Shawn Sorensen's Reviews > Don Quixote

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
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's review
Aug 08, 09

bookshelves: fiction

A far-flung adventure full of intelligent, flowery writing, important historical references, adroit name-calling and both over-the-top and understated humor. A lot is going on here - and it all works. A timeless, vital, unforgettable story.

The commentary on madness - what Rumi would call "the freedom of madness" - is what I found most intriguing. When Don Quixote's reputation of madness starts spreading throughout Spain, he's treated as an entertaining sideshow, without much concern for his physical well-being. It's about this time that insane asylums started in western civilization, which have their purpose but create another dehumanizing demarcation of 'us', the normal people, vs. 'them', the crazy ones. Toward the end of the book it seemed like Quixote was the one who needed protection from mainstream society.
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Shawn Sorensen Just brilliant-a terrific exploration of the self (Sancho Panza) versus the ego (Don Quixote), very telling and interesting considering our current president and, above all, great literature.

Philip He needed protection from mainstream society the whole way through the book.

Shawn Sorensen And what do you make of the protection he needs? Insane asylums are so far from the conscience of most people, yet all most people know is what they've seen in movies like "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest". Would Quixote have been better in an asylum, or does he need the freedom of the open road and the protection of Sancho, who sees the better sides of his nature?

Philip I don't know. I think while he was with his family they did an ok job. The asylums weren't really for him.

My point was more that you said, "Toward the end of the book it seemed like Quixote was the one who needed protection from mainstream society." But he was getting himself into crazy situations from the very start of the book. The levels of his... ?dementia? remained essentially the same. It's not like they kept getting worse and worse. Sometimes they were pretty bad, other times they were only relatively bad.

Did you read The Life of Pi?

Philip Oh, and Quixote was trying to protect society and only ended up hurting himself, but he also hurt several innocents along the way.

He needed protection from society, but society also needed protection from him.

Shawn Sorensen I think his 'dementia' essentially stayed the same throughout the book, and yes, he did put others in danger (I think of the shepherd boy who got flogged again), but I would say that people took more advantage of him as things went along. He got beat up pretty bad at the end of Part 1, and his acquaintances stood there and laughed at him. They threw him in a catch for awhile, they let him release a tiger (or lion, can't remember) from a cage in Part 2, the Duke and the Duchess had all sorts of fun at his expense in Part 2... It seemed like in Part 1 they were amazed with him, in Part 2 most people knew all about him and laughed at him behind his back, at the very least.

Yes, I read Life of Pi and was amazed with it. Why do you ask? Any parallels with Quixote?

Philip I don't know. It was in part two that he was with the people that promised Sancho his island, right? They seemed like they weren't really taking advantage of him as much as they were intrigued by him and hence wanted to humor him - and Sancho to some degree.

Keep in mind it's been like 2 years since I read this.


Yeah, I saw some parallels. It seemed to me that both of them were on these crazy, intense journeys.

At the end of the book we're given two versions of the story, how it happened, and how the character says it happened. It's up to the reader to decide what to believe. Maybe Pi was on the boat with a tiger. He certainly believed he was, and it makes for a much more beautiful story.

I'm not trying to argue any sort of post-modern/ existential/ the world is whatever you see arguement, but just that Quixote might not have been completely insane. And maybe to some extent he knew it.

Philip My friend is reading this book for his Masters class and I took him to your review. He appreciated it.

I can't believe I didn't click that I liked your review before... I most certainly did.

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