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Don Quixote | Study Guide

Miguel de Cervantes

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Don Quixote | Discussion Questions 31 - 40


How does Cervantes use the Duke and Duchess in Don Quixote as commentary on the role of class in Spanish society at the time?

Cervantes uses the Duke and the Duchess to show the inverse relationship between class and character. Though the Duke and Duchess have everything they could possibly want in life, they lack the empathy and kindness of characters in the lower class. To them, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza are mere playthings. The Duke and Duchess revel in using their position and money to play elaborate pranks on the lunatic knight and his squire. They regret nothing about their actions, particularly when it comes to Sancho. The Duchess dotes on Sancho Panza, fawning over his idiocies and showing him off to her friends, not to help him get ahead in life but rather to have a laugh at his expense. Cervantes is of the belief that prosperity and social status warp a person's innate sense of what is right and wrong.

Is Sancho Panza's knack for governing in Don Quixote out of character for the dim-witted squire?

Sancho Panza's capability as governor is completely in line with how the narrator describes his character. Sancho doesn't have much education—he can neither read nor write—but he is an exceptionally good judge of people. He recognizes that Don Quixote is a good person despite his delusions, and he is wary of Pero Perez's desire to cure Don Quixote of his madness. There's much more to Sancho Panza than meets the eye, which he reveals in Part 2, Chapter 8, when he tells Don Quixote, "I'm pretty clever ... but ... that's well hidden under this ... disguise of behaving like a fool." Sancho isn't a fool, but there is freedom in having people think he is. He can say and do things that those with more education or good social breeding would deem inappropriate. The fool can say anything he wants and get away with it, his nonsense simply chalked up to idiocy. But when he does or says something really wise, he is noticed all the more for it.

Analyzing Sancho Panza's performance as governor in Don Quixote, what lessons does he learn, and how do these lessons impact his personality?

Sancho Panza learns several lessons during the 10 days that he serves as governor of Barataria Island. In Part 2, Chapter 54, he notes that the wealth earned in a position of power comes "at the expense of giving up peace and losing sleep." Before he became governor, he thought he would enjoy telling other people what to do, but he tells Don Quixote in Part 2, Chapter 53, that "each of us should do the work we were born to do." Sancho Panza was born to be a goatherd, and he was born to enjoy his freedom. He learned, as long as he can eat and sleep when he wants, he would much rather be the boss of one man instead of the governor of hundreds. Sancho's discovery that work is a means of freedom is a lesson that was never fully learned by the Spanish nobility in the 16th and 17th centuries. Most nobles lived a life of leisure during that time period, and their idleness did nothing to replenish the wealth they squandered. The Duke is a good case in point. Despite his magnificent estate and a host of servants to cater to his every whim, he routinely borrows money from the father of the man who deflowered Doña Rodríguez's daughter. He, like many nobles at the time, is most likely in debt for his lavish lifestyle. This overspending costs nobles a certain degree of freedom, as they were beholden to their lenders. Sancho Panza, on the other hand, may be poor, but he answers to no one but himself.

What is the significance of the subplot about Ricote the Moor's daughter, Anna Félix, in Don Quixote?

Like many of the women in Don Quixote, Anna Félix faces barriers to be with her one true love. Yet, unlike Dorotea, Quiteria, and Zoraida, Anna Félix is the hero of her love story. She poses as a man and captains a ship so she can get the money needed to free Don Gregorio. Women aren't often agents of change in classic literature. The fact that Cervantes created a female character who was responsible for saving a man shows that he was more forward thinking than a lot of people during his time. Yet Anna Félix could not save her true love as herself; she had to pretend to be a man. This is a common trope in classic literature, and it's used to circumvent the traditional stereotypes about a woman's role in the world. Anna Félix is not a damsel in distress, nor a blushing bride, nor an ugly harpy. Depictions of women in roles other than this were so unusual that the only way audiences accepted them was if they were presented as an elaborate ruse or farce, hence the need for Anna Félix to pretend to be a man. Cervantes's use of this plot device illustrates both his dislike for the familiar female tropes of chivalric romances and his acknowledgment of society's thoughts about what is "right" and "proper" behavior for the fairer sex.

How do the motives of the Knight of the Mirrors compare and contrast to those of the Knight of the White Moon in Part 2 of Don Quixote?

Samson Carrasco plays both the Knight of the Mirrors and the Knight of the White Moon, but his motives change between roles. He first takes up the sword as the Knight of the Mirrors to get Don Quixote to give up knight-errantry, but his defeat at the hands of the lunatic knight changes everything. No longer does he want to "unscramble [Don Quixote's] brains." Instead, he has a "longing for revenge." He gets his revenge as the Knight of the White Moon, later admitting to Don Antonio that all of the cuts and bruises he earned in the first battle were "not enough to take away my desire to come hunting for him ... and defeat him." Like Pero Perez and Master Nicolas, Samson Carrasco is glad that they were finally able to bring Don Quixote home, but he also secretly delights in the revenge he took for their previous battle.

In Don Quixote, how do physical and mental defeats affect Don Quixote differently?

The greatest blow to Don Quixote, physically, is when he and Sancho Panza are attacked by the group of muleherds after Rocinante gets frisky with their female ponies. That is one of the few instances where Don Quixote is actually injured by another human. But the Don's greatest mental defeat is to the Knight of the White Moon. Don Quixote is forced to give up knight-errantry for an entire year, which results in the loss of his personal identity. Not knowing who or what he is anymore, he considers becoming a shepherd to live out his days in the world of the pastoral romance. Yet, knight-errantry is so ingrained in his mind and personality that he literally becomes ill after it is taken away from him, and he dies just weeks after giving up the lance. Don Quixote's mental state has a direct impact on his physical state. When he has something to believe in, like knight-errantry, he can soldier through injuries and humiliation. When his dream dies, so does he.

How does the narrative mood of Don Quixote change after the battle against the Knight of the White Moon?

The narrator of Don Quixote uses a light hand throughout most of the text to poke fun at Don Quixote and his squire. Even Sancho Panza's most desperate moments are played for laughs, such as when he falls into the cave and Don Quixote thinks he's hearing the calls of Sancho's ghost. The jovial mood of the novel takes a sharp turn after his altercation with the Knight of the White Moon. The subtitle of Part 2, Chapter 64, pronounces this "the gloomiest of all the gloomy adventures ever experienced by Don Quixote," and that mood pervades even after the Don and his squire leave Barcelona. Even Sancho Panza notices, and thinks to himself "that the glorious light of Don Quixote's great deeds had been darkened." The "light"of his great deeds echoes the upbeat mood throughout the novel, and the new "darkness" foreshadows a tragic end for the defeated knight-errant.

How are non-Spaniards presented in Don Quixote?

Characters in Don Quixote who are not from Spain are generally the subject of prejudice in the novel. People from Turkey, in particular, are presented as perverse criminals. Anna Félix points out that the "Turks much prefer a handsome boy, or young man, to the most beautiful woman alive." This isn't surprising considering that, at the time of Don Quixote's writing, Spain and Turkey were embroiled in a bitter contest for disputed land. Other nationalities are also looked down upon, particularly people from Africa. Sancho Panza, who is concerned that Don Quixote's proposed marriage to Princess Micomicona will result in Sancho becoming governor of an Ethiopian province, is horrified to learn the area is a "land of black men, and the people he'd be ruling over would also be black." Sancho's solution is to sell his constituents as slaves in Spain. He automatically thinks that he can treat them poorly because they are black and because they are from a different country. Cervantes's thoughts about race have long been the subject of literary speculation. Does he support racism, or is he against it? Some scholars point to the fact that Cervantes's hero wishes for a return to world of chivalric romance, where Christians and Muslims were often portrayed as living in harmony. This suggests that Cervantes has the narrator present people from other cultures in an unflattering light as a means of exposing the racism and bigotry supported by the Church in the 16th and 17th centuries.

What are the differences between the two versions of Don Quixote referenced within Don Quixote?

The first version mentioned, which is Part 1 as written by Cervantes but attributed to the fictional author Sidi Hamid Benengeli, is accepted by the characters in the story as the truth as to what really happened to Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. Even the subjects themselves consider it a history. Don Quixote is particularly fond of this version of the story because it shows him in a good light. The second set of adventures is written by a different author, Alonso Fernández de Avellaneda, and according to the narrator of Part 2 and a host of other characters, it isn't nearly as good as the one by Benengeli. Don Quixote immediately notices "the grammatical mistakes [Fernández] makes" and the "lies" about the most important parts of his history. Don Quixote and Sancho Panza despise this second, unauthorized volume of stories just as much as Cervantes hated it in real life. Cervantes wants the reader to know that not only is he the original author of Don Quixote but also that he is a far superior writer than Alonso Fernández.

How do members of the clergy respond to Don Quixote's madness in Don Quixote?

There are three notable members of the clergy mentioned in Don Quixote: Pero Perez, the cathedral priest, and the priest who works for the Duke and the Duchess. All three are realists, and they adhere to the Catholic Church's position that literature not rooted in reality neither nourishes the soul nor educates the mind. They believe books should be based on real life, not far-fetched fantasies that result in sky-high aspirations, and they should impart a biblical moral or lesson. The three priests' treatment of Don Quixote represents the different ways in which the Catholic Church handled heretics and outsiders during the years of the Inquisition. Pero Perez is the most sympathetic to Don Quixote's plight. As a friend, he wants Don Quixote to give up what he believes in and become like everyone else. His goal is to save Don Quixote, just as the Church's goal was to "save" as many "sinners" as possible by converting them to Christianity. The cathedral priest tries to reason with Don Quixote, explaining that he should be reading things "from which [your] conscience can benefit and your honor increase!" He serves as a missionary, traveling the countryside to convert others to his way of thinking. The Duke and Duchess's priest is enraged by Don Quixote's devotion to knight-errantry and the books that portray it. He keeps telling Don Quixote to go home, then finally leaves himself when the lunatic knight refuses to budge. His actions symbolize the Church's persecution of those who practiced a different religion, either by punishment, banishment, or death.

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