March 4, 2017

Don Quixote by Cervantes: Rhetoric-Stage Reading and Musings

Today I continue the analysis of D.Q. with the help of the rhetoric-stage questions in TWEM book. Again, analysis does not flow easily for me, but I've done my best :)

Do you sympathize with the characters? Which ones? Why?

I really relate to D.Q.'s desire to live his favorite books. Is there a bookworm who doesn't? Although his aspirations turn to delusions, his reason for committing all the outrages is very understandable. I also feel like S.P. pretty often - the urge to stop somebody talking about advanced moral matters by a down-to-earth sarcastic remark. And it pains me to miss lunch too! :)

Is the novel self-reflective?

Yes, and it's one of the central points of the novel. It explores how fiction can affect people, what happens to a book before (like writing a preface) and after the publication (public finds errors, imitators steal the idea). It poses questions of trustfulness of sources (Cide is "only an Arab", can he we believe what he writes?). It also looks at how the lives of people are changed once they become popular through books. Differences in the worthiness of books of different genres are underlined (novels vs. accounts of real events) and it's acknowledged that even literature for pleasure has a right to exist if well-written (book-burning scene).

Is there an argument in this book?

Cervantes states himself in the preface and in the end that the purpose of D.Q. is to mock and condemn chivalrous romances, but I don't think that's the real point of the book. First, the novel is much bigger than would be necessary for this one argument, and second, it defies this argument by being too true to the original that it's supposed to ridicule. I tend to think that what Cervantes wants to say is that books have real power, but this power is not rooted in reality, so too much immersion into books can disconnect you from the real world. And, after all, there is no getting away from the real world.

I'm really glad that TWEM list made me read this. As I've mentioned, I enjoyed it much more than I'd expected. Somehow, someway, the novel does not feel outdated at all (well except for the humor), and the characters really come to life on its pages. I'm not surprised at its immense popularity now, as it's a true classic. So if you're afraid of its size (you can easily kill somebody with the tome by just dropping it on them), don't be! Although it does take a lot of time to get through it, it's still very accessible, and you would not regret the effort!

One down, 30 more to go! Now on to Bunyan!


  1. A very thoughtful review. I want to like DQ, but I've read it twice...I wouldn't say I dislike it, but I'm just not a big fan. I do think it's an important piece of literature though, and I'm glad to have read it.

  2. Great argument: books do have real power, but too much could corrupt one's imagination, right? I don't like to hear people say that they read to "escape reality." I prefer people read to think and engage. If we have a strong foothold in reality, we aren't swept away by such fancies - like DQ. I feel bad for women who are still looking for Mr. Darcy (let's say for sake of argument). He does not exist but in Jane Austen's mind.


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