Cervantes’ mission is to aptly describe the idiosyncrasy of a man who is determined to go against the odds to save the world from all evil and corruption. However, the author does not fail to leave the reader with a stern warning about how much of a toll this nearly impossible mission can have on anyone who tries to achieve such a feat.
‘Don Quixote’ Themes
The theme of quixotry is easily the commonest throughout the book, and Cervantes certainly manages to imprint this on the entire storyline of ‘Don Quixote‘. By definition, quixotry entails a usually wild, extravagant, and delusional pursuit of an idea or knightly honor or romantics, and this is the fuel that drives ‘Don Quixote‘ into his many journeys.
Quixote’s investment in chivalric books leads to his disillusionment of the world, and he finds himself believing that he can make a significantly positive change to the ways that people live in society. Against social order and institutional convention, he does so, pursuing new reforms on the better way to live even though these ideas are frowned at by other people, including the so-called groups he claims need saving.
Imagination, Delusion And Madness
A good number of fights ‘Don Quixote‘ gets involved in are described by Cervantes as though they involved real people, but in fact, these fights are merely a figment of Quixote’s imagination.
The most notable of these fights is the one involving windmills which Quixote sees as giant warriors. Even so from the onset, Quixote’s vivid imaginations result in him being delusional, the consequence of which sees him – an ordinary man – become a knight-errant and employing a company for his sallies, and then goes on a trip to try and rid the world of evil spirit and save the poor and helpless.
Leadership and Commitment
Cervantes tries to show the reader that despite ‘Don Quixote’s‘ folly and madness, he still has the stuff of a great leader, and this is seen in his ability to be courageous and see beyond what the ordinary person would see. Quixote, in some way, is able to replicate a similar kind of vision and commitment that great leaders, such as Jesus Christ of Nazareth or Joan of Arc, had during their time.
To society, this kind of vision is characteristically unconventional, antisocial, and outlandish, but ‘Don Quixote‘ does not care or does he second guess his goals, and he goes on to carry them out even though he gets a backlash and beaten up for doing what he believes in.
The themes explained above are found more than a few times throughout the book, but Cervantes pins a good number of other minor themes in the book, and some of them include; love and romance, royalty and conquest, reality vs fantasy, among others.
Analysis of Key Moments in ‘Don Quixote‘
- Alonso Quixano finds himself getting addicted to reading books of chivalric exploits, and soon he starts to think that he too came become like one of the knightly heroes he reads in the book. He would sell some of his personal belongings to afford these books.
- He decides to become a knight-errant and elected a team for his sally. He changes his name to ‘Don Quixote‘, picks a horse, and appoints Sancho Panza as his squire, a peasant girl he calls Dulcinea as his lady.
- Clouded with rusty armor, ‘Don Quixote‘ begins his journey along with his team as they set out to reinstall the practice valor and chivalry. Quixote is determined to save the helpless and rid the world of all evil enchanters.
- His friends and family in the village are worried the books he read may have cost him his sanity and they try to bring him back by sending a priest and a young man called Sampson Carrasco.
- Quixote was heavily beaten by a group of traders after he contributed to them for insulting and making a mockery of lady Dulcinea, his love. He is transported back to the village to heal and recover.
- He continues on his journey into a territory ruled by the dubious Duke and Duchess who are bent on exploiting him and his squire.
- The priest finds Quixote doing penance by Sierra Morena. Dorothea, a mountain woman troubled by love, begs Quixote to help her reclaim her lost kingdom.
- Quixote resumes his quest, determined with a new objective only to be obstructed by a fight with Sampson Carrasco – who is disguised as a knight of the white moon. Carrasco defeats Quixote and according to the terms, the loser must forfeit his mission.
- Quixote is put in a cage and is shipped back to the village because of his defeat to Carrasco. As they travel, he loses hope on his trips and becomes sad and despondent.
- On getting home, Quixote is sick and falls into a deep sleep. When he awakes, he comes back to his senses, denounces his knight-errantry, and reclaims his birth name Alonso Quixano the good. He dies afterward.
Style, Tone, and Figurative Language
‘Don Quixote‘ is one book that is prized for its ability to switch between historical, medieval, and modern styles of narration. Cervantes gives the book this ability when he incorporates a popular collection of old tales such as those found in Boccacio’s Decameron.
Although the adventures of ‘Don Quixote‘ revolve around the genre of chivalry, other styles such as myths, ancient ballads, and legends are included to make it more hybridized and innovative.
Another notable twist in literary styling that makes ‘Don Quixote‘ a special read is that its characters, whether minor or major, have independent purposes in their own stories outside of Quixote’s adventures, and are only just crossing paths or making a cameo in this book. For example, the forest-dwelling woman, Dorothea, maybe a minor character here but has her own independent tale on love trouble with Don Fernando.
In terms of tone used, Cervantes mostly opts for an admixture of satire and sobriety. The former is back by the reality of a lanky old man, ‘Don Quixote‘, becoming an actual knight who is on a mission to save the world. The latter hinges on the fact that Cervantes’ real motive for the book is to pass a strong message that one can also strive, against all odds, to be themselves and pursue their dreams.
For the language, Cervantes made sure to be as formal as possible in other to cement the notion of being serious in all his satirical expressions. Personification appears to be the widely used figure of speech favored in the book, such as where Quixote battles windmills which he mistakes for living giants as seen in his expression below:
Those are giants that you see over there…. with long arms; there are giants with arms almost six miles long.
Aside from personification, there is also a substantial use of allusions, metaphors, and imageries among others.
Analysis of Symbol in ‘Don Quixote’
There are several instances where ‘Don Quixote‘ is being accused of insanity, but the real proof of his unstable mental state is seen in his encounter with the windmills. These objects, which ‘Don Quixote‘ describes as giants with long arms, are the true depiction of Quixote’s circle of madness.
Quixote is so obsessed with books of chivalric romances to the extent that he would sell off his personal belongings just to afford more of them. It is clear that he was as normal as anyone in his past years prior to getting exposed to the books, but the moment he started feeding himself the stories and ideas therein, his disillusionment sets in.
There are a lot of references to popular books and manuscripts throughout the storyline, and this goes to show how important literature is giving us the ability to think deeply, visualize, and imagine things. It also works to shape our ideas and worldview.
Helmets, to ‘Don Quixote‘, can be taken to symbolize determination and perseverance to a cause. We see at least two kinds of helmets worn by ‘Don Quixote‘. The first is the absurd-looking one made with cardboard material, and the second is made of steel bowel.
This may look like a folly of a mentally unstable man even in the eyes of his squire, Sancho, but to Quixote, these helmets show his total dedication and unwavering disposition to his goals. This is why when Sancho tells him to put them away because they look ridiculous, he simply refuses.
Inns and Horses
In the era in which the book was written, inns were popular as they served as the meeting point between all classes of people in society. Inns represent the mixed atmosphere of the real society where a lot of socializing happens between the rich and the poor, royal and ordinary.
Quixote is very reluctant to spend time in inns and only does so when he absolutely has to, but on the other hand, his squire Sancho loves living and enjoying his life under the comfort of an inn. Quixote isn’t keen on inns because he is antisocial and only has his mind fixed on his mission.
Rocinante and Dapple being the two horses Quixote and Sancho rode through their sallies show their mission is a noble one filled with adventures, pilgrims, and excursions. It shows the value of their mission and beyond the horses’ purpose of transportation, they also served as good company for the travelers.
What is a predominant theme in ‘Don Quixote‘?
Self-belief is easily the most pronounced theme in the whole of ‘Don Quixote’. However, other themes such as insanity, literature, and human culture are applicable.
Does ‘Don Quixote‘ have a moral lesson?
Yes, ‘Don Quixote‘ does have a moral lesson and it is the fact that it encourages the reader to go the extraordinary mile, putting behind the negative opinions and discouragement of people around you.
How much of a good read is ‘Don Quixote’?
For a book that is widely regarded as the first modern novel, ‘Don Quixote‘ is understandably worthwhile for readers and this isn’t just for hype sake, but for the reason of it offering a wide range of entertaining and scintillating plots to the readership.