Don Quixote Book I

The Balance of Power: A Struggle for Interpretation in Don Quijote

It is difficult to read more than one or two pages of Don Quijote de la Mancha without coming across an example of the union (or conflict) between the extraordinary and the mundane. Indeed, Cervantes uses this juxtaposition repeatedly as his principal comic device, generally at the expense of poor, mad Don Quijote, whose overzealous perception of the ordinary world around him drives the novel. At the same time, the squire Sancho Panza consistently comes down on the side of reality - but only when immediately faced with the obvious error of his master's sensory perception of the world. That is, Sancho accepts and even appears enthralled by Quijote's eloquent description of the chivalric life, but when faced with either the absurdity or potential peril of action according to the knightly code, he turns back to what he knows: the safe, everyday world with which he is familiar. As we will see, this schema becomes especially apparent in the contiguity of and seeming discontinuity between Chapters 20 and 21. These two chapters seem to run in opposite directions: while Sancho dominates the first with his aborted story and his secretive defecation, Quijote takes over the second with his excitement at Mambrino's helmet and...

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