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Time & Place

Spain. First part of the novel published in 1605, second part in 1615.

Language & Form

Sapanish original; novel.Satirical, comic tone (see Satire)

Synopsis

An impoverished gentleman by the name of Alonso Quijano goes insane from reading too many chivalric romances and decides to become a knight errant. Arming himself with rusty old weapons retrieved from his barn and riding a decrepit farm horse, he renames himself Don Quijote de la Mancha and sets out in search of adventures.

Main Issues

Comic aspect of the story has underlying serious intentions.

Critique of life in a world dominated by greed, pride, and violence.

Critique of the hypocritical use and manipulation of the Christian religion.

Author's stance in defense of ideals of goodness, justice, truth, and beauty.

Don Quixote's insanity is, in part, a form of higher wisdom; in his madness, he sees humble people as noble and elevated and challenges the rich and the powerful, often calling them monsters and villains; ecclesiastics are also targets of the wrath of Don Quixote.

In his ideals and desire for a better world, Don Quixote mirrors Christ and criticizes a world that lacks a genuine spiritual center.

Don Quixote's violence and aggressive methods, on the other hand, identify him with the people of his time and with the madness of the historical past (the Crusades, the adventures against the Turks, etc.)

Don Quixote is blind to the contradictions in his own approach to the correction of the evils of the world; he fights fire with fire and finds himself repeatedly defeated, making things worse for himself and others.

Through Don Quixote, Cervantes confronts and ridicules an aspect of his own former life as a soldier fighting for Christian Europe.

Where Don Quixote, the warrior, fails, however, Cervantes, the writer, triumphs. Novel about the idea that "the pen is mightier than the sword."


Study Questions

Is Don Quixote mad? What drives him to insanity? What is the implied attitude toward literature? Is literature condemned or praised?

What does Don Quixote want? What does he value? Who does he want to help? Who does he want to attack? Does he accomplish what he desires? Why? Why not?

Is there anything noble or admirable in his actions or beliefs? What makes Don Quixote's actions comical? What makes them sublime? What does the novel parody? What values or beliefs are shown as obsolete? What values or beliefs are revitalized and ennobled?

Might Cervantes have seen himself in Don Quixote? In what ways? Is Cervantes's own idealism earlier in his life (as a fighter for Christianity) in any way connected to the character or actions of Don Quixote?

In what ways does Cervantes employ the figure of Don Quixote and other characters and situations in the story to express his criticisms of the world in which he lived? How does the mission of Don Quixote parallel or differ from the mission of Cervantes? How do their ideals resemble or differ from each other? How do their methods resemble or differ from each other?

What does Sancho Panza represent? How about the lady Dulcinea?

Judging by events, figures and situations in the novel, what may have been Cervantes's attitudes toward women and their condition in the society of his time?

What is the meaning of Don Quixote's confrontation with the wealthy farmer and the young boy Andres? Who does Don Quixote defend?

Why is Don Quixote angry at the windmills? Why does he consider them evil giants? Is there any possible symbolic meaning in these images? May the windmills refer to economic and social issues? Which? What then is Cervantes attacking? What may be the meaning of Don Quixote's idea that an evil enchanter is changing the appearances of things in order to fool him? Might there be some sense in this idea?

Why is Don Quixote angry at the merchants of Toledo? Why is he angry that they refuse to acknowledge the beauty of Dulcinea? What does this suggest about the values and way of life of the merchants? Does this have parallels in the life of Christ?

What is the significance of Don Quixote's attack against the Benedictine friars? Why is he angry with religious people? What criticisms are embedded in this episode?

What is the significance of Don Quixote's rejection, on his deathbed, of his life as a knight errant?

Links

to come

Recommended Reading

Fidel Fajardo-Acosta, "The Making of a New Genre: Structure, Theme, and Image in Dante's Commedia and Cervantes's Don Quixote," Hispanic Journal 20 (1999): 57-65.

-----, "Don Quijote y las Máquinas Infernales: Vanidad del Ejercicio de las Armas," Hispanic Journal 10 (1989): 15-24.


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