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Don Quixote | Study Guide

Miguel de Cervantes

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Don Quixote | Part 1, Chapters 21–22 | Summary

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Summary

Part 1, Chapter 21

Don Quixote spies a man in the distance wearing what he thinks is Mambrino's golden helmet, which he has been trying to find. It's actually a barber's brass basin, used for bloodletting and shaving. Don Quixote attacks the barber to win the helmet, and the barber runs away.

Sancho Panza asks for permission to speak freely and tells Don Quixote that they should "enlist in the service of an emperor, or some other great prince" who has the money with which to pay them. Don Quixote says they need to be famous before they can appear at court, then launches into a fanciful story that ends with him becoming a king and Sancho Panza a count. "All we need, now," Don Quixote says of what they must do, "is to find out which king ... has both a war and a beautiful daughter." Sancho Panza thinks all of this sounds like a good idea.

Part 1, Chapter 22

Don Quixote and Sancho Panza come across a group of galley slaves heading for the harbor to serve their sentences rowing the king's ships. Don Quixote thinks that because they are being held against their will, it is his duty to set them free. Sancho Panza protests "that justice ... is neither compelling nor injuring people ... but only punishing them for their crimes."

The Don asks the guards to release the prisoners. They refuse and he attacks. In the fray, the prisoners break free from their chains. The guards run for their lives. The escapees refuse to honor Don Quixote's orders to go to Toboso to visit Dulcinea del Tobosco, then they throw stones at him when he gets angry.

Analysis

Don Quixote follows his own moral code when deciding what is right and wrong, and it aggravates Sancho Panza to no end. Sancho Panza follows traditional morals, not the honor code of knights. He understands the reasoning behind and the need for the Spanish justice system, while Don Quixote thinks everyone should adhere to a fictional, and often confusing, moral code.

Cervantes's own beliefs fall in line with those of Sancho Panza. Instead of thanking Don Quixote and pledging themselves to a lifetime of service, as would happen in a traditional chivalric romance, the newly freed galley slaves disobey his orders and throw rocks at him. He is essentially being punished for what he believes to be a good deed. Yet the former prisoners' actions have no effect on Don Quixote's beliefs. He is simply "furious to find himself badly hurt by the ... people for whom he'd done so much."

Meanwhile, Sancho Panza's grip on what is real and what is right is starting to slip. He came on this journey in search of wealth and a better life, and his greedy side is slowly being won over by the Don's promises of islands and governorships. He believes the Don's spectacular, and entirely fictional, stories because they sound so much better than his current life living from hand to mouth. Unlike Don Quixote, Sancho Panza is brought back to the real world when his safety and freedom are threatened.

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