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Don Quixote | Study Guide

Miguel de Cervantes

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Don Quixote | Part 1, Chapters 9–11 | Summary

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Summary

Part 1, Chapter 9

There is a break in the action while the narrator hypothesizes about why the rest of the story is missing. He describes how he found the missing manuscripts in a marketplace in Toledo, then picks up Don Quixote's story just as he and the Basque are about to destroy one another. The Basque slices off the left half of the Don's armor along with most of his helmet and part of his ear. The Don retaliates by dealing the Basque a severe blow to the head, but he agrees to spare the man's life.

Part 1, Chapter 10

Sancho Panza thinks he's about to be rewarded with an island, but all Don Quixote can think about is his broken helmet. Revenge isn't an option because he promised to let the Basque go free, so he decides he will instead take a helmet of the same quality from another knight. They eat a meager meal of "simple rustic food," mostly bread crusts. They stop at goatherds' hut for the night. Sancho Panza is disappointed, but Don Quixote loves sleeping under the stars. It makes him feel like a knight.

Part 1, Chapter 11

Sancho Panza and Don Quixote dine with the goatherds. Don Quixote beseeches Sancho Panza to eat from his plate, but Sancho Panza says that he "can eat a lot better in [his] own corner, without any fussing or show of respect." Don Quixote then gives a speech about the Golden Age, which is followed by a song from one of the goatherds.

Analysis

Don Quixote's delusions of knight-errantry make him braver than he—an untrained fighter with makeshift weaponry and armor—has any right to be. His idealism gives him the confidence to try things that would otherwise seem impossible. It also helps him find the silver lining during less-than-ideal situations, such as when there isn't much food to eat or when he and Sancho Panza have to sleep outside.

For all his talk of wanting the finer things in life, Sancho Panza is far more comfortable in his position as peasant than as an equal to his master. His "privacy and freedom" mean that he doesn't have to wipe his hands or suppress a sneeze at dinner. Unlike Don Quixote, the things Sancho Panza actually wants are things with which he is already familiar. The glory Don Quixote seeks is nice in theory, but there are too many risks involved for Sancho Panza's comfort.

Though the narrator says that Don Quixote's speech about the Golden Age "could just as well have been omitted," it provides the reader with insight to the cause of his madness. Spain's Golden Age is considered to have existed from the late 1490s to the late 17th century. It was a time of great art and literature, and patriotism was at an all-time high, following a partial unification of Spain's political parties. Though it was a time of prosperity and good fortune, Don Quixote believes the first part of the Golden Age is far superior to the times in which he lives. According to him, food was plentiful, the water was clean, and everyone shared their wealth, even the "nice and careful" honeybees. Justice "remained firm and sure," untainted by bribery and self-interest. This is a stark contrast to Don Quixote's present, which he calls "an era of abominations."

Don Quixote has fallen victim to the human tendency of remembering the past as being better than it actually was. He wants to go back to the chivalrous days of the early Golden Age, but such a utopia never existed. Perhaps his mental state isn't insanity, but rather a conscious fulfillment of his desire to experience a world free of sin and the error of human folly.

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