The novel recounts the adventures of an elderly Spanish gentleman who reads too many books about chivalry and decides to become a knight himself. He convinces a local farmer, Sancho, to become his squire, and thus the self-proclaimed knight, Don Quixote de la Mancha, goes off in search of adventure. Unfortunately it quickly becomes obvious that Don Quixote is quite insane. He goes to a nearby inn and convinces the inn-keeper to "knight" him. Don Quixote designates a certain peasant girl as his "lady," and then sets out to revive knight-errantry. When Don Quixote attacks windmills and flocks of sheep claiming that they are giants and disguised armies, Sancho and others recognize Don Quixote's insanity and try to convince him of it. However, Don Quixote stubbornly insists that the others are too simple to recognize the truth and claims that these everyday objects only appear to be ordinary because they are really enchanted. However, despite of Don Quixote's insanity, it soon becomes obvious that he has a kind heart and a strong sense of pride. He takes it upon himself to help everyone he meets who needs assistance, and expresses an earnest willingness to suffer and even die rather than to abandon his principles. Eventually, one of Don Quixote's friends who is intent on making the knight end his mad adventures disguises himself as a knight and defeats Don Quixote in “battle”. Being vanquished, Don Quixote has no choice but to abide by the terms of the battle which require him to stop acting as a knight for one year. In humiliation the gentleman returns home with Sancho and regains his sanity. Don Quixote becomes deathly ill, apologizes to his friends for being a fool, and dies.
The novel was written at the beginning of the 17th century and quickly became popular through much of Europe. The setting is Spain in the 16th century and depicts everyday life during that period while also satirically abusing the romantic image of knighthood.
The third person mode of narration is employed. Don Quixote is a picaresque novel, that is, it is satirical but written in a quite realistic style. It ridicules the romantic image of knighthood but is also very humorous and often light-hearted.
Although Don Quixote is a rather hefty novel, it moved very quickly for me. One adventure immediately follows another, and there is humour on almost every page. It is undoubtedly my favorite book; although on the surface it is a fun and amusing book, its depiction of Don Quixote and Sancho also delve into the human condition and forces the reader to question what is really important, what it means to be successful in life, and what exactly is morality. Although most of the novel is quite light-hearted, it does end on a rather sad note with the main character's death. The novel is often regarded as one of the greatest ever written, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who is willing to tackle a long book.
Book Reviewed by Zachary Zuccaro
Did you read this book too? Got an opinion on it? Share it!