Book Review: The Adventures of Don Quixote

  • Jules David
  • I wrote this English essay in high school. I remember I was accused of plagiarizing, and feeling frustrated because I didn't.

    Don Quixote is an unforgettable character who illustrates the tragedy of insanity in the most comical and classic way. His story “The Adventures of Don Quixote” is full of fascinating characters, intriguing mini-stories, and bold plots that demand readers’ attention. This novel by Cervantes was written in 1604 and is still considered as a classic (Cervantes Preface), with its genre a cross between comedy and romance. The story begins by introducing an ordinary gentleman who is soon defined as anything but ordinary by the sanity that he loses from the books he loves to read so much “for two days and nights on end.” (Cervantes 15) The books he reads are about knights and their adventures that becomes his fanatical obsession, until he begins to translate them into reality. He begins a new life as Don Quixote de la Mancha, a knight, who rescues “the distressed, chained, and oppressed persons” (Cervantes 93) while on the search of his princess in distress. Insanity makes the poor man see everything as a knight, and throughout his ridiculous journeys he is accompanied by a loyal, yet a simpleton; Sancho Panza. Their adventures become increasingly extreme as they meet friends and strangers who give either sympathy towards the man’s insanity or a good beating in response to his confusing actions. Neither cures Don Quixote of his blind madness until the end however, when he finally departs the world realizing he was fooled by the ranched books he loved so much.

    This novel, as it was written in 1604, has an antique tone that is different from other books, and the dialogue within the characters reminds the readers of the medieval time. Almost like Shakespeare, characters speak with such politeness and in riddles, such as when a girl named Dorothea tries to fool Don Quixote into coming home. “What I ask… of your magnanimity, you shall come with me instantly where I shall lead you… (and) engage in no other adventure or enterprise.” (Cervantes 91) Which he answers; “I repeat that I grant your request…and so, lady, from henceforth you may cast off the melancholy which oppresses you.” (Cervantes 91) These tones the author uses are effective in taking readers back to the past in the medieval times. It has a “Shakespearean Charm” (Bradley 2) to it, with the fancy words and the tangling of the words within the narration and dialogues. Another aspect of this novel is of course the characterization. The fascinating characters from the novel draw in the readers’ absolute attention for the fear that they will do something even more drastic than before. Which, Don Quixote does continuously. Such as when he angers people at an inn by foolishly killing two men, frees criminals from their chains while they were on their way to their punishments, drinks not once; but twice a “balsam” made of ingredients that makes a man throw his stomach out, or when he engages in a combat with a lion. (Cervantes 10,63,57,177) Don Quixote proves to be a one of a kind character with his outrageous course of actions, which alone makes the book amusing to read, as well as forces the readers to take another look into the characters’ personalities to laugh and understand them.

    The story of Don Quixote may be entertaining, but behind the jokes there is a man who has completely lost his mind, his reality, and his health. As comical his story is, there is the tragedy of a poor man who gave up his peaceful life in his village to go after a world that only existed inside his head. It is quite tragic when Don Quixote tells his dear friend Sancho who has been with him through his whole adventure; “My judgment is now clear and free from the misty shadows of ignorance with which… continuous reading of those detestable books of chivalry had obscured it. Now I know their absurdities and their deceits…” (Cervantes 205) It is here when the theme: too much of a good thing is bad for a being, is illustrated and emphasized. In any means reading books are not harmful; but when one becomes so obsessed and absolutely helpless to a fantasy, they begin to be unaware of the reality. This one dialogue alone calls for sympathy from the readers, and the fact that he said this while ill on a bed during the last days of his life illuminates this theme to the extreme. The last ending of the novel is quite ironic, because the character who seemed unbeatable during his whole extravaganza of insanity suddenly lies on his bed in his home village admitting his foolishness. The fact that he realized he was mislead by his own mind and that it was too late, transforms Don Quixote from a comical hero into a tragic hero in the end.

    I personally enjoyed the book, and found affection for the characters such as the unforgettable Don Quixote, simple and kind Sancho, and the calm, wise Dorothea. It was a novel that made me yearn for my own childhood books with knights and chivalry, which I was once fascinated with also. Not as much as our hero, of course. Elderly books definitely have their charm, especially one as enjoyable as “The Adventures of Don Quixote.” This novel had so many little stories within the story, not always concentrating on one person, and had many characters who interacted with one another to keep me interested. I would recommend this book to younger kids, for the adventure our hero Don Quixote let me enjoy while reading it, and I hope that I will never let a good book take my sanity away.