While rightly upholding moral idealism, Quixote wrongly attempts to perpetuate outmoded customs and traditions and thus becomes a living anachronism. The message of Cervantes is that while one should embrace eternal truths, he should not wear the mantle of yesterday in upholding them. Cervantes adopted this motif as the central theme of his novel when he began writing Don Quixote as a parody and satire poking fun at escapist, unrealistic, romantic novels of the past that still enjoyed a large following in his time. But after Don Quixote and Sancho Panza began to come alive as endearing characters battling a flawed, passionless, and sometimes corrupt society, Cervantes downgraded this theme in favor of promoting the humanity of Quixote and Panza. Cite examples from the text which support the view that the main characters are more endearing in their nature than satirical. How is the late fifteenth century Spanish society in Don Quixote reflected in our contemporary society with regard to the cruelty in our world? Which theme do you think is more prevalent in the text?
Don't forget to bring your rough draft to class on Monday.
Don Quixote Essay Topics
1. What is the function of the prologue to Don Quixote? How does it compare with other prologues you've read? What kind of a book does the author claim he has written? What is the point of his conversation with the intelligent friend?
2. What is the function of travel in Don Quixote? Why do Don Quixote and Sancho need to leave La Mancha for their adventures to occur? How does the role of the journey in this text compare with other texts where journeys play a central role? What happens when the two return?
3. What is the role of the imagination in the narrative? What is the relationship between imagination and the "real" world? Why do characters imagine things to be different than they are? Are some fantasies more valid than others?
4. What is the role of romance in Don Quixote? How does this text play on the conventions of romance as you've experienced them in other texts? Pick one episode and describe the way it revises the stock characters and situations of chivalric romance.
5. What is the role of reading in this text? In what ways is reading dangerous or corrosive? Does the narrative endorse those characters who criticize the reading of romances? Or is the narrative voice more critical of their position? What is the relationship between reading and imagination? Are some kinds of reading valorized over others?
6. What is Sancho Panza's role in the narrative? Why is it important for Don Quixote to have a companion? What part does Sancho play in his adventures? What is the relationship between Sancho's social class and the parts he plays?
7. To put the question more broadly, how does this narrative deal with issues of social class? What kind of a person is Don Quixote? What is the relationship between his class position compared to the courtly life he is so nostalgic for? What are the differences among social classes drawn by this narrative?
8. Pick one important passage and analyze it in detail, commenting on its significance to the work as a whole.
9. Pose your own question and answer it. Include the question at the top of your paper.