The story tells about Don Quijote, who’s real name was Alonso Quijano, a member of minor nobility from the village in La Mancha.
This is a story, a satire of medieval romances, based around the fictional character of “Don Quijote”, a decidedly human hero and the many aspects of life of that time and age: love, politics, religions and food.
The story tells us, in the very beginning, that Don Quijote had read too many books on chivalry and had began to imagine himself as a knight. That’s when he set out on a crazy quest, what the novel is all about.
Cited as one of the best literary works ever written in 2002, people around the world have become familiar with the iconic text and characters of Miguel de Cervantes’ “Don Quijote” for over 400 years. Don Quijote was published in two parts, the first in 1605 and the second in 1615, in the time of Spanish Golden Age. At this time Spain had conquered parts of the Americas, which not only brought riches to the nation but anchored an era of the arts.
A commemoration to the Spanish novelist, there is a statue of Don Quijote and his fellow companion Sancho Panza in the Madrid’s main square “Plaza de España”:
Don Quijote: overview
Don Quijote (also known as ‘Don Quixote’) is an hidalgo who reads so many chivalric novels that he decides to take up his lance and sword to defend the helpless and destroy the wicked. This all goes to his head to the point where he goes crazy and actually starts outfitting himself as a knight. He believes that he has been called by voices to change the world and right all wrongs.
He recruits a simple farmer, Sancho Panza, as his companion for his quest. This character is the complete opposite of Quijote; ignorant and naive, lazy, fat and greedy. Sancho’s character often employs a unique, earthly wit in dealing with Don Quijote’s rhetorical orations on illusional knighthood and bears brunt the punishments that arise from Don Quijote’s behavior. It is no coincidence that Quijote’s companion is names Sancho Panza, panza is the Spanish word for belly or paunch. Quijote has a bony old nag named Rocinante as his ‘horse’ whereas Sancho has an ass named Dapple.
Don Quijote is met by the world as it is, initiating such themes as intertextuality, realism, metatheatre, and literary representation.
Quijote is seen as living a panorama of a world power in decline: Cervantes (world famous Spanish novelist) gives Quijote ironic and satirical ideals about what aristocracy means, Quijote is confronted with extols of simple life of shepherds and journeymen.
Don Quijote has selective vision of the real world. Windmills are giant brutes, sheep are attacking armies, and slaves are oppressed gentlemen. This reflects the author’s theme of satirizing the Catholic Church at the time, (giant brutes, flailing their arms), and making fun of the Spanish government going to war, (like a flock of sheep). Quijote is an idealist seeing things through rose-colored glasses at times. He fights impossible symbolic battles while the rest of the world says it can’t be done and mocks him for trying. It is ironic that a crazy man is showing humanity the “right way” to live.
This character has survived the centuries demonstrating his universal appeal to all.
Symbolism of Windmills
Windmills are greatly portrayed in the novel. Why is this you may ask? When Quijote starts to act (literally turns) a bit crazy, he begins to think that windmills are giants and some kind of enemy. Trying to save the world from evil, he attacks the windmills but fails miserably.
Metaphorically the idiom Tilting at windmills means “attacking imaginary enemies”. A context that can be taken further and connotate “tilt” as a form of jousting, the sport of two men on a horse riding towards each other on opposing side with lances in hand. Essentially the symbolism of fighting for the better good, that actually turns out to be an idea of a man taking a task (of attacking a windmills), which is both irrelevant and unreasonable to the aim of making a better world.
Castilla La Mancha, where Don Quijote is said to originate from, is land to old windmills and Spain’s mily delicacy; Manchego Cheese, known as “Queso Manchego” in Spain. Click here to learn more about Manchego Cheese!