Wednesday, November 11, 2009

El ingenioso hidalgo don quijote de la mancha

well i'm almost done reading El Quijote for the second time this year and i think it is a super duper book. the fact that its two parts were written in 1605/1615 respectively was never the most exciting aspect of the book when i approached it years ago for my first attempt at reading it. this time around i've had much more fun, many more laughs and have seen much deeper into what don Quijote represents as a literary figure for me.

just to set the stage a little: don Quijote sets out at the age of 50ish to change the world by restoring the lost practice of chivalric knighthood, along with his reluctant squire Sancho Panza: (rough translations will follow) "to go throughout the world with his arms and horse to find adventures y to behave in such a way as to imitate all that he had read that the former errant knights did, righting every class of injustice, and putting himself in occasions of danger so that he would earn eternal fame." whoa, DQ, take it easy!

so for most of the book he's a comedic character. he thinks windmills are giants and so he attacks them, unsuccessfully. he thinks an innkeeper is the lord of a castle and thus he has found a worthy man to bestow him with the office of knighthood, which the innkeeper happily and laughingly does. he challenges a charging herd of sheep to a duel only to find that they were not the great army that he had seen approaching. as he lay trampled and toothless, he reminds his squire: "you must know, dear sancho, that it is a very easy thing for these enchanters that pursue me to make anything appear to be anything else. this evil enchanter who pursues me, envious of the glory that he saw to be within my grasp in this battle, has turned the enemy legions into flocks of sheep!" lol, DQ!

the thing that really gets me about DQ is not his comedy of errors, although there is constant fodder for laughter here -- just after the herd tramples him, sancho asks, unsure:
"how many molars do you normally have in this part of your mouth?"
"four!," responded don Quijote, "except the wisdom tooth, all are whole and healthy."
"look carefully what you say, my lord," responded sancho.
"i say four, if not then five," responded don Quijote, "because not in my whole life have they taken a tooth or molar out of my mouth, nor have any fallen out from infection or lack of care."
"but in this part below," sancho said, "your mercy has not more than two molars and a half; and in the part above, not even a half, not even one, it is all as flat as the palm of my hand."
"what awful luck!" cried don Quijote, hearing the sad news that his squire gave him, "i would have rather they tear off my arm, as long as it would not be my sword-weilding arm."

lol, Qui-hotes!

anyway, the thing that really gets me is not DQ's comedy of errors, it's who he represents. and who he represents for me is a man with ideals, beliefs and hope who ultimately fails to see any of them realized. don Quijote is a tragic figure who embodies the tragic figure in all of us who, though we cling as tightly as we must to our personal idealism and the things we believe to be true/just/right/holy, may find that those things are ultimately never realized completely. he is a personification of the tragic human condition of limited vision. yet, beyond that tragedy, there may be a rejoicing in our ability to believe passionately and with assurance something that we are as yet unassured of. through the character of don Quijote, i see that faith is at once one among the strongest and weakest of man's instruments to relate to the world around him. with it we may gird up our convictions and motivation for living (as el hidalgo DQ does), but by it we are ultimately left flailing our sword against a deep, dark madness.

its a tragic, beautiful madness, though, if you ask me.


millhouse said...

I like this.

aaron wk said...

you need to blog now, millhouse! pay it forward (ugh)!

Wee Katie said...

your last sentence=yeah. unh. preach.