I was not expecting Monty Python. Don Quixote, considered the first modern novel, was not at all the serious classical literature that I was expecting. Instead, it was a hilarious mockery of the romantic knight books of the time (1600s).
Don Quixote, a knight-errant (a knight who seeks adventure), joins forces with Sancho Panza, his squire, to attempt to live the adventurous life he has read about in romantic books about knights. First problem is that Don Quixote is not a knight. He quickly, and humorously, remedies that and then seeks to live by the knight code by helping those in need, rescuing damsels in distress, and easing the suffering of mankind. He does this all for his lady, Dolcinea del Taboso, whom he never once meets.
The result is a hilarious series of adventures that does the opposite of his goal – he instead harms those in need, gives more distress to damsels, and adds to the suffering of mankind. The stories were so funny that I often found myself laughing out loud, something I rarely do while reading. Yet, within the humor, there were some very important ideas and lessons. The humor threw me off guard enough to open me to some of the more philosophical sections of the book.
One theme that was very interesting throughout the novel was that of truth and reality. The narrator of these stories about Don Quixote says that everything he has stated is the truth. However, Don Quixote is under serious illusions that he is a knight and that he is helping the world. Don Quixote and Sancho also have major differences in how they view their adventures. Which one is the truth? Don Quixote waxes poetically about a topic and yet the listener’s response is that he’s a madman. Does that negate the truth of what he said? These were just a few of the fun ways that truth and reality were addressed in this novel.
Overall, this was not my favorite classic novel I’ve ever read, but it was highly enjoyable. Don Quixote is an unforgettable character, and I’m sure I will now see his influence in films, novels, and plays.