The book is both tragic and comedic and follows the struggles of Alonso Quixano whose adventure goes to prove that sometimes setting and following your dreams, against society’s expectations, is the most worthwhile thing to do.
‘Spoiler-Free’ ‘Don Quixote‘ Summary
‘Don Quixote‘ is a classic written by Miguel de Cervantes documenting the adventure of Alonso, a fifty-year-old and native of La Mancha, a suburb of Spain. Influenced by the heroic deeds portrayed in countless chivalric books he has read, Alonso decides to become a hero himself and must set out to restore order to a world that, in his opinion, needs saving from the hands of evil entities and people who oppress the poor.
All set for his journey, he changes his name to the more suitable ‘Don Quixote‘, buys a horse, and selects a young farmer, Sancho Panza, as his squire, and a peasant young girl – who he calls Dulcinea – as his lady for the journey. He begins his journey and arrives at a public inn but he prefers to think of this place like a castle.
In the inn, he meets with all kinds of people including prostitutes and the innkeeper. He realizes it’s getting late and he must pass the night at the inn, but Alonso can’t seem to stay out of trouble for too long that by the end of the night, he fights a group of drivers before leaving by the morning.
As the journey continues, Alonso meets and rescues a young male applicant who appears to be getting some maltreatments from his lord. Later, our protagonist soon gets the beating of his life after he accosts a team of traders and questions them for saying unpleasant things to his lady, Dulcinea. He is taken home to recuperate but while he’s at it, his niece arranges with a group of locals and destroys his library and the books in it.
Alonso is told a wizard is responsible when he finally comes to consciousness. With eyes set on the quest, Alonso resumes his journey taking along Sancho, his squire. Things quickly get feisty and his valor is tested in an epic, but comical, battle against the windmills only he mistakes them for giants.
He soon encounters a lady marching with friars and seeks to rescue her. He and Sancho then enter another inn but brew trouble that leads to them leaving with injuries. Alonso loses lady Dulcinea and tries to get her back but is met with a stern test that threatens his knight-errantry. He must defeat the knight of the white moon or risk resignation from his chivalric adventures.
‘Don Quixote‘ Summary
Spoiler alert: important details of the novel are revealed below.
‘Don Quixote‘ begins with Alonso’s obsession with books of valor and chivalry. He keeps a stockpile of them and does nothing but reads them all day. Because of excessive exposure to the books, he loses his mind and decides he can become like one of the heroes in the books to save the helpless and rid the world of all impending evil.
He baptizes himself with a new name – ‘Don Quixote de la Mancha‘ – a locality in old Spain and gathers a team for his adventure which includes; his horse Rocinante, and a poor farm girl he renames Dulcinea, the love of his life.
Donning an old, worn-out knightly suit, ‘Don Quixote‘ begins his journey of saving the world and proving his knight-errantry. Their first real stop is an inn crowded with prostitutes and the innkeeper, but he prefers to see this place like a castle filled with ladies and lords. He decides there’s no better place so he organizes to be knighted here.
His first test as a knight comes too quickly as he rescues a young boy from his master’s brutality, but soon gets beaten up to stupor by a mob of traders who barely know the first thing about knight-errantry.
‘Don Quixote‘ is forced back home to recover, and while he lies unconscious, his friends and family – pioneered by his niece, a barber, and a priest – gather and burn all his books to ashes because they fear these objects may have been the reason for his madness which almost took his life.
When he finally awakens to the reality of losing his precious books, he is left without a choice but to blame it on the works of evil wizardry, which is known to be the mortal enemy of all knight errant such as himself. Undistracted from the goal of his quest, he recruits Sancho Panza as his squire and begins his second journey.
As they make progress in the sally, ‘Don Quixote‘ is faced with perhaps the most epochal battles in straight successions that, in fact, define his knightly adventure. First, wrestles with many giants which, in reality, are mere windmills.
Next, he’s up against a herd of enchanters who he pictures as ill-tempered muleteers, and then makes trouble with a passing congregation of friars who, in his mind, are good for nothing abductors holding an innocent young lady captive.
Throughout the entire journey, ‘Don Quixote‘ and his team are insulted, made jest of, and beaten by everyone who encounters them simply because of their antisocial ways of doing things.
Not all of their deeds are bad and ridiculous, for example, they one time have to save a company of prisoners but instead of getting a “thank you” they instead are pelted with stones. Still, they go on to do a couple of things noble and worthy of a gallant knight-errantry, like helping several estranged lovers find love again, or parleying enemies who were former acquaintances.
Also, attending the funeral of a man, they say, who was killed by his love for a shepherdess – is another highlight of ‘Don Quixote’s‘ second adventure. But at this point, his friends and family are worried about him and are trailing closely at him. By the end of part one, ‘Don Quixote‘ is snatched and put into a cage and shipped back home by his friends, a barber, and a priest, who imagine they can cure his madness.
Here, we find ‘Don Quixote‘ to be a year older and more tranquil than he’s ever been, and the reason for that is partly because he had been bedridden for a while since his friends caged and brought him home against his wish. Notwithstanding, he prepares and sets out for his third journey and soon finds out, through a student called Carrasco, that his journeys so far have been recorded in popular chivalric history books.
‘Don Quixote‘ and his squire, Sancho Panza, are popular by now, but he must reunite with his lady, Dulcinea. However, after he and his squire conduct a wild search, they discover that such a person doesn’t exist and that the closest thing to her they find is Aldonza, a peasant girl, who no doubt is no match for the exquisite princess-like figure he had in mind. Sancho tries to convince him but he doesn’t buy it.
They are back on the road again to face a trying battle with a forest knight, who is in fact a disguised Carrasco. The reason for this fight is for young Carrasco to try and trick ‘Don Quixote‘ to resign on the quest and return home, but with Quixote emerging as the winner, he is left to continue his journey.
Quixote and his squire will go on to enjoy several trips uninterrupted and filled with exciting experiences such as attending a wasteful wedding ceremony, playing guests at the home of an unusual gentleman, and exploring the Montesinos – a place which Quixote is convinced has magical powers.
Quixote and Sancho soon come to this land where everybody – including the Duke and Duchess – idolizes them because they had read from the chivalry history books the thrilling adventures of their previous sallies. They are treated well by the royalty and enchanters, but this is only a mere trick engineered to explore and goad Quixote about his missing Dulcinea.
Quixote is impressed with Sancho’s loyalty and role in his journey and promises to gift him an island when all is done. The Duke hears of this and seeks to isolate Sancho from his master and maybe gain his loyalty and trust (but with a real intent to humiliate him), so he makes Sancho a ruler of a small country expecting to make a mockery out of his rule.
Sancho disappoints the Duke and ruled with wisdom like a pro, but soon abdicates to return back to his master, Quixote, because the responsibility set by the Duke is becoming more like a punishment.
The two travelers continue their journey encountering people of different cities and cultures, one of them being a noble thief, and another – an affluent man from Barcelona. They soon face a big fight with the white knight – a disguised Carrasco – for the second time, and to proceed on the journey, Quixote must win the fight. Unfortunately for them, Sampson Carrasco defeats Quixote so they must return home to the village.
On their way home, Quixote obviously doesn’t take the outcome of his defeat very lightly, as he worries he may have lost every hope of finding and reuniting with his precious Dulcinea. By the day, he becomes unhappy and later depressed. On getting home, Quixote becomes heavily sick and falls into a deep sleep only to wake up and denounce his knight-errantry, claiming he is no crazier.
He urges his family and friends to no longer refer to him as ‘Don Quixote‘ but by his real name Alonso Quixano. After this confession, he passes away.
What is the main lesson from the book ‘Don Quixote’?
The main lesson passed by Cervantes through his book ‘Don Quixote‘ is that society is not always right, and sometimes individuals should believe in themselves and pursue their goals regardless of social convention.
Did ‘Don Quixote‘ really go mad in the book?
Yes, he does go mad as a result of overindulgence in chivalric romances, according to Cervantes the narrator. Quixote’s madness can be likened to present-day paranoid delusional, as he holds his judgment dear to heart and doesn’t trust or believe anybody else’s.
What part of his adventures is considered more interesting?
‘Don Quixote‘ completed several great adventures, however, the part where he battles with three windmills in the mindset that they are human giants is not only very interesting but also hilarious and exciting.