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Essay on Don Quixote Gone Insane

The tale of Don’t Quixote de la Mancha is noted as the first modernly written novel, and has impacted many different works throughout history. Within the tale of Don Quixote de la Mancha, by Miguel Cervantes, the reader is told early on that the protagonist, Don Quixote, has gone mad due to his incessant reading tales of knight-errantry, and chivalry. Although, throughout Cervantes’s story there are times where it seems Don Quixote may be aware that his delusions aren’t actually reality and it isn’t until the end of the tale that he admits to having his sanity.

So, one may ask, did Don Quixote really keep his sanity whilst his overactive imagination mixed with an obsession and a desperation to live life as a knight-errant cause him to go out seeking deathly dangers, or was he just drifting in and out of his sanity while in a battle with mental illness? Don Quixote is described as an older man in his late 40’s who has too much time on his hands and becomes obsessed with reading tales and poems of knight-errantry.

Due to this “he spent his nights from sunset to sunrise, and his days from dawn to dark, poring over them; and what with little sleep and much eading his mind got so dry that he lost his wits. ” (Cervantes, 26). From almost the beginning the reader is left to decide that Don Quixote has gone insane and lost all concept of reality. Which this then led to his deciding to become a knight-errant himself and in his own honor and in service to the country of Spain.

He collects his uncle’s old moldy armor and polishes it, to piece together his very own suit of armor. Before embarking on his quest as a knight-errant he creates a princess to love and vow for just as all the knights in the tales do. Don Quixote then sets ut on a course for adventures and comes across an Inn in which he envisions as a castle and asks the innkeeper, or king, if he would do him the honor and dub him a knight so he can partake in battle with other knights if willing.

The innkeeper seeing he is clearly out of his wits and Don Quixote is on his way. He later acquires a squire from his home village by the name of Sancho Panza and they continue onto many adventures and misfortunes on Don Quixote’s behalf. The two part tale ends with Quixote on his death bed insisting he is indeed sane. This eaves the reader to question if his preposterous nature was all a facade or not. Assuming Don Quixote’s madness was genuine, he would be diagnosed with schizophrenia in today’s day in age.

Schizophrenia, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5, “is characterized by delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech and behavior, and other symptoms that cause social or occupational dysfunction. ” (www. dsm5. org). This disease was not officially distinguished between other disorders until “Kraepelin first isolated schizophrenia from other forms of psychosis in 887” (Burton). Thus giving reason to believe Cervantes had purposefully fabricated Quixote’s madness, although the idea of one being insane was completely normal for the past.

Don Quixote exhibits many traits of schizophrenia from early on in the novel and up until almost the very end. One of the most memorable hallucinations he has is when he battles “giants” while Sancho calls after him, pleading for him to not proceed with his invasion upon them because they are not giants, but in fact just mere windmills. Don Quixote ignores him while he plummets forward on his trusted stead Rocinante to defeat the any giants. A wind casts and a sail from the windmill strikes him with such a blow that even his horse is knocked to the ground.

Upon Sancho’s arrival and aid, Don Quixote says that the “same sage Friston who carried off my stud and school books, has turned these giants into mills in order to rob me of the glory of vanquishing them” (Cervantes, 63). This gives the readers the impression that not only did he actually believe the windmills were giants, but once he was struck by the sail he pronounced that some sage must have transformed them from giants to windmills. Giving more evidence that he may actually be battling with a mental disorder.

Farther into the tale, Don Quixote and Sancho stumble upon an inn, or castle as Don Quixote presumes it to be, they are badly injured from one of Quixote’s attempts at a chivalrous battle. As a homely maid comes in and mistakenly takes Don Quixote’s bed for another’s he speaks of such beauty she has and tells her of her flattery but he just cannot betray his Princess Dulcinea Del Toboso. Confused, she tries hiding in Sancho’s bed, and the intended knocks out Don Quixote. A multi person fight breaks out etween Sancho, the intended, and the Innkeeper.

Once Quixote reawakens he asks Sancho to get ingredients for his pain remedy, which once consumed makes him vomit uncontrollably and pass out. He once again awakens but this time feels as though he had regained all strength and begins to leave. The innkeeper informs him that he must pay what he owes him, Quixote just realizing this is an inn and not a castle tells him that within the tales knights were to be given housing and food for free for their duties they provide to all. He then leaves on his horse.

He tells Sancho that the inn must have een enchanted, and that is why everyone was acting so violently and rudely towards him, a knight of the round table. This particular section depicts how no matter what the situation was that Don Quixote had an explanation for why anyone would act negatively to his delusional thoughts and outrageous actions. One inspiration for Don Quixote’s maddening idea to keep seeking knight-errant related feats is the idea that he is doing it all for his one true love, the Princess Dulcinea Del Toboso, whom of which is never seen or met throughout the entire novel.

This leaves readers left to think if she too was all ust part of Don Quixote’s struggle with keeping his sanity, or was she just another force he kept around to keep going on these many misfortunate exploits. There is a time in chapter twenty five of part one when Don Quixote has Sancho send a letter, in which he professes all his love for Dulcinea. Sancho then finds out that Dulcinea is not a princess nor is she named Dulcinea. She is a daughter of a man in their village. And Don Quixote explains that he has only seen her four times over the past twelve years and he was not even sure if she had known he was looking at her.

Sancho agrees to take the letter, but upon the arrival he realizes he does not have the letter and returns to Don Quixote. In part two of the story, Don Quixote thinks he sees Dulcinea, although in reality it is a homely country wench, and goes to Sancho telling him what has happened. Sancho being the companion he is tells Don Quixote that she must have been enchanted. Dulcinea is used as a force of inspiration to keep Don Quixote dedicated to his dreams of being a knight- errant.

Knowing that love was one of the main themes in tales of chivalry he too created his own romantic motivation since he id not have one of his own. When further analyzing the actions and decision making that Don Quixote did he exhibits a keen awareness to his surroundings, even if he lets on that he is envisioning something else. Let it be the copper basin he decides is really the golden helmet of Mambrino under enchantments, or choosing to fight valiantly with innocent passersby on a whim that they may be wrong doers.

Those were all conscious choices he contrived so he could partake in adventures like the knights he had read about and aspired to be. Throughout the novel during almost every adventure, or isadventure, Quixote would reference a great knight from a tale he had read, and how bravely they fought and what recognition they received for their services. From the love life he did not have, to the fame and glory he may have desired to go alongside the adventurous duties of a knight, he had immersed himself into a world where all this was true.

The way Don Quixote sees the world, substituting his idea or perception for whatever exists out there – all this leading Don Quixote to consider his idea of reality as truer and more real than reality itself” (Courtney) by doing this he created his dreams a reality or him to relish in for as long as he could. As Johnson states that his “madness,” as one would call it, can be seen as “self-creation instead of determinism, liberation instead of conformism” (11) insisting that it is a way to truly let what is yearned for come to life without caring what those around you may think.

Which is exactly what Don Quixote did. Without Miguel Cervantes decision to write Don Quixote de la Mancha the way he did we may not have the writing styles we have today or our novels. He chose to not write in poetry like the fictitious books of this era were written. According to Fuentes “it is known for being a modern novel for having various languages, before this all characters spoke the same language. It had recognizable and in depth characters, and the dialogues between Sancho and Don Quixote.

It also contained a story within a story, with the narrator cutting off from the story to find where it left off” (Fuentes). Many different works have used Don Quixote de la Mancha as a source of influence, or simply used Don Quixote himself as a character type within the piece. It is said that the Disney film Toy Story had the characters Woody perceived as Sancho and the role of Don Quixote given to Buzz. Buzz “misreads reality in an attempt to play this self-assigned role while Woody throughout the film, suffers hardship and physical abuse due to his acquaintance with this deluded newcomer” (Burningham 159).

Eventually, like the original Don Quixote Buzz comes to his senses and accepts that he is in fact just like everyone else, or in his case a toy and not a space ranger. Don Quixote de la Mancha is not a tale of a man who has gone mad, but instead a story of a man who set out to fulfil his aspirations no matter the cost. While doing so he managed to ake a friend, a name for himself, and memories to share with those of which he came across during his quest for chivalry and knight-errantry.

Cervantes has given the world a work of literature that will stand the test of time with the many different elements it holds. Whether it is addressing the seriousness of what mental illness can do to a person, or encouraging others to become who they have always wanted to be in life Don Quixote de la Mancha will always be an important influence for whomever reads it. With the still relevant comedy of today and overall unique feeling to it any one is sure to enjoy it.

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