy and becomes a tormented soul who lives his shattered existence in the Sierra Morena mountains. His afflictions parallel those of Grisostomo, who also suffered much when he was denied the one he adored. However, Cardenio’s situation is different because Luscinda actually loves Cardenio back. Because of this, Cervantes does not let Cardenio endure a similar fate as Grisostomo and instead allows him to get his beloved Luscinda back.The character of Don Fernando serves to show the destructive power that false love can have, as it is his inability to control his desire that leads to such anguish for Cardenio, Luscinda and Dorotea. At first, Don Fernando much desires Dorotea, telling her that he is in love with her and asking her to give in to his desires. His feelings of love for her cannot be genuine though, for as Dorotea explains, “And he had barely so much as seen me when, as he told me afterwards, he fell every bit as madly in love with me…” (181). These feelings Don Fernando had were of lust, and it was these desires that drove him to trick Dorotea to sleep with him if he promised his hand to her in marriage.Don Fernando’s desire is next turned towards Luscinda, whom he treacherously steals from the clutches of his friend Cardenio and marries. This marriage is not destined to survive either because true love is not involved; the feelings Don Fernando has for Luscinda, great as they may be, are based more on lust than love, and Luscinda cannot return the affection because her love goes out to Cardenio.Things work out in the end between all these characters because Dorotea convinces Don Fernando that she is the one who should belong to him. She makes the claim that love must exist between two people who share equal affections for each other: “And if you think about it, how much easier it will be to bend to your will someone who adores you, rather than trying to guide someone who hates you to love you instead.” (250). So in the end, Luscinda ends up with Cardenio and Dorotea ends up with Don Fernando; pairings that satisfy the course of what true love demands.Though it does not function within the actual events of Don Quijote, the priest’s reading of “The Story of the Man Who Couldn’t Keep from Prying” is crucial in analyzing the novel in terms of Cervantes view on love. This is a rather tragic story that clearly illuminates the danger of wanting a woman to match one’s vision of courtly love as a true, perfect lover. Anselmo asks his best friend Lothario to make passes on his wife Camila in an attempt to test her faithfulness and loyalty. Anselmo has no reason to suspect Camila of being dishonest, he simply wants to satisfy his own vision of a flawless woman. The consequences of this are disastrous; Lothario inadvertently falls in love with Camila and becomes her lover. When Camila suspects that Anselmo might find out about the affair, she and Lothario run away, leaving Anselmo with the ashes of the love he once had. He, just like Grisostomo, dies from the anguish that he bears, though he does in the end realize the folly of his ways. The last words he writes are: “A stubborn, stupid wish has taken my life. Should Camila happen to hear of my death, let her know that I forgive her, because there was no need for her to perform miracles…” Anselmo’s realization that people do not need to be perfect to be capable of sharing a meaningful bond of love is the message that Cervantes is trying to get across.Stories of love and desire abound within the context of Don Quijote. All these tales are united by the common theme that true romantic love can only flourish in relationships of equality and with genuine feelings of affection and compassion. All characters who confuse love with desire or become blinded by a vision of an old-fashioned courtly love wind up suffering. Characters who base their romantic love on genuine feelings of affection and care are the ones that find happiness. Cervantes is attacking the antiquated notions of courtly love in which people can say they love each other without truly knowing one another and in which woman are expected to adhere to rigid and impossible standards. He favors a warmer vision of romance where true love can exist only when it is imbued with the qualities of real human emotions and feelings.
The Process of Perception: Cervantes’ Don Quixote and Woolf’s Lily Briscoe
The process of perception involves two steps: the recognition of sensory information and the interpretation of sensory information. In order for the truth to be perceived, or, in other words, for something to be perceived accurately, sensory information must be recognized or identified correctly and then interpreted faithfully according to that recognition. A faithful interpretation is one that does not negate the recognition of sensory information. Truth is not perceived if an inaccurate recognition is interpreted faithfully. An interpretation may take several forms, however, and truth still be perceived, if the recognition is accurate and if the interpretation does not negate that recognition.In Part One, Chapter Eighteen of Cervantes’ Don Quixote, when the title character enters into battle with a flock of sheep, his perception of the sheep is at first influenced by expectation. In this case the mode of perception is sight; vision is the sensory information that Don Quixote must recognize and interpret. Don Quixote and his squire Sancho at first cannot see the sheep because of the “clouds of dust they [the sheep] raised, which obscured and blinded their [Don Quixote’s and Sancho’s] vision” (Cervantes 135). Before he can actually perceive the approaching hordes, Don Quixote expects them to be enemy armies ready to clash in battle, because, as the narrator explains, “every hour and every minute his mind was always full of those battles, enchantments, adventures, miracles, loves, and challenges which are related in books of chivalry” (Cervantes 135). In other words, Don Quixote’s madness, caused by literature, prompts him to expect these approaching hordes to be armies.Yet, even after he can see the hordes of sheep, he still believes them to be armies. As the flocks grow nearer, Sancho yells to Don Quixote, who swears to defeat one of the “armies,” “Turn back, Don Quixote, for I swear to God, sir, they are rams and ewes you are going to attack. Turn back!” (Cervantes 137). Don Quixote, however, ignores his squire’s warning and attacks the sheep as if they were an enemy army. At this point in the adventure, Don Quixote recognizes the sheep inaccurately as warriors, and interprets them as such. The first stage of his perception is inaccuratehe does not perceive the truth–, but the second stage is accurate. He interprets his vision faithfully according to his recognition, but because the first stage of perception is inaccurate, he does not perceive truth.The knight’s perception changes, however, after the battle, when Sancho tells him, once again, “Didn’t I tell you, Don Quixote, sir, …to turn back, for they were not armies you were going to attack, but flocks of sheep?” (Cervantes 138). It is here that Don Quixote recognizes the truth, and he acknowledges that the hordes were, indeed, sheep. He interprets his recognition unfaithfully, though, because he goes on to claim that “an enchanter…turned the hostile squadrons into flocks of sheep” (Cervantes 139). Such an interpretation negates the correct recognition, and is therefore unfaithful. In this way, Don Quixote’s perception changes from inaccurate recognition and faithful interpretation to accurate recognition and unfaithful interpretation. He modifies his perception to accommodate Sancho’s objection.Another instance that illustrates Don Quixote’s misperception of truth is the famous adventure with the windmills. On this occasion, unlike the battle with the sheep, in which a dust cloud at first impairs his vision, Don Quixote sees and perceives the windmills from the start, yet he still cannot perceive the truth. He says, “Look over there, friend Sancho Panza, where more than thirty monstrous giants appear” (Cervantes 68). Don Quixote’s command to “look,” and his insistence that the giants “appear” must mean that he can see them. He recognizes the sight of the windmills inaccurately as giants, and interprets them faithfully as such. As with the sheep adventure, when, after the battle, Sancho tells Don Quixote that his perception was wrong, Don Quixote’s perception changes from inaccurate recognition and faithful interpretation to accurate recognition and unfaithful interpretation. Sancho says, “Didn’t I tell your worship to look what you were doing, for they were only windmills?” (Cervantes 69). Once again, Don Quixote claims that an enchanter, the “sage Friston…turned those giants into windmills” (Cervantes 69).The character Lily Briscoe in Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse also perceives elements of the world differently from other characters. Like Don Quixote, the mode of Lily’s perception is vision. Unlike Don Quixote, whose recognition of the truth changes in the sheep scene, Lily’s recognition of the truth that, for instance, Mrs. Ramsay is Mrs. Ramsay, remains constant. Also unlike Don Quixote, whose interpretation takes the forms of words, as in his lengthy enumeration of the “knights” in the approaching “armies,” and of action, as in his attack of the sheep, Lily’s interpretation takes the forms of thought and of representation in paint. Lily attempts, with little success, to perceive, and, thus to understand Mrs. Ramsay in all her complexity as a woman and as a human being. She uses language of “seeing” or of “vision” in order to express her frustration at such a daunting task: “Fifty pairs of eyes were not enough to get round that one woman, she thought” (Woolf 198). The interpretation for such attempts at perceiving the wholeness of people takes the form of thought. Lily’s primary form of interpretation, however, is represented in her painting.The scene Lily paints from the Ramsay’s summer home in the Hebrides includes Mrs. Ramsay reading to James. Lily recognizes the form of Mrs. Ramsay to be, in fact, Mrs. Ramsay. She skews her interpretation in paint by representing Mrs. Ramsay and James as a purple triangle. It cannot be said, as it could for Don Quixote, that because her interpretation represents Mrs. Ramsay differently than she sees them, that Lily does not perceive the truth. There is a crucial difference in these characters’ interpretations. Don Quixote’s belief, for example, that an enchanter has changed armies into sheep belies his recognition. Although he recognizes the truth that the hordes appear as sheep, his interpretation that they are, in fact, warriors negates his recognition. Lily’s artistic interpretation of Mrs. Ramsay as a triangle does not negate her recognition of Mrs. Ramsay as herself. Lily does not think that Mrs. Ramsay and James are actually a purple triangle. She tells Mr. Bankes that “she had made no attempt at likeness” (Woolf 52) in depicting Mrs. Ramsay and James as a triangular shape.Lily’s self-consciousness of interpretation, her deliberate modification of perception, marks another crucial difference between herself and Don Quixote: that Lily actively modifies her vision in order to represent truth, whereas Don Quixote modifies his vision in order to represent fantasy. Although Cervantes does not give the reader as extensive a view of the minds of characters as Woolf does, he does write that “everything that he [Don Quixote] said, thought, or did was influenced by his fantasies” (Cervantes 134). As Don Quixote is enumerating the knights in the approaching hordes, even before he can perceive them, the narrator explains that he is “carried away by his strangely deluded imagination” (Cervantes 136). In this way, Don Quixote’s perception, and the modification of that perceptionin response to Sancho’s objections, for instanceis in support of a fantasy, a delusion. He refuses to perceive truth.Lily, on the other hand, is forever in search of perceiving truth. This is, perhaps, the most vital difference between her perception of the world and Don Quixote’s. Her goal in changing the composition of her picture, or in representing figures abstractly is not to support a fantasy or a delusion, but, rather, to represent her “vision” or “picture.” As she attempts to explain her painting to Mr. Bankes on page 53, she is described as “becoming once more under the power of that vision which she had seen clearly once and must now grope for among hedges and houses and mothers and childrenher picture” (Woolf). Seeing this picture, this vision, is not easy for Lily; she must strain in order to see the truth of it. As she struggles to see it, “always something…thrust through, snubbed her, waked her, required and got in the end an effort of attention, so that the vision must be continually remade” (Woolf 181). Like Don Quixote, Lily changes her perception. Unlike Don Quixote, the changes Lily makes allow her to better perceive the truth. She modifies her interpretation of the world, which she recognizes accurately, according to her sense of her changing vision. She tells Mr. Bankes thatIt was a question, she remembered, how to connect this mass on the right hand with that on the left. She might do it by bringing the line of the branch across so; or break the vacancy in the foreground by an object (James perhaps) so. But the danger was that by doing that the unity of the whole might be broken.Woolf p.53Thus, her interpretation (represented by the painting) must be altered in order to support her vision. These changes in interpretation never negate her recognition of reality, however, and, thus, her perception always supports truth. She enacts changes in visual composition, favoring unity, balance of left and right, and balance of foreground and background. On the last page of the novel, when she sees “it clear for a second,” she paints a single line in the center of the painting (Woolf 209). The novel goes on to say “It was done; it was finished. Yes, she thought,…I have had my vision” (Woolf 209). With that single line, Lily finishes her painting and is finally able to perceive the truth of her vision. Her long struggle to see and represent her vision is completed.Tracking the recognition and interpretation of Don Quixote is rather more challenging than tracking Lily’s, though, because Cervantes gives us very few glimpses into Don Quixote’s mind. The progress of Lily’s painting, as she struggles to “see” her vision and then to complete the painting takes place almost exclusively on a mental plane. The process of perception and its relation to truth are dependent upon the thought processes of accurate recognition and faithful interpretation. These are psychological processes. The reader sees very little of Don Quixote’s psychology, and must instead rely on his words and actions, in effect, the residue and result of mental processes, in order to track his changes in perception. In Woolf, by contrast, the reader sees into Lily’s thoughts, and consequently can see the actual moment of recognition and the moment of interpretation.Both characters, in the end, perceive some form of truth. Lily perceives it through active pursuit of her vision and, finally, through completion of her painting. Don Quixote perceives truth in the end when his madness abates and the goal of his perception is no longer to support a fantasy. In either case, however, the perception of truth leads the character to a better understanding of the world, and marks the completion of a journey. Don Quixote perceives truth and ends his errantry. Lily perceives truth and finishes her painting. The process of perception is the journey. Truth is the end.
Complimentary Antagonists: How Don Quixote and Sancho Panza Construct Their Own Reality
Don Quixote is among the most influential novels ever written. It explores a myriad of imperative themes that profoundly effect human nature. Such gargantuan themes include the shifting boundaries of truth and illusion, how society views justice and morality, and the eternal quest for love. Yet, underling all of these paramount themes are the interactions and follies of two seemingly simple, yet sensationally labyrinthine characters. Don Quixote and Sancho Panza are, perhaps, the most convoluted, and at the same time, lucid main characters within literature. Both of these characters are present in every one of us, we all posses the conflicting qualities found in Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. Miguel De Cervantes Saavedra carefully constructs these two characters to personify both the basic human themes of idealism and realism, and has them underscore and epitomize the larger question of reality. Cervantes makes evident the maturation and mutations of real life people, while satirizing chivalry and traditional epic form. Cervantes is able to take fairly basic situations, and elevate them to epic proportions with the use of Don Quixote’s imagination. These epic stories differ from the traditional epic stories of Homer and Virgil, in that, the heroes in this novel fail. In Virgil’s Aeneid, Aeneas is glorified throughout the epic. Cervantes strives to show that this glorious life is impossible for a real life human. Cervantes clearly displays his two heroes failing, occasionally succeeding, and more importantly, he shows them changing.Don Quixote is an extremely complex character, emblematized by his skewed notions of reality”the world as nothing he did prize” (Cervantes 939). Throughout the novel he sees the world only in the mirror of his beloved chivalric romances. He thinks that flocks of sheep are an enemy army, that seedy inns are if fact magnificent castles, that unattractive and overweight women are princesses, and that windmills are actually giants. However, through out all of his constructed actions he maintains an extremely high spirit and courageregardless of how backwards it may be. Perhaps most consequentially, the Don is a fantastic idealist, who views all things within the clouded telescope of his very own magnanimous preconceptions. Perchance Don Quixote is insane? Yet Cervantes builds the Don to force the reader to constantly challenge what is real and what is just the dream of a senile old Spaniard. Sancho Panza is Don Quixote’s fundamental opposite. In almost every regard, they are so unlike each other. Sancho serves as the Don’s squire. With his peasant wit, common sense, and proverbial speechhe is the antithesis of his irrational master. At first recognition it seems that Sancho is a simple man, illiterate and content with such simplicities as eating and drinking, yet still maintaining his sense of what is reality and what is fiction is. Even the physical appearances of the two counter each otherwith Quixote tall and thin, and Sancho short and fat. Don Quixote and Sancho Panza learn from each other throughout the novel. Quixote has the unrealistic visions of earlier epic heroes, while Sancho appears to be the pillar of sanity. However, Sancho is always quick to support any of Quixote’s visions. In fact, Quixote and Panza learn so much from each other that throughout the novel, both characters seem to be rubbing offlittle by little, on each other. By the end of the novel the two characters, in effect, fuse into each other, with the Don spitting out proverbs, and Sancho obsessing over the chivalric code. A prime example of the two characters, and their primarily antagonistic interaction is clearly portrayed in chapter XXI of part I. Don Quixote mistakes a barber and his basin for a sought after golden helmet. Sancho first thinks to tell Quixote the truth, but then resists, allowing Quixote to thrive in his “chivalrous and errant fancies” (Cervantes 162). “Why! That is Mambrinos helmet, said Don Quixote. ‘Stand aside and leave me to deal with him. You will see how, so as to save time, I shall complete this adventure without uttering a word, and the helmet I have so much desired will be mine” (Cervantes 161). Don Quixote views the world in which he resides as a continual adventurewith palaces, and armies, and maidens. This is a direct result of him attempting to pattern his life in accordance with the events of the chivalrous books that he was born out of. When Sancho hears Quixote call the basin a golden helmet he began to laugh, knowing that Quixote’s imagination had taken over to a once again ridiculous state. Yet, when Don Quixote asks Sancho “at what are you laughing at?” (Cervantes 162), Sancho eloquently covers his error with the corrective excuse of:”It makes me laugh”, he replied, “to think what a bighead that pagan must have had, who owned that head-piece. It’s like nothing so much as a barber’s basin. Just like it, it is” (Cervantes 162).Don Quixote, fully aware that this basin was not actually a golden helmet, chooses to use his imagination to dream up an adventure. Much of this can be attributed to his previous readings of many chivalrous books, for he seeks a sort of refuge inside the imaginary world of these books. From this, it could be said that Don Quixote is quite mad. However, Quixote can not be judged like a regular human being, but rather as an irrational and delusional meta-individual (Rosenburg, lecture). In Quixote’s world, this basin truly is the lost golden helmet of Mambrino. This vision is as realistic to Quixote as the fact that the helmet is truly a barber’s basin is to Sancho. Sancho at fist, mildly mocks Quixote, but then decides to play along. Both of these characters personalities are antagonistic of each other; however, they serve to influence one another. It must be remembered that the two characters work as a unit and are constantly changing. Don Quixote views the world in which he resides as a continual adventurewith palaces, and armies, and maidens. This is a direct result of him attempting to pattern his life in accordance with the events of the chivalrous books that he was born out of. Sancho serves as the check to the fictitious persona of the Don. This is exemplified with another exchange within chapter XXI.Upon obtaining the brass basin, Sancho Panza is considering taking the “dapple-grey steed that looks like a grey ass” (Cervantes 164). With this suggestion, Don Quixote immediately analyzes the situation in terms of the codes of chivalry:’It is not my custom’, said Don Quixote, ‘to plunder those who I conquer, nor is it the usage of chivalry to take their horses and leave them to go on foot, unless the victor has lost his own mount in the fight, in which case it is lawful for him to take the beaten knight’s as won in fair combat. Therfore, Sancho, leave the horse, or ass, or whatever you would have it to be… (Cervantes 164)Sancho, of course, humors the Don after his speech, yet remains realistic in his desire to obtain a new ass, by again telling the Don that, “Really the laws of chivalry are very strict, if they don’t even stretch to letting one ass be swapped for another” (Cervantes 164). This interchange further illustrates the antagonistic, yet at the same time, symbiotic relationship of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. They are both dependent upon one another, yet in exactly converse fashions. Later in the novel, Sancho Panza and Don Quixote adjust their mentalities so drastically, that in some instances they seem to switch personalities. Chapter LXXIV in part II of the novel seems to best elucidate this. In a stark transition from the beginning of the novel, and from the original characterization prescribed by Cervantes, Sancho Panza becomes the one thriving in “chivalrous and errant fancies” (Cervantes 162). Sancho becomes the ridiculous one by attempting to convince Don Quixote, while on his death bed, that he should continue to be a knight errant. “Don’t be lazy, look you, but get out of bed, and let’s go out into the fields dressed as shepards, as we decided to do. Perhaps we shall find the lady Dulcinea behind some hedge, disenchanted and as pretty as a picture” (Cervantes 937)This death scene displays Don Quixote’s change as well. Quixote leaves his fantastic world after realizing that his life had been a ridiculous one. He becomes frantic to prove, before his death, that he is now sane. He recognizes the fact that he has learned from his mistake of indulging too deep into the world of fantastic chivalry. Acknowledging this bitter truth about himself, Don Quixote denies his past madness in a final affirmation that life is a complete dream and that death is the moment of reality. Only then can the Don die completely. “Don Quixote, who admidst the compassionate tears of all present gave up the ghostthat is to say, died (Cervantes 939).Through Cervantes’ construction and deconstruction of both Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, a newfound notion of what it is to be human is reached. With idealistic aspirations and visions, and realistic measures to keep them countered, it seems that anything is possible. The Don’s and Sancho’s recognition of these goals, as out of reach as some of them were, proved to be essential to their realization that to be human and not archetypes, it is imperative to change. Quixote and Sancho turn out to be real characters, their faults and actions resemble those of a real human. The process of learning, changing, and maturing is a realistic representation of every individual. Yet, as Don Quixote and Sancho Panza didthrough each other facilitates every individuals personal quest to find his own reality. This is, perhaps, the most significant human process of them all.
The Narrator-Knight, Or Don Narrador
For much of the opening part of Don Quijote, the narrator contents himself with narrating. Though we are made aware of his presence as a character by his first-person style, his subjective interpretation of Quijote’s actions, and occasional references to his historical research, it is Quijote himself who rightfully takes center-stage throughout the first eight chapters. In Chapter IX, however, the first chapter of Part Two, the narrator steps forward into the limelight, turning away from Quijote’s (mis)adventures for a few pages in favor of his own story, the story of the discovery of the second manuscript. On first reading this episode, one may be tempted to call it merely another tactic employed by Cervantes to support his elaborate framing device, designed to cast the novel as a history. (Indeed, the intricacies of the Spanish word “historía” come into play here, as the line between story and history was hardly drawn clearly in the late 16th century, when Cervantes was writing. ) Upon closer examination of Chapter IX, however, we find a surprising pattern: the narrator’s role over these pages mirrors that of don Quijote in Chapter I, moving from engaged reader to principled actor. By exposing this briefly evident parallel, we may well come to an unexpected conclusion about the novel as a whole.Chapter IX starts with don Quijote and el vizcaíno frozen, about to begin their duel; the original chronicle, we are told, came to a sudden halt here: “en aquel punto tan dudoso paró y quedó destroncada tan sabrosa historia, sin que nos diese noticia su autor dónde se podría hallar lo que della faltaba” (Cervantes 91). Perhaps the most significant word in this sentence, for our purposes, is the tiny personal pronoun “nos.” With this easily-overlooked construction, the narrator places himself in a group with his own readers. There was a time, he tells us, when he experienced the Quijote story for the first time, as we do now, when he reacted with grief to the abrupt break in the narrative. Much as Cervantes certainly wanted his readers to feel, the narrator simply had to find out what happened next.Yet the narrator is not just any reader. More specifically, he reads like don Quijote himself read: with great passion for the chivalric romance genre. In the second paragraph of Chapter IX, for instance, he expresses his surprise that Quijote didn’t have his own personal scribe, describing the situation as “fuera de toda buena costumbre” and “cosa que no faltó a ninguno de los caballeros andantes” (91-2). In this way, just as don Quijote tries to write his own life story in accordance with the conventions of chivalric romance, the narrator reads his history fully expecting Quijote’s experiences to mirror those of other caballeros andantes. Along the same lines and presumably due to these shared preconceptions about chivalry, the narrator repeatedly extols don Quijote, calling him “luz y espejo de la caballería manchega” (92), for instance. Some may say that these over-exuberant exaltations are meant to be read as tongue-in-cheek; I must rebut that while Cervantes the author is certainly using sarcasm, and while we readers must always remain aware of this technique, the narrator-historian must be taken at face value as a character within the novel.The narrator reinforces his own sincerity by proclaiming himself and all fellow historians to be champions of truth: …habiendo y debiendo ser los historiadores puntuales, verdaderos y no nada apasionados, y que ni el interés ni el miedo, el rancor ni la afición, no les hagan torcer del camino de la verdad, cuya madre es la historia, émula del tiempo, depósito de las acciones, testigo de lo pasado, ejemplo y aviso de lo presente, advertencia de lo por venir” (95)He places history – and by extension historians – in opposition to time, constantly battling to maintain an accurate record of the past. This antagonistic schema sounds eerily familiar; indeed, while the historian-narrator strives to provide a cultural memory, opposed by the continual passage of time that seeks to erase it, the knight-errant Quijote strives to provide an obsolete justice, opposed by a perceived Enchanter continually pointing out the current reality. Both historian and knight find themselves bound to a disappearing past, and both react angrily to that which drags them back to the present.The narrator makes this parallel even more explicit when he declares don Quijote deserving of “continuas y memorables alabanzas” and continues, “aun a mí no se me deben negar, por el trabajo y diligencia que puse en buscar el fin desta agradable historia” (93). While praising Quijote’s clearly outdated sense of righteousness, the narrator also demands praise and immortality himself for his own attempt to salvage the past. Indeed, not only are the narrator and the knight engaged in parallel quests, but they are also both defined by seemingly limitless self-assurance. As Quijote blames all his failures on the unseen Enchanter, so too does the narrator claim that history can never originate in imperfection, that any flaw or incompleteness therein must be blamed on “la malignidad del tiempo” (92).By the end of this chapter, the narrator has returned to his more passive role to finish the previously aborted duel between don Quijote and the el vizcaíno; yet now that we have established the clear parallel in Chapter IX between the narrator-historian and don Quijote himself, has anything changed? How does the narrator’s similarity to a lunatic protagonist affect his reliability? In the most basic sense, it doesn’t. With this historian’s manuscript serving as our only piece of evidence of don Quijote’s life, we have little choice but to trust it. In order to discuss don Quijote’s exploits, we must accept the chronicle we are given.To understand the book as a complete entity, however, we must recognize our narrator as perhaps too vigilant about defeating time – we must at least acknowledge the possibility that we are not receiving the “real” story, that he may be too eager to deem a tale truthful’ in order to protect it from being forgotten. Though the novel is fiction, and therefore has no other, more accurate version for us to read, the story contained could be false even in the fictional world of the frame narrative, of the narrator. This is not to say that he’s lying, of course, or even deliberately embellishing; to the contrary, just as don Quijote believes the windmills to be giants, so too would the narrator trust his own story in this circumstance. The fact remains, however, that just as we do not trust don Quijote’s senses and interpretations – for they seem obviously incorrect – so too may we wonder about the narrator himself. Indeed, though the book offers the pretense of history, we know it is a fiction, a false chronicle created by an Enchanter of sorts. Under this new light, the historian-narrator becomes a kind of tragic figure, like Quijote, tirelessly battling to advance truth, yet trapped inside a work of fancy, a satire of all those who cannot differentiate between the real and the written.
The Balance of Power: A Struggle for Interpretation in Don Quijote
It is difficult to read more than one or two pages of Don Quijote de la Mancha without coming across an example of the union (or conflict) between the extraordinary and the mundane. Indeed, Cervantes uses this juxtaposition repeatedly as his principal comic device, generally at the expense of poor, mad Don Quijote, whose overzealous perception of the ordinary world around him drives the novel. At the same time, the squire Sancho Panza consistently comes down on the side of reality – but only when immediately faced with the obvious error of his master’s sensory perception of the world. That is, Sancho accepts and even appears enthralled by Quijote’s eloquent description of the chivalric life, but when faced with either the absurdity or potential peril of action according to the knightly code, he turns back to what he knows: the safe, everyday world with which he is familiar. As we will see, this schema becomes especially apparent in the contiguity of and seeming discontinuity between Chapters 20 and 21. These two chapters seem to run in opposite directions: while Sancho dominates the first with his aborted story and his secretive defecation, Quijote takes over the second with his excitement at Mambrino’s helmet and his high-minded narration of the knight’s life. Yet these ostensibly incongruent aspects of the chapters do fit together, in the manner outlined above, when seen in light of the adventure of the fulling-mill in Chapter 20. It all starts with an unknown noise in the night, which sparks a battle between our two heroes for the supremacy of interpretation.Don Quijote and Sancho respond to the noise in characteristically opposing ways. Excitement rushes into the heart of the knight, who considers the eerie noise a prime opportunity for him to demonstrate his honor: “Yo soy aquel para quien están guardados los peligros, las grandes hazañas, los valerosos hechos” (p. 179 ). Quijote sees such mysterious danger as his destiny, and he repeatedly says that he would welcome a heroic death during his adventures if God’s wills it, even giving Sancho instructions in case he does not return. Though his master’s impassioned outline of his duties moves Sancho to tears, the squire maintains his preference for survival over principle, fearing the dual prospect of both losing his friend and facing the terrifying noises alone.Because Don Quijote holds fast to his sense of duty, Sancho must underhandedly steal domination of the chapter from him in order to prevent him from going off in search of danger. In order to do so, Sancho ties Rocinante’s feet together, rendering the horse immobile, and Don Quijote reluctantly resolves to wait until dawn. Sancho offers to entertain his master until sunrise by telling him stories, thus taking usurping control of the dialogue and the chapter from Don Quijote. Above Quijote in this hierarchy of power, however, sits the historian-narrator who truly oversees the story. Throughout the text, the narrator supports Don Quijote, not necessarily by agreeing with the mad knight’s interpretations, but by accepting their plausibility and never deriding him for his lunacy. The narrator reads his history fully expecting Quijote’s experiences to mirror those of other caballeros andantes, and he repeatedly extols the knight, calling him “luz y espejo de la caballería manchega” (92), for instance. We must thus consider him idealistic like Quijote, tied to chivalric conventions despite his protagonist’s repeated misinterpretations. He does not always agree with the mad knight’s interpretations, to be sure, but he also never derides his subject for his lunacy. It is fitting, then, that Sancho’s initial attempt to exert influence over the flow of events should include the narration of a competing story, a story that deals with shepherds rather than knights-errant. Sancho thus usurps power not only from his immediate master but also from his narrator.Though the historian-narrator comes down on Quijote’s side of this central conflict, the biting satire of chivalric romance throughout the novel suggests that Cervantes himself supports Sancho. From this viewpoint, the narrator becomes a sort of straw man that Cervantes has set up as a vehicle of irony. Sancho’s usurpation thus acquires a double meaning, first as a means by which the squire can keep his master from going off in search of danger, and second as a means by which the author can insert his sarcastic voice into a false history. Though Sancho’s story does not necessarily reflect Cervantes’ own literary preferences, the forced break in Don Quijote’s pseudo-chivalric romance does square with the author’s low opinion of the genre.Although Sancho’s explicit intention in telling his story is merely to divert his master, it quickly becomes clear through the style and content of the tale that he is simultaneously trying to calm himself down. The tale begins:’En un lugar de Estremadura había un pastor cabrerizo, quiero decir que guardaba cabras; el cual pastor o cabrerizo, como digo de mi cuento, se llamaba Lope Ruiz; y este Lope Ruiz andaba enamorado de una pastora que se llamaba Torralba; la cual pastora llamada Torralba era hija de un ganadero rico, y este ganadero rico…’ (182)Stylistically, by doubling each name or occupation – as an object of one clause and the subject of the next – Sancho gives his story a deliberate pace, a repetitive beat that serves to pacify him, just as a stable rocking motion soothes a crying baby. When Quijote complains about the monotony of this manner of storytelling, Sancho justifies it by claiming, “De la misma manera que yo lo cuento…se cuentan en mi tierra todas las consejas, y yo no sé contarlo de otra, ni es bien que vuestra merced me pida que haga usos nuevos” (182). These “usos nuevos,” though explicitly referring to storytelling conventions, also refer obliquely to ways of thinking, of perceiving the world, and, in this particular adventure, of acting in the face of potential threat. “Mi tierra,” then, describes the source not only of Sancho’s literary style but also of his interpretation of the unknown noise. He tells this kind of story at this particular point in the novel specifically to distract himself from the possibility that Quijote is right – and to remind himself of his old customs and his home, where he would feel safe, where strange noises in the night would always have innocent explanations.After Don Quijote cuts Sancho’s story short, the squire suddenly feels the urge to defecate. Though explicitly a normal physiological process, the timing of this particular urge makes it clear that, subconsciously, Sancho is still trying to remove himself from the terror of the unknown by falling back into the mundane. Cervantes makes this implication plain through Quijote’s initial reaction to the awful smell: “Paréceme, Sancho, que tienes mucho miedo” (186). Don Quijote has tried to reassert his dominance over the course of events by stopping Sancho’s story and trying again to ride Rocinante; his literary usurpation foiled, Sancho must now try a less linguistic, more animalistic approach in order to maintain interpretive control. If his pastoral story ran counter to Don Quijote’s chivalric romance, the undignified act of defecation serves as a polar opposite to the glorious deeds of knights-errant. Indeed, if we were to graph the progression of chivalric honor in these two chapters, this short scene of Sancho’s defecation would surely mark the nadir.When morning comes and our two protagonists find that the actual source of the strange noise has been a fulling-mill, we learn that both were incorrect in their shared assumption of a menacing origin. Yet, while Sancho is thrilled to find such an ordinary machine as the cause of the noise, the sight enrages Don Quijote. Looking at Chapter 20 figuratively, we could say that, when the noise was still unknown, a struggle began between Quijote and his squire to determine what would be the cause; Sancho won this struggle by tying Rocinante’s legs together, by telling his story in his chosen style, even by defecating – in short, by refusing to allow Don Quijote to control the chapter. Quijote’s anger at the sight of the fulling-mill, though, leads him to reassert his dominance over both Sancho (“es menester hacer diferencia de amo a mozo, de señor a criado y de caballero a escudero,” 190) and the course of the novel. Indeed, as we will see, Chapter 21 is dominated by Don Quijote; after the shame of Chapter 20, the knight jumps at the opportunity to use Mambrino’s helmet to reestablish his vision.Don Quijote and Sancho do argue briefly at the start of Chapter 21 over whether the approaching man is wearing the helmet – an argument that, placed chronologically as the border between two opposing spheres of influence, encapsulates the juxtaposition of these two chapters and the greater conflict between realism and idealism throughout the text. Incredulous at Sancho’s questioning, Quijote asks his squire whether he does not in fact see a knight approaching with a golden helmet on his head. Sancho responds, “Lo que veo y columbro…no es sino un hombre sobre un asno, pardo como el mío, que trae sobre la cabeza una cosa que relumbra” (192). This “no es sino” construction perfectly describes Sancho’s way of thinking and perceiving: he sees ‘nothing but’ a man with something glittering on his head, and so he cannot make the leap to claim that it is Mambrino’s helmet. When Sancho brings up the recent fulling-mill adventure in the course of his doubting, Don Quijote quickly quiets him: “Ya os he dicho…que no me mentéis, ni por pienso, más eso de los batanes” (192). The knight is certainly aware of his previous misinterpretation, but he refuses to let it alter his interpretation of the approaching man or of his knightly duties. He simply wants to strike it from memory, both his and Sancho’s, and Sancho does indeed drop his objection. Of course, unfortunately for poor Don Quijote, the misadventure of the batanes did make it into the historian-narrator’s manuscript, and on to the reader.After Sancho cedes the argument, the historian-narrator himself steps in with a few sentences telling the ‘true story’ of the barber and his basin. Yet this truth is of no consequence, for two reasons. First, any rational reader would assume from the start that Sancho was right and Quijote wrong; we do not need the narrator to tell us so. This section could easily be eliminated without confusing any readers as to the actual identity of the approaching man’s hat. Secondly, and more importantly for our purposes, what the man actually wears has no impact on the balance of interpretive power between Quijote and Sancho. Sancho has already surrendered, and Quijote has assumed control again.At first glance, this short interruption by the narrator seems to support the squire’s interpretation by confirming the inaccuracy of Don Quijote’s interpretation. A closer look, however, shows us that the real point of this paragraph is not to point out errors but to explain them matter-of-factly, conceding but not belaboring Don Quijote’s misconceptions – and therefore not betraying the narrator’s affection for chivalric romance and his whimsical protagonist. Writes the historian-narrator, “Ésta fue la occasion que a don Quijote le pareció caballo rucio rodado, y caballero, y yelmo de oro; que todas las cosas que veía con mucha facilidad las comodaba a sus desvariadas caballerías y malandantes pensamientos” (192-3). As always, though he admits Don Quijote’s madness, the narrator defends his interpretation as potentially correct. That it is not correct in this case falls not on the narrator’s shoulders, for he only passes on to us a manuscript he supposedly found, but on Cervantes’; by forcing his narrator to recount further proof of Quijote’s madness, the author is obviously supporting Sancho’s sensible view of the approaching man. In other words, the substance of this paragraph (the true story of the basin) comes from Cervantes and thus backs Sancho, while the form of its narration represents the voice of the historian and thus absolves, if not supports, Don Quijote’s view of the world.Back on the road, Sancho asks his master what good comes out of chivalrous deeds performed anonymously, without official fanfare or widespread accolades. This simple question allows Don Quijote to return to the helm of the novel. He tells his squire that he must wander the countryside and build up a reputation before he can go to court and receive his just due – which he defines elaborately as including a lovely princess, a place in the royal army, and eventually succession through marriage to the throne itself. Quijote explains, “No lo dudes, Sancho…porque del mesmo y por los mesmos pasos que esto he contado suben y han subido los caballeros andantes a ser reyes y emperadores” (199). We see in this sentence that Quijote details the process at least partly to convince Sancho of his understanding of how things work. In Chapter 20, Sancho demonstrates his dudas; Quijote thus takes the opportunity in Chapter 21 to tell him, “No lo dudes.” By the end of Don Quijote’s impressive speech, he has indeed won over the squire, such that the chapter ends with Sancho yielding control back to his master and Quijote accepting that mantle: – Quédese eso del barbero a mi cargo – dijo Sancho – , y al de vuestra merced se quede el procurar venir a ser rey y el hacerme conde. – Así sera – respondió don Quijote.Y alzando los ojos, vio lo que se dirá en el siguiente capítulo. (202)The reason for the juxtaposition of Chapters 20 and 21 thus boils down to a simple shift in power, just one swing in the novel’s central conflict over interpretation. To borrow language from modern history, Chapter 20 falls under Sancho’s sphere of influence. He tries to ‘will’ the strange noise to be harmless and ordinary, and he succeeds – after the chapter’s caesura, constituted as it is by Sancho’s calming story and the mundane activity of defecation, the origin of the noise can only turn out to be ordinary. Enraged at his own misinterpretation and Sancho’s uncontrolled laughter at his master’s failure, Don Quijote pounces on the next available opportunity, that of the barber’s basin, to reassert his understanding of the world and reclaim control of his servant and his story. Thus Chapter 21 comprises Don Quijote’s sphere of influence in this scheme. Though Sancho’s character is more interesting than he may seem at first, the novel must remain Quijote’s story to go on for more than thirty chapters as it does – without his repeated misunderstandings, there would be no adventures. In other words, stepping outside the novel, Cervantes must allow Quijote’s misinterpretations – and the historian’s sympathetic narration of them – to drive the plot in order to show how silly they are, how pernicious fantastic works of fiction can be to one’s rationality.
A Reasonable Idealist
During the late Middle Ages, the ideals of chivalry and honor emerged as the dominant themes in literature. Romantic tales of gallant knights and courtly love captured the imaginations of medieval readers, and this influence carried over into the Renaissance and early modern Europe. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, these romantic medieval values clashed with the new emphasis on reason. The influence of both sets of values is seen in the Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes’s novel, Don Quixote. In this work, Cervantes presents the idealistic character of Don Quixote, who is deluded by chivalric ideas of heroism and valor. Don Quixote sets out to reform the world along with his sensible companion Sancho Panza. After an ill-starred career as a knight-errant, Don Quixote renounces his ideals and is restored to excessive sensibility. At the same time, Sancho Panza champions the very ideas that Don Quixote comes to reject. Through his use of names and through the naÔve ideals of Don Quixote and his subsequent exchange of beliefs with Sancho Panza, Cervantes reveals the need for a proper balance between the extremes of idealism and rationalism.The subject of names is a prevalent one in Cervantes’s work. Cervantes begins the work with the peculiar declaration, “In a certain village in La Mancha, the name of which I do not choose to remember,” Don Quixote makes his residence.1 The anonymity of the village parallels Cervantes’s ambiguity when discussing Don Quixote’s real name. He explains that he “is said to have gone by the name of Quijada, or QuesadaÖthough it is most likely that he was called Quijadas.”2 Cervantes’s deliberate manner of “forgetting” and his vagueness in relating Don Quixote’s real name contrasts sharply with Don Quixote’s own naming of things. In taking on his new role as knight-errant, he assumes the name Don Quixote de la Mancha, which, according to him “reveal[s] his lineage and honor[s] his fortunate country.”3 In fact, “Quixote” signifies the armor that a knight wears to protect his thigh. In choosing this inglorious name, the title character shows his distorted sense of what is admirable. Don Quixote also selects the “satisfactory name, Rosinante, for his horse,” connoting a hack or nag.4 Furthermore, when he selects a “healthy, buxom, country wench” to fall in love with, he gives her the name Dulcinea del Toboso, which he regards as “romantic, musical, and expressive, like the names he had chosen for himself and his horse.”5 With such bizarre names that do not suit their subjects, Don Quixote’s skewed perspective on life is shown. While Cervantes goes to one extreme and decides to forget the name of a town, Don Quixote intentionally picks out ridiculous names for himself, his horse, and his lady. With the absurdity of these extremes, Cervantes asserts the necessity of finding the middle ground.With the name of Quixote, the title character is presented as a comical, ludicrous figure. Cervantes refers to him often as the “poor gentleman” who has “lost his senses” and who has the “brain of a madman.”6 During his time as a knight-errant, Don Quixote travels far and wide “seeking adventures” and “righting wrongs.”7 In his mission to save the world, Don Quixote is inspired by the books he read of knights, chivalry, and honor. Everything he does is modeled on these romantic stories, into which Don Quixote immerses himself completely. He explains to Sancho Panza that “knights-errant are not permitted to complain of any wound they receive.”8 But he permits his squire to complain, as he “had not read anything to the contrary in his books of knight-errantry.”9 Another instance of Don Quixote’s reliance on the model of his books occurs when “[stays] awake thinking of his Lady Dulcinea” because he “read about those knights-errant who passed many sleepless nights in woods and deserts remembering their ladies.”10 Thus, Don Quixote shapes his whole life around the fictional accounts of imaginary figures and renounces control of his own life. During his adventurous journey, this would-be knight is accompanied by his “squire,” Sancho Panza. This devoted servant is much more temporal than his master, and Sancho revels in such pleasures as plentiful food and a luxurious slumber. Sancho Panza shows his practicality when he warns Don Quixote of the foolishness of some of his missions. When Don Quixote plans to attack the perceived giants in “fierce and unequal combat,” Sancho implores him to “see correctly” that the “giants” are merely windmills.11 In addition to bestowing rational advice on his master, Sancho puts his trust in God, saying at various points, “God’s will be done,” and “Lord have mercy upon us.”12 While Don Quixote puts his faith in his tales of chivalry, Sancho relies on God for mercy and guidance, and with his rational behavior represents a great contrast to the senselessness of his master.The traits of master and servant are reversed, however, when Don Quixote is defeated in battle and returns home to renounce all his previously held beliefs. Suffering a severe sickness, Don Quixote is eventually restored to consciousness, and he at once declares that God is merciful and that he is now “cleared of those dark shadows of ignorance that clouded [his] understanding from incessant reading of those detestable books of chivalry.”13 This startling reversal in thought causes his friends to think that his “sudden and easy transition from madness to sanity [is] a certain signal of his approaching death.”14 Cervantes thus equates sanity with death: at a time when most people begin to lose their minds, Don Quixote is at his most rational. Another drastic transformation occurs in Sancho Panza. Upon seeing his master renounce his beliefs, Sancho entreats him to once again espouse chivalric ideals. Sancho encourages him to “Get up andÖgo walking in the fields” with the hope that “behind some bush [they] may find Lady Dulcinea.”15 It is now Sancho who defends the absurd ideas that once deluded Don Quixote. It is unusually easy for both characters to exchange beliefs; Cervantes is therefore expressing the impossibility of remaining faithful to extreme beliefs such as those Don Quixote and Sancho Panza hold at different points in their lives. The logical conclusion, thus, is to find a middle road to which one can hold firm.The balance between idealism and reality is often difficult to find. The struggle to reach a middle ground is illustrated in Miguel de Cervantes’s novel, Don Quixote. Through the characters of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, Cervantes illustrates the challenges individuals face to balance their lives with a mix of idealistic and rational thought. Cervantes establishes this struggle through the issue of names. In Cervantes’s forgetting the name of the village and in Don Quixote’s deliberately giving absurd names to things, the folly of adopting extreme notions is shown. Cervantes follows with examples of excessive idealism and rationalism. In connecting sanity with death, Cervantes seems to dismiss rational thought as pointless. But his portrayal of Don Quixote’s foolishness in his knightly adventures also illustrates a kind of futility. And in the two characters’ reversals at the end, Cervantes reveals that it is worthless to only adopt a single way of thinking. The two ends of idealism and pragmatism, however, must both exist in a person’s life. If not for Sancho’s rationalism, Don Quixote’s journey would have been quite difficult. Likewise, without Don Quixote’s fantasies, Sancho’s life would have lacked entertainment. Such a story as Don Quixote’s would not exist if not for the imagination; at the same time, it would be ridiculous to accept this story as truth and not consider it from a realistic point of view. Through this charming, yet sobering, tale, Cervantes illustrates that a proper balance between idealism and practicality must be achieved, and that without both principles, life is fruitless.
The Planned Disappearance of Don Quixote
In her essay “Don Quijote’s Disappearing Act”, Anne J. Cruz argues that Don Quixote’s death can be predicted, and as early as Part 1. Her thesis is that the first and second parts of the novel can be understood thus: “ […] Don Quijote’s final disappearing act confirms his irrevocable subsumation into his own text.” (Cruz, 840). Cruz’s idea has caused much discussion and controversy, and many are divided upon their agreement with it. This statement is not true, as it neglects the writing of the “False Quixote”, as Cervantes’ response to this hoax was to end the possibility of any future Don Quixote stories. Cervantes chose to kill Don Quixote to regain control of the fictional world he had created, in retaliation against any who sought to misappropriate his creation.
At the end of Part 1 of Don Quixote, Cervantes gives a hint towards Don Quixote and Sancho’s next sally: “Don Quixote left home [and] he went to Zaragoza and took part in some famous tourneys held in that city” (Cervantes, 445). He finishes the novel with the line, “Forsi altro canterà con miglior plectio.” (Cervantes, 449), which is a quote originally from Orlando Furioso. This sentence translates to: “Perhaps another will sing in a better style”, which many interpreted as an invitation to others to continue the writing. Sometime between the publishing of the First and Second part, this invitation was taken up, and a fraud wrote a counterfeit sequel to Don Quixote, known as the “False Quixote”. Cervantes learned about this book while he was writing the Second part, and mentioned it immediately in his writing. In the novel, while Don Quixote and Sancho are traveling to Zaragoza after leaving the Duke and the Duchess, they approach an inn to stay for the night. At the inn, they hear two people reading from the False Quixote. Don Quixote confronts them about the book when he hears them say that in the story he renounces his love for Dulcinea. They then discuss how much of a lie the book is, and how many mistakes it contains. To end their conversation, Don Quixote states “I shall not set foot in Zaragoza, and in this way I shall proclaim the lies of this modern historian to the world”,(Cervantes, 849) and changes his destination from Zaragoza to Barcelona.
This is the first time that Cervantes refers to the “False Quixote” in the novel, and it carries a powerful meaning. By changing their destination, he is discrediting the “False Quixote” in its entirety by showing that it is untrue, and that Don Quixote and Sancho will do as much as they can to prove its fraudulence. After they leave the inn, on their new path to Barcelona, Sancho bumps into something hanging from a tree. Realizing that this object was human legs and feet, a terrified Sancho runs to Don Quixote, who in response calmly says “[…] these feet and legs that you touch but do not see undoubtedly belong to outlaws and bandits who have been hanged […] which leads me to think I must be close to Barcelona,” (Cervantes, 851). Don Quixote and Sancho then find themselves surrounded by a group of thieves who rob them, but eventually take them in and travel to Barcelona with them. While with the robbers, Don Quixote and Sancho witness robbery and murder, sharply contrasting the law-enforcing knight Quixote practiced previously. A significant change can be seen in the mood of the book, after Cervantes found out about the publishing of the “False Quixote”. He changed the path of the novel, metaphorically and literally, through changing their destination of city, and changing the entire tone of the novel. This is where Cruz’s argument was incorrect, as Cervantes was not planning for Don Quixote’s death since Part 1, he only planned for it after learning about the “False Quixote”.
While writing the Second Part of Don Quixote, Cervantes was beginning to fall quite ill. He had type 2 diabetes, according to the modern physician Antonio López Alonso, a disease that was unknown of at the time. As the novel approached an end, his condition worsened, and in the book Miguel de Cervantes, by Barbara Parker and Duane Parker, they say that “when Cervantes wrote about the death of Don Quixote at the end of Part II, he may have anticipated his own death as well,” (Parker, 96). After seeing one fraud copy of the novel being released, Cervantes couldn’t allow another one to be published after his death, and so he prevented it in the safest way he could: by killing off Don Quixote, and not allowing the opportunity for any more novels.
Upon his deathbed, Don Quixote recounts the items of his will to those surrounding him. After leaving money to Sancho, he gives his estate to his niece, however with a constraint: if his niece marries, “she marry a man [who] does not know anything about books of chivalry” (Cervantes, 938). If she were to marry him nonetheless, she would then lose all that was left to her in the will. By saying this, Cervantes is not only killing off Don Quixote himself, but also using him as a tool to renounce all future books of chivalry. Cervantes was worried about more than just someone stealing the Don Quixote name, but someone stealing the idea of comedic chivalric novels. Through Don Quixote’s final will, he was able to ensure that any of these books would be looked down upon, and he can be assured no future novel would attain the popularity of the “False Quixote”.
On the basis of this evidence, Cervantes did not plan to kill Don Quixote since the First Part of the novel, and that is where Cruz was incorrect. She failed to acknowledge the darker turn taken by the novel after Cervantes learnt about the “False Quixote”, and coupled with his own worsening health, he knew he had to kill off Don Quixote before any other books could be made.
The Banner of Enlightenment
As proposed by Immanual Kant, the Enlightenment consisted of having “the courage to use your own understanding,” and John Milton’s Paradise Lost, Descartes’ Meditations, and Cervantes’ Don Quixote collectively provide instances that both affirm and subvert Kant’s proposition. Paradise Lost’s Lucifer embodies Kant’s idea of intellectual independence—fighting against God’s authority in order to make his own decisions and arrive at his own conclusions. In Meditations, Descartes argues against intellectual conformity yet attempts to impose his own on others. In Don Quixote our knight errant questions self-imposed nonage with his own form of self-imposition. Together, these works exemplify the diversity of ideas that resulted from the courageous decisions of people to use their own understanding.
In Paradise Lost, Lucifer believes that the Son’s exaltation above him by The Father is unjust and illegitimate, and Lucifer refuses to surrender his personal freedom to Him. As one-third of the angels join his rebellion, Lucifer criticizes the loyal angels: “I see that most through sloth had rather serve” (V.166). Lucifer believes that the loyalist angels suffer from a self-imposed nonage, not thinking for themselves but rather submitting their minds to the predilections of the Almighty. Most famously, the Fallen Angel states: “Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven” (I.263). Throughout the epic poem, Lucifer treasures and idolizes his free will, which he interprets as freedom from another’s authority or even guidance. Referring back to his perception of the unjust exaltation of the Son over himself, while in Hell, Lucifer exclaims: “Here we may reign secure, and in my choice to reign is worth ambition though in Hell” (I.261-62). As seen here, Lucifer abides by a much more idealistic set of values than practical ones, which fuels his willingness to make bold, even courageous, decisions. In this way, Milton’s Lucifer embodies some traits of the Enlightenment; however, he hardly represents the Enlightenment as a whole, at least in a purist sense.
In many ways Lucifer’s mind still operates in a self-imposed nonage, confusing free will with freedom and forging his hellish kingdom in a perverted image of God’s. His rebellion against God was only possible because of the free will God gave him and the other angels; in a sense, the Almighty gave Lucifer the ability to use his own understanding without another’s guidance. The loyalist angels understand the consequences of rebellion and choose to accept the authority of the Son, a display of their own intellectual independence. Lucifer, however, believes that in submitting to authority, he gives away his ability to reason and exert self-determination. By allowing his own pride to cloud the difference between free will and freedom, Lucifer imposes a form nonage on himself, with his pride guiding his understanding of the situation. Additionally, in his pursuit of establishing his own reign in hell, Lucifer parodies Hell off of Heaven, hosting intricate palaces, a demonic hierarchy of authority, and a satanic throne to reign from. Lucifer states: “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heav’n of hell, a hell of heav’n” (I.254-55), and in order to accomplish this, he literally attempts to make a “heav’n of hell.” Just as Lucifer is flawed in a Hellenic sense, he is also a flawed representation of the Enlightenment. As Lucifer became Satan—or “tempter”—his fatal flaws become his means of misguiding humanity.
Descartes’ Meditations seems to encourage man’s emergence from his self-imposed nonage, but in fact, Descartes encourages his own form of self-imposed nonage for mankind, becoming the very guider referenced by Kant. In order to obtain understanding, Descartes says that we must first clear away our prior beliefs and henceforth rely on reason alone—our clear and distinct perception. By clearing away our prior beliefs, we then can use our own understanding without another’s guidance. Despite Descartes’ argument for objective, non-partisan reasoning, the very intention of his argument is motivated by his own prior beliefs—to prove the existence of God. This assumption can be seen in this argument: “There must be at least as much reality in the efficient and total cause as in the effect of that cause” (Meditation III), which argues that because the material world is finite, only something infinite could have caused it. When applied to true knowledge, Descartes claims that if you do not understand knowledge’s ultimate cause—God—then you cannot be sure of anything, and thus do not know anything. This rationalist perspective rejects the relevance of one’s personal observations in discovering knowledge, which seems to run contradictory to Kant’s declaration “to use one’s own understanding without another’s guidance.” Ironically, Kant is also a rationalist, yet seems to be justifying empiricism’s central precept: attaining knowledge through the senses, not reason alone. Therefore, the relationship between Meditations and Kant’s claim becomes complicated by our preconceptions of what Kant is actually saying about self-imposed nonage, muddying our perception of what is and is not.
In Don Quixote, rather than self-imposing nonage onto himself, our knight errant self-imposes madness—a denial of our commonly accepted reality—upon himself as a means of self-determination instead of submitting to another’s guidance. While self-imposed nonage relies on a complying with the conscious of another, Don Quixote seeks only to satisfy his own wants and needs, and self-imposed madness is the means he uses to accomplish this. Our ingenious hidalgo stubbornly retorts: “I am mad, and mad I shall remain until you return with the reply to a letter that I intend to send by you to my lady Dulcinea” (208). Here, Don Quixote reveals his level of self-awareness and yet his intent to remain “mad”—mad in the sense of insanity. Elsewhere in his adventures, our knight errant believes windmills to be giants, and he imposes this falsity upon reality: “He, however, was so positive they were giants that he neither heard the cries of Sancho, nor perceived, near as he was, what they were” (VIII). Upon realizing the windmills indeed are not giants, he claims: “Moreover I think, and it is the truth, that that same sage Friston who carried off my study and books, has turned these giants into mills in order to rob me of the glory of vanquishing them” (VIII). Rather than confronting reality, Don Quixote rationalizes his own version of reality with a fictional character born from his self-imposed madness. Ultimately, his purpose is to fulfill his dream of becoming a true knight, of escaping his menial lifestyle and achieving greatness, the same greatness he has read of in his chivalrous books. Don Quixote, therefore, would fully embrace Kant’s claim and turn his attention to self-determination instead of encountering reality through someone else’s eyes.
Each Enlightenment work has a unique relationship to Immanual Kant’s claim. Paradise Lost’s central character, Lucifer, is a flawed representation of the Enlightenment as a whole. In Meditations, Descartes agrees with the philosophy of Kant, yet he simultaneously enables the very thing Kant warns against. Finally, in Don Quixote, our knight errant manifests the opposite extrema to self-imposed nonage. In spite of their differences, all of these works are united under the banner of Enlightenment: courageously displaying a new way of thinking rather than living in the nonage of the past.