HomeLiterature Study GuidesDon QuixotePart 1 Chapters 3941 Summary

Don Quixote | Study Guide

Miguel de Cervantes

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Don Quixote | Part 1, Chapters 39–41 | Summary

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Summary

Part 1, Chapter 39

Ruy Pérez de Viedma tells his story. He left home 22 years ago and joined the Spanish army, per his father's request that each of his sons become either a scholar, a merchant, or a soldier of the king. He is captured by Algerians and becomes a galley slave for the enemy. He decides not to ask his family to pay for his ransom because he doesn't want his father to know that he is a prisoner.

Part 1, Chapter 40

Ruy Pérez is sent to Algiers after his first master dies and ends up in a baño, or dungeon, for Christian captives next to the house of a rich and noble Moor. One day, he and some friends see a long stick extended into the prison yard from a window in the house. A note and a bag of money are attached to it. They learn that Zoraida, the noble's daughter, is trying to find someone who can help her go to "the Christian world" to see the Virgin Mary.

A plan is hatched, and an acquaintance uses some of the money to purchase a boat. Ruy Pérez uses the rest of the money to pay the ransom for himself and a few fellow captives.

Part 1, Chapter 41

Ruy Pérez lies his way onto the nobleman's estate and meets Zoraida face to face. They immediately fall in love. The Christians come back for Zoraida late on a Friday night, but her father hears them. He is taken as a captive so he can't alert the authorities. Hours later, he and a few other Moors are dropped off at a harbor. He yells slurs at his daughter and insists she has become a Christian because "she knows how much easier it is to practice indecency, in your lands."

The escaped Christians and Zoraida are almost to Spain when they are overtaken by French pirates. Everything of value is taken save Zoraida's virginity. The group is given a small boat to take to shore. The first person they see upon landing is a shepherd boy who thinks they are invading Moors. When the cavalry arrives, it turns out that one of the officers is the uncle of one of the escaped Christians. The new arrivals are welcomed to the city, and Zoraida finally gets to go to church.

Analysis

Ruy Pérez's story makes many references to events Cervantes actually experienced. Cervantes served under the same Spanish captain in the same battles, and he was also captured by Algerians and sold as a slave. He even shows up in the story as "a Spanish soldier named Saavedra" with whom Ruy Pérez crosses paths. (Cervantes's full name is Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra.) This tongue-in-cheek detail adds to the overall humor of the novel.

Zoraida's journey paints Christianity as the one true religion, and she makes a pilgrimage just to lay eyes on the Virgin Mary. In this story-within-the-story, Christians are always good, and Moors, who practice Islam, are always bad. This can certainly be interpreted as a representation of Cervantes's own beliefs, yet there is a compelling argument to be made for the exact opposite. On the surface, he explicitly agrees with the Church's policies and beliefs, but only because he needs to ensure that the Church won't stand in the way of the publication of his book. Secretly he may have disagreed with Spain's aggressive policies of racial and religious intolerance. After all, Cervantes's hero wants to go back to the Golden Age of chivalric stories, many of which portrayed Christians and Muslims as friends and allies. Cervantes may indeed be implying that the world was a better place before the Inquisition, which was formed to punish those who didn't practice Catholicism and forced segregation based on beliefs and heritage.

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