Book I: Chapter 47-Chapter 52 Summaries
Cooped up in the cart, Don Quixote says that he has never read of enchanted knights being transported in this form, and so it must be a new form of enchantment. Sancho argues with the knight and tries to explain, logically, that there is no enchantment. The barber threatens to throw Sancho inside the cart and so, the squire is quiet.
Meanwhile, the priest is interested in reading a manuscript that he had obtained from the innkeeper, just before leaving.
While traveling, the group encounters a "canon" who serves a religious function. The canon is not a fan of the books of chivalry, though he once attempted to pen such a story himself.
Later, the group has lunch and the priest opens the cage and permits Don Quixote to exit. Quixote discusses chivalry with the canon and he manages to be both brilliant and ridiculous in his arguments. Besides recounting his own adventures to the canon, Quixote also tells the tale of the Knight of the Lake. During lunch, a goatherd named Eugenio approaches the group.
Eugenio, the goatherd, ends up fighting with Quixote, much to the amusement of the group. Don Quixote causes more trouble by attacking a group of holy pilgrims. They are carrying an icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary within a cart: Quixote believes that they are criminals who have kidnapped and imprisoned a good lady. Holy or not, the group defends itself and Sancho is convinced that Don Quixote has received his last beating. Panza offers a very moving elegy for his dead master, but Quixote is not dead, of course. Quixote has been beaten so severely that he now goes home willingly.
Sancho returns home to his wife, Juana (at other points, her name is "Teresa"). "Juana" wants to know what Sancho has brought home as justification for his long time away from home. The squire says that he has won a governorship. Cervantes, as narrator, tells us in the final pages of Book I that even though Don Quixote is quietly taken in at home, his housekeeper and niece are right to fear that the "knight-errant" will soon grow restless.
Finally, Cervantes discusses the manuscripts of Quixote's adventures, telling us that he has found additional texts that he will prepare for translation and subsequent publication. We have more of Don Quixote's stories to look forward to, then: a third expedition.
In Chapter 48, yet another religious figure (the canon) offers literary criticism. The canon argues that works of comedy appeal to the masses but offend serious literary critics, whereas, serious works that disengage the masses are acclaimed by the critics. The canon's remarks are amusing in light of Cervantes' literary output: the novelist's early works were both less comedic and less acclaimed than Don Quixote. As Book I comes to a close, the canon's references to government censorship and literary taste, recall the novel's earliest chapters.
In conversation, the canon is amazed that Don Quixote integrates reason and foolishness. If Quixote has gone mad, he has not gone completely mad. In the canon's eyes, Don Quixote parallels Don Quixote, as seen through our eyes. Like the character, the novel presents the plausible and the absurd, with little regard for the distinctions between them.
The enchantment constitutes a change in Don Quixote's environment, but this enchantment does not resemble what Quixote knows from his stories. Still, he concludes that the relevant passage of text must have been lost. This enchantment cannot be a new thing. Don Quixote remains devoted to his orthodoxy.
Sancho Panza stands out as the one character willing to reason with Quixote, in part, because Sancho knows that he will not win his island if Quixote returns home. In Chapter 49, Sancho Panza expands upon the theme of delusion and truth-telling by incorporating forms of logic, evidence and proof. Using deductive reasoning, Sancho argues that Quixote is not suffering from an enchantment because Quixote needs to relieve himself. The storied descriptions of enchantment make no mention of the enchanted suffering the urgency of bodily functions. Quixote replies that the omission of this detail does not preclude the possibility. In Chapter 3, Quixote follows the (first) innkeeper's advice to carry shirts and money with him, even though Quixote "never read in the histories of knights-errant, that they carried any." The innkeeper's logic is that with "the authors thinking it superfluous to specify a thing so plain, and so indispensably necessary to be carried, as money and clean shirts, it was not therefore to be inferred, that [the knights] had none."
The larger question involves the form and function of the modern novel, and the extent to which the novel can and ought to capture the details of everyday life. Critics enjoy pointing out that Cervantes introduces a question that remains controversial three centuries later. Virginia Woolf railed against James Joyce's 1922 novel, Ulysses, because the fourth chapter narrates a character's minutes in the outhouse.
Don Quixote illustrates the fear that man might revert into a beast without social structures and constraints. Set free from his cage, Quixote battles a goatherd, and enacts a parody of his own story of "The Knight of the Lake." He attacks a pilgrimage, perceiving an icon of the Virgin Mary to be the hostage of the penitents. He is a hostage, newly freed, and he seeks glory by freeing a perceived hostage.
The end leaves very much undone: Sancho returns home, persistent in his belief that he will become governor of an island. Quixote has made no decision regarding Dulcinea. Quixote has not been arrested, nor has there been an exorcism, nor a conversion. Indeed, Quixote has said precious little to suggest an alteration in his future plans.