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Thread: Is Don Quijote Really Mad?

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    Is Don Quijote Really Mad?

    Yes, Don Quijote attacked windmills and was dillusional. But was he really mad? Don't people today decieve themselves that money will make them happy, or that they can live however they want without consequences? So yes, Don Quijote is a bit extreme. But is he really deceiving himself any more than modern day people, who strive to reach an unobtainable goal or chose to ignore reality? I'm not so sure that Don Quijote crazier than the average person.

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    Considering that there is no clear line between sanity and insanity, it is hard to answer this question. Don Quixote definitely does not act like most people. If that qualifies him as being crazy then so be it...
    Don Quixote chose to be a knight errant for three reasons: (1) to help others, (2) to live an adventurous life, and (3) to achieve fame. What got him continuously in trouble was that instead of adapting his vision to his environment and circumstances, he insisted on pretending the world is the same as the way it was described in the books of chivarlry. I say he "pretended" because he was quite aware of what was really happening around him. And because he was fully aware of the reality, he needed to somehow justify the discrepencies which he cleverly blamed on "enchantment".
    I admire him for having the courage to lead his life the way he wanted to, even though he knew full well that others judged him as being insane. As Don Quixote himself so eloquently replied to the man of the cloth who accused him of being an idiot in front of his hosts the Duke and Duchess:

    "Tell me this: for which of the idiocies that you have observed in me do you condemn me and insult me...?Is it perchance an empty nonsense or a waste of time to wander about the world in search not of pleasure but of the rough and rutted footpath up which the virtuous climb to the heights of immortality?"

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    Didaskalos Tou Genous Manalive's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hfxmining View Post
    So yes, Don Quijote is a bit extreme. But is he really deceiving himself any more than modern day people, who strive to reach an unobtainable goal or chose to ignore reality? I'm not so sure that Don Quijote crazier than the average person.

    Don Quixote was written in an interregnum-- between the old medieval world and the new emerging skeptical modern world. (two views that still fight over things today.) So I like to think of Don Quixote as part of that Medieval world that had romance at it's heart; And the rest of the characters as belonging to the more modern world of "reality" and doubt about everything. He was delusional but not insane. "The world of romance, which no doubt represents a dream of heroic existence, articulates ideals that elevate the human enterprise: courage, strength, courtesy, beauty. The narrator's presence reaffirms those ideals but adds another dimension: attachment to the homely, prosaic details that ground poetic idealism in the critical company of mundane reality. The classic comic pairing of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza deliberately brings opposites together. It reveals the superficial distinctions between "the ideal" and "the real" that cover human experience. When Don Quixote sees a knight on a steed wearing Mambrino's helmet, Sancho sees a barber on an *** carrying his basin on his head. The narrator intervenes with the "truth" that lies between the two: the barber wears the basin as if it were a helmet. This last view, which accepts the presence of multiple perspectives, calls on the readers to question and enlarge their first impressions."
    "Do I dare disturb the universe? Do I dare to eat a peach?"-- T.S. Eliot

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    Quote Originally Posted by Manalive View Post
    The classic comic pairing of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza deliberately brings opposites together. It reveals the superficial distinctions between "the ideal" and "the real" that cover human experience. ."
    Yes...That's an interesting interpretation. One should really look at Don Quixote and Sancho together as complementary aspects of humanity. They represent the non-ending struggle between idealism and realism. Don Quixote is not complete without Sancho Panza, and Sancho Panza becomes a better man in the company of Don Quixote.
    Thank you Manalive for pointing this out.
    What about the ending? At the end of his life Don Quixote becomes "sane" again. As though he was defeated and finally decided to give up his convictions for the sake of conformity. Is that an argument against free will? Is this Cervante's way of telling us that we can not escape who we are, and that at the end, our idealistic values and ambitions can not change the path we are on no matter how hard we try or how strongly we believe in them?

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    That is a plausible read of the ending, but it is interesting that the towns people, who had tried so hard to bring Don Quixote back to sanity, begged for the old "crazy" Don Quixote when he did indeed choose to denounce his past extravagances. Perhaps it was these characters who learned the lesson, and who had been wrong the entirety of the story in trying to make Don Quixote into something he was not. What do you think?

  6. #6
    I found I was ambivalent at the end. On the one hand, Don Quixote was inspiring to the people around him. He achieved things that would have been impossible had he never left his town. And in the end, the same people who had tried to change him, missed the person Don Quixote had been throughout the story. On the other, he was definitely insane and hurt many of those he encountered. It seems like Cervantes leaves the final judgment up to the reader.

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