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Don Quixote is among the most influential novels ever written. It explores the shifting boundaries of truth and illusion. The author is a narrator who self-consciously narrates and makes us constantly aware of his presence and is preoccupied with literary criticism and theory. With his post-modernist tendencies he has become a novelist's novelist par excellence.
Often called the first modern novel, Don Quixote originally conceived as a comic satire against the chivalric romances. However, Cervantes did not destroy the chivalric ideal of the romances he rejected - he transfigured it. The works have been seen as a veiled attack on the Catholic Church or on the contemporary Spanish politics, or symbolizing the duality of the Spanish character.
Neither wholly tragedy nor wholly comedy Don Quixote gives a panoramic view of the 17th-century Spanish society. Central characters are the elderly, idealistic knight, who sets out on his old horse Rosinante to seek adventure, and the materialistic squire Sancho Panza, who accompanies his master from failure to another. Their relationship, although they argue most fiercely, is ultimately founded upon mutual respect. In the debates they gradually take on some of each other's attributes.
During his travels, Don Quixote's overexcited imagination blinds him to reality: he thinks windmills to be giants, flocks of sheep to be armies, and galley slaves to be oppressed gentlemen. Sancho is named governor of the isle of Barataria, a mock title, and Don Quixote is bested in a duel with the Knight of the White Moon, in reality a student of his acquaintance in disguise. Don Quixote is passionately devoted to his own imaginative creation, the beautiful Dulcinea. "Oh Dulcinea de Tobosa, day of my night, glory of my suffering, true North and compass of every path I take, guiding star of my fate..." The hero returns to La Mancha, and only at his deathbed Don Quixote confesses the folly of his past adventures.
Howard Mancing has gathered convincing textual evidence, in his "Cide Hamete Benengeli vs. Miguel de Cervantes: The Metafictional Dialectic of Don Quijote" (Cervantes, I , 63-81), to show how the Arabic historian becomes more significant in Part II as a character providing comic relief and as a foil to Don Quixote.
There is no doubt that Cervantes, in his overall narrative strategy, realized the usefulness of pitting one narrator against another, with a translator in between; this dramatic multiplication of superimposed narrative voices, adjoining the voices of other characters in dialogue, indeed creates a "metafictional dialectic" that is richly confusing in its complex ambiguities. And the implied reader delights in his own simultaneous role as accomplice and victim of the author's illusionistic devices. (Jane P. Tompkins, ed., Reader-Response Criticism: From Formalism to Post-Structuralism (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980)
In view of such complexity, I believe that Mancing makes a serious mistake in trying to oversimplify the situation from the outset by asserting (p. 64) that the "beginning " of the Prologue to Part I and "the author of the final, edited text" are both identical with "the person referred to on the title page where it says 'compuesto por Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra'" and "the first-person editor who appears occasionally in Part I." This problem is not so easily solved. In fact, Mancing returns to it on the following page (note 5) with these words:
It is the nature of the first-person fictional narrator to reveal his identity. When the narrator is not a character in the work or an identified fictional editor he is assumed to be the person whose name is on the book's cover. This does not, of course, mean that it is a literal truth that Cervantes had a friend with whom he carried on the conversation recorded in the prologue The Cervantes who edits and narrates Don Quixote may be fictionalized, but he most certainly is Cervantes.
According to this, since the "editor," who "may be fictionalized," did not identify himself with any other name, "he most certainly is Cervantes." It seems to me that the literary analyst gains nothing by applying the same name "Cervantes" both to the man of flesh and blood born in 1547 and to the traditional narrative voice, or "yo," which speaks to the reader in a phrase such as "de coy hombre no quire accorder."
In fact, one might even say that it is a natural impossibility for "the first-person fictional narrator to reveal his identity" in any full sense. But I am not here proposing ontological or metaphysical speculations; for purely practical reasons I think it behooves us, as we analyze Don Quixote, to distinguish as clearly as we can between author or writer, editor or primary narrator, translator, and Arabic historian, just as we distinguish between author, Don Quixote, and Santo Panzer, or between Don Quixote and Don Quixote.
Not that the author himself always helps us to draw very clear distinctions. To write is to pose the problem of personal identity; even in a private letter or in a diary the writer's voice seems often to speak of "quand' era in parte altr' uom da quel ch'i'sono. (Ines Azar, "Meaning, Intention and the Written Text: Anthony Close's Approach to Don Quixote and its Critics," MLN, 96 (1981), 440-44, and Mary Louise Pratt, "The Ideology of Speech-Act Theory," Centrum, new series, I (1981), 5-18.)
Margit Frenk has recently shown how the "yo" of the prologue to the Lazarillo begins as the voice of the (anonymous) author and ends by transforming itself into the voice of the narrator Lazaro (whom the reader can often distinguish from the protagonist Lazarillo). Cervantes used in Don Quixote fundamental novelistic devices of this sort some of which he had probably learned from reading the Lazarillo. (Lazarillo de Tormes. Autor -- Narrador -- Personaje," in Romanica Europaen et Americana: Festschrift fur Harri Meier (Bonn: Bouvier, 1980), ed. Hans Dieter Bork et al., pp. 185-92.)
Nowhere is this lesson more evident than in his prefatory pages, prologues and epilogues. One expects the author not to fictionalize himself in his dedications, at least; but the dedication of Part I to the Duke of Bejar is largely plagiarized from Fernando de Herrera, and in the dedication of Part II to the Count of Lemos a fictionalized Cervantes engages in dialogue with a fictitious envoy from China. (Even one of the ecclesiastical approbations contains suspicious dialogue.4)
At the beginning of the Prologue to Part I, a fictionalized Cervantes encourages the implied reader to confuse Don Quijote the character with Don Quixote the written text; the written and typographic conventions available to Cervantes and his printer did not permit or require the clear distinction that our conventions impose upon us as twentieth-century writers and readers.
And, in the epilogue to Part II, when Cide Hamete addresses his pen, the reader can not be sure at exactly what point the voice of the pen yields again to that of Cide Hamete, or even, perhaps, to that of the primary narrator. (John J. Allen, Don Quixote: Hero or Fool? Part Two (Gainesville: University Presses of Florida, 1979), p. 24)
The question of identity, literary or otherwise, is not a peripheral one in Don Quixote. The alienation of the protagonist, as a reader who has merged his own identity with that of the knights whose adventures he has read about, is central to the novel itself.
When Don Quixote uses the phrase (I, 5) "yo se quien soy," not to assert the conventional aristocratic identity of self which guarantees the word of a man of honor, but to fragment his own identity ("y se que puedo ser no s lo los que he dicho, sino todos los doce Pares de Francia, y aun todos los nueve de la Fama..."), we can hear behind the scenes the voice, not of the narrator, but of the author Cervantes, suggesting through the rhetoric of fiction the problematic nature of human identity, especially the identity of a reader caught up by the written words of a work of fiction, as we are, at least in part, by Don Quijote.
Don Quixote is the best book of all Literature. Not only because all the narratives elements such as the different narrators, the characters, etc. But also for what Cervantes wanted to say. He not only wanted to satirized all the novels of his time but he said very important things about the human been. I don't like when people pity him because he was mad, he wasn't sad or had a horrible life, he was happy in his fantastic world, why feel sorry for him? He was more happy than anyone in this world, after all he said: Se quien soy y lo que puedo llegar a ser.
That's a good point. Don Quixote although satiric, shows an extreme example of what human happiness is made of -- fantasy and imagination. What is life without a little romance?
Cervantes follows the pattern of the picaresque 'Chivalric Romance', which depends on a succession of chance adventures. We are told…[continue]
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