The genius gentleman, Don Quixote: Two clashing satires in the same story

Mateusz “Sketch” Gorski ’18, Entertainment/News Editor

This month on The Lions’ Roar, I would like to recommend a work of literature that has been described by world renowned authors and critics as the “best novel ever written.” I am talking about Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. This book is not only a great read, but it is also a great piece of satire.

Without spoiling much, the simple premise of the book takes place in 16th-17th Century Spain. The protagonist is an older man, quite intelligent, who is obsessed with romantic books—books about great heroes and gallant knights who uphold chivalry and protect their fair maidens. However, long nights of reading, and almost complete lack of sleep, lead to this man completely losing his mind. In a delusional craze, he starts to believe that he himself is a gallant gentleman knight errant. He longs for adventure and prepares himself for the journey of a lifetime. He creates his own armor, making a helmet out of a saucepan, equips a lance, and picks out a malnourished horse as his mighty steed. Dubbing himself “Don Quixote de la Mancha,” he recruits a bumbling peasant named Sancho Panza, and sets off for glory and adventure. Of course, hilarity ensues.

Don Quixote is known to be a satire, meaning it uses irony, exaggeration, ridicule, or humor to write a criticism of something.  However, this book is interesting in how it handles its themes. It satirizes not only the romantic literary traditions of Spain, but also the people criticizing who give in to their fantasies. The book is two competing satires in the same story.

Don Quixote is something called a “frame story,” meaning it is a multi-layered story, reading the main story through the eyes of another fictional character. This character is the author, Miguel de Cervantes himself. He carries an overwhelmingly negative opinion of the romantic stories, saying things like: “The fall and destruction of that monstrous heap of ill-contrived romances, which, though abhorred by many, has so strangely infatuated the greater part of mankind.” But the main story provides criticism of such critics who think so. It is a daunting concept, as it is two different messages clashing against each other in the same book, but it is an interesting concept nonetheless.

Don Quixote is a long read, but it is considered one of, if not, the greatest novel(s) of all time. It is an interesting concept to discuss and think about, while also being humorous. I recommend it to all who love literature, and I hope that you enjoy it.

Photo courtesy of DalmiBooks.com

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