Don Quixote: Define Insane (Book Review)

quixote-picasso-lg_1Disclaimer: *Spoilers

“for there is no book so bad, as not to have something that’s good in it” (Cervantes)

Yeah, I’ve been putting this review off and I also couldn’t think of any proper way to write this review without mentioning the ending; it could have been done, but it would have been boring because although this exiting classic has many, many, great lessons in it, the ending completely changed the way I though of it.

When reading a book I, along with many other readers, often have trouble not emphasizing with the main character, which is usually the author’s main intent. In this story–one of the world’s first modern novels– written by Miguel de Cervantes (originally in Spanish), the reader follows a “mad” or “crazy” Don Quixote (his made-up knight name) on his knight-errantic adventures: “Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.” (Cervantes) We “know” he lacks sanity by his unexplainable actions: claiming inns are castles, hiring a simple farmer (named Sancho) to be his squire, claiming various things are enchanted, etc. (though there is some debate to whether Quixote was faking his insaneness or truly believed in his endeavors). We feel sympathy for him because we consider him to be naïve: he doesn’t know any better. But at the same time I think to myself, what makes him any less sane than anyone else? If anything he should be more sane for not letting any obstacle get in his way of protecting valiance.

Along Quixote and Sancho’s humorous journeys, Quixote eventually bribes his loyal “squire” with government of an isle–one he doesn’t even own–which I believe Sancho deserves, but is never exactly given to him by Quixote. Instead, later on in the book, Don Quixote literally whips his sleeping, loyal servant for the purpose of freeing his “love”, Dulcinea, from an (imagined) enchantment; Quixote was tricked into thinking Merlin himself prescribed the antidote of lashings. Though, Dulcinea is actually just an average peasant. Personally, through the majority of the story I empathized with Quixote more than I did with Sancho because Quixote’s goal is to live his life with chivalry–a cause rarely seen these days–while Sancho acts as his silly follow along, that is, until the end of the book.
Having just lost a joust against another, Quixote solemnly renounces his knighthood as he had promised he would if he lost–on top of his pride being wounded. Then, going with Sancho back to his town, he falls ill. In his near death illness he claims his insanity has cleared and he now sees he was wrong. He has renounced all that he had been living for, looking down on the values he once held high. Meanwhile, Sancho still holds onto and tries to restore his master’s faith of his earlier beliefs.

Now, after going though 1000 pages of his adventures in pursuit of constant gallantry, I’m thinking WHHHAAAAT? How could you possibly think this? How could you possibly look down upon your ideals? Unless of course, he truly is insane. Maybe the author’s purpose is to indirectly ask us what we think about Quixote’s ideals. Whether or not Cervantes meant for that to be the meaning, I think the meaning is to ask ourselves this: do we want to aimlessly go along and conform to what society tells us is normal or “sane”, or do we want to strongly fight against that, and stand for our values, even if people think we are crazy?

“They (stories of knight-errantry) are already going down, and I do not doubt but they will drop and fall altogether in good earnest, never to rise again.” (Cervantes)

Final Thoughts: All together it was an amazing–but slightly tedious–novel. It’s one you shouldn’t read with a sleepy brain, though it’s definitely a read that will make you laugh loudly at times, and make you reflect upon yourself and your actions.

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The Last Bullet

I was standing there in the lonely shadows so I could be hidden from view when I saw it happen. The only other person in the Hall of Mirrors was a rotund, middle aged man, breaking the no food rule by eating a banana. He had a mustache and wore a bowler hat; I figured he was a tourist having a noon snack and would soon continue to tour Versailles. Everything else appeared to be normal; except that no guards were visible, which, having been here before I knew something was off.
Then as I watched the man, he started making choking noises, having obvious trouble breathing. Before I had time to reveal myself to help him, he dropped over dead like a fallen tree. I had been told by my boss—who I’d been working with for a while now, and dreaded disappointing—to watch for suspicion as a key clue to finding my target. I found suspicion, which meant no good Mr. Mort was not far behind. Exiting my hiding place for further investigation, I checked the man’s mouth to find the cause of his death. Opening his limp mouth I found the evident smell of Cyanide; one of the poisons I had been trained to recognize. Bending down over the corpse, I searched through the pockets of his grey trench coat to find a green and gold German translation book, two Hershey’s chocolate bars, and a Blackberry. Interrupted, I heard the light echo of footsteps coming from my right, I looked and saw a tall male silhouette. The sun shone through, hitting off the mirrors, making it near impossible to see who was approaching. The footsteps continued, suddenly the light dimmed, my surroundings became darker. The silhouette morphed, revealing a man. This blonde haired man who entered wore a red bandanna around his head and a muscle-suit, revealing his large biceps as well as a large abstract tattoo covering his neck.
“So Jack, everything here seems flammable. We can rid the evidence before anyone finds out”, he said. Then recognition hit me. I had seen his face from the countless hours spent analyzing photos of him, I was certain. Maybe, just maybe, the man who stole my Victoria and he are the same person. Though, his features seemed slightly changed from my memory of the man who took her. Maybe my suspicions were wrong about this George Mort being the same man who took Victoria several years ago. People could change their names. Either way, he matched the criteria of the man I was sent to kill: George Mort, age 32, height 6ft 1, weight 210, born in London and hired by the boss of the famously known Bloody Gang of Paris. Currently he thought that I was on his side, which benefited me.
I contemplated how he did not recognize me. Silence continued. Though neither of us shot there was a loud bang! A gun fired, coming from who knows where, bullets ricocheted around us; all was confusion. George yelled muffled swear words, which were covered by the smashing sound of the mirrors as they shattered; the broken shards hit the stone hard floor in slow motion. The shooting ceased and the shooter became visible. He said,
“George, it’s me, Jack. Looks like we have a dirty mole on our hands. Probably works for them: Barnes Co.” Then George looked me straight in the eyes and said with a tone of voice, which would frighten small children—and even adults,
“Who are you then, my sneaky friend?”
As I, Thomas Benson, placed my thumb on the smooth metal trigger of my 1895 silenced revolver I replied,
“I’m just a dirty little mole,” Before he had time to react, I pulled the trigger; the bullet hit him right in the heart: I wanted him to have a slow painful death because this—I was sure now—was the man who had caused all my suffering. It was revenge for myself and revenge for my Victoria because she was incapable now of getting revenge. I could tell his blood had started flooding his lungs because he had trouble speaking, but I still heard him say,
“You, I think you should know something.” Taking his last breaths he said faintly, but clearly,
“I am not the real George Mort”
I just murdered the wrong man. Shit, I thought. This is the end. But, that was not the end because I had not planned on George (real or fake) to have a friend. Both Jack and I gripped our guns, and our fear; shooting back and forth, aiming to kill. Then, out of nowhere came the sound of two distinct gunshots. The first one flashed, killing Jack: he fell. My mind never had enough time to process what was happening or who was shooting before I heard the second shot. It hit me: I fell. The shooter: George Mort, age 32, height 6ft 1, weight 210, born in London and hired by the boss of the famously known Bloody Gang of Paris.