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.

Breaking Book Stereotypes

We all know in the world outside of books–What? A world outside of reading? I know, might be hard to grasp, but it’s true–we have social stereotypes. Jocks, Band Geeks, Nerds, Cheerleaders, Ect. But, a realization whacked me the other day. (Realizations should be nicer, but they always just spring upon you when you’re not looking) Book stereo types exist and they should be broken, or at least tried to be broken. What are these “book stereotypes” you may ask? It has to do with people who ONLY read ONE KIND of book and NOTHING ELSE. Some of these include: Romance novel fanatics, Science Fiction junkies, The Classics snobs, Non-fictions stiffs, and Anime addicts. To clarify any confusion, I’ll go through them in order. (Be warned these are explained to the extreme. Some descriptors may not always apply)

romance 1. Romance Novel Fanatics:
These people are the ones who often hesitate to share what they are reading for fear of appearing unintelligent, because, let’s face it, Romance books are all they read; not to mention they may be embarrassed by the cheesy cover. You see, most of the time these people really aren’t all that into the whole “reading thing”. They just like dramatic soap-operas or heart-felt chick love stories. This way, wrapped up in a portable book, they don’t have to wait for their show to air; they can transport their portable package of happy sap along with them where ever they go, look smart, and reach happily ever after without even having to know anything past basic 4th grade English skills.
Geek 2. Science Fiction Junkies
I’m pretty sure we all know someone like this. The people who are constantly getting into debates about the logical physics of worlds set in the future and often gather in large legions to have LAN parties or watch Star Trek (the original, obviously). If you find someone who knows how to speak Klingon, likes to watch Firefly, knows who J.J. Abrams is, fights over which doctor is better, and has read any or all book by Orson Scott Card and/or Douglas Adams they are most likely a Science Fiction Junkie.
book snob 3. The Classic Snobs and Non-Fiction Stiffs
I figured both of these fit into the same type of category. One main point they have in common is that both feel they are better than the average person because they’ve read more Classics than you, look down upon you for not having read Count of Monte Cristo or because their understanding of the real world excels that of a fiction reader who spends his/her time mesmerized by silly fantasies. Heaven forbid you tell one you dislike Shakespeare. Or only read fiction.
anime Anime Addicts
Then there’s the anime addicts who are forced by the power of the anime and or manga "books" (yes, they still are books despite the abundance of pictures) to stay up till three AM reading them. They usually and enthusiastically discuss the books speaking with words so foreign, it seems almost like a different language. Unless of course they are actually speaking a different language like Korean, Japanese, or Chinese, which many do. Often times their discussions deal with figuring out whether a seemingly gender neutral character is a guy or girl or ravishing in the drawn out love triangles.

But, what’s the essential point here? It’s: why be a stereotype? Why read only one type of book or media? It only limits people’s perspectives on things. I also believe where book stereotypes begin, real life stereotypes follow. Maybe more readers should stray from their comfortable section of the library, grab a new book and break their book-stereotype. Besides, Who wants to only be one color in a world of black and white? Who wants to only read one book?