Don Quixote Book I

Liberty in Cervantes's Don Quixote

In the Prologue to Don Quixote, Cervantes presents his protagonist as a ÃÂÂdry, shriveled, whimsical offspring... just what might be begotten in a prison, where every discomfort is lodged and every dismal noise has its dwellingÃÂ? (41). But if conceived in an Iron Age of limited religious, social, and intellectual freedoms as the product of CervantesÃÂÂs own poverty and privation, Don Quixote liberates himself through his transformative capacity, first of his will and imagination and later of his reason. Alongside this is the parallel tale of the squireÃÂÂs own pilgrimage to personal freedom. Cervantes uses the characters Don Quixote and Sancho Panza to advance his argument for liberty in literature and society, and when this is not possible, in the individual.

Don Quixote can be read not as an ÃÂÂinvective against the books of chivalryÃÂ? but as an invective against the abuse of literature (46). As Part I opens, Don Quixote has ÃÂÂstumbled upon the oddest fancy that ever entered a madmanÃÂÂs brain,ÃÂ? one that moves him to take up arms as a knight-errant and venture out into the world, ÃÂÂredressing all manner of wrongsÃÂ? (59). He is enslaved to a chivalric fiction, though this is a fiction of his own narration: he chooses...

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