Literature Study GuidesDon QuixotePart 1 Chapters 5 6 Summary

Don Quixote | Study Guide

Miguel de Cervantes

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Don Quixote | Part 1, Chapters 5–6 | Summary

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Summary

Part 1, Chapter 5

A farmer from Don Quixote's hometown puts the Don on the back of his donkey and brings him home. When they arrive, his niece and his housekeeper are reporting his disappearance to the barber-surgeon, Master Nicolas, and the priest, Pero Perez. The women blame it on the Don's books, which Don Quixote's niece says "deserve burning every bit as much as heretics do."

Part 1, Chapter 6

Pero Perez, Master Nicolas, the housekeeper, and Don Quixote's niece go through Don Quixote's books while he sleeps. The niece and housekeeper are ready to burn them all, but the priest insists on examining each one individually. The men cast books aside based on topic, author, and writing style, while rescuing their own favorites. They soon grow tired of debating the merits of each book and decide to label the rest "contents unknown" and throw them in the burn pile below the window.

Analysis

The inquisition of Don Quixote's library mirrors the Spanish Inquisition, a state-sanctioned effort to remove or convert Jews and Muslims living in Spain between 1478 and 1834. The early years of the Spanish Inquisition were particularly brutal, and many people were tortured or burned at the stake. Sentencing was handled by the "secular arm." Cervantes injects humor into the already absurd scene by having the priest refer to the housekeeper, who is throwing books out the window to the burn pile below, as their own "secular arm."

This pivotal scene also reflects the divide between gender, class, and position in 17th-century Spanish society. Literacy was rare, generally reserved for men with money who lived in cities and towns. Don Quixote, a man with expendable income, and the barber-surgeon and the priest, both learned men, know how to read. But Don Quixote's niece and housekeeper do not. They are quick to burn the books without looking at them because they don't care about the words within. The housekeeper, in particular, is completely ignorant of how books work. She thinks the books are enchanted by magicians and worries that even being in the same room with books is dangerous. The priest laughs at her naïveté but doesn't bother explaining the truth to a woman whom he believes could never understand anything as academic as literature.

The priest, representing all that is "both Christian and true," is a realist. He prefers books based on reality rather than fantastical fantasies. He says as much in Chapter 5 when he announces that he will "burn all the giants" responsible for Don Quixote's madness. He is disgusted by the "overflowing biliousness" of most chivalric romances, and only enjoys the one story that shows the "real" lives of knights-errant: eating, sleeping, and dying in battle. These are the types of things the idealist Don Quixote ignores in his travels, often to his detriment.

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