Book I: Chapter 30-Chapter 32 Summaries
In the course of leading Don Quixote to "the great kingdom of Micomicon," Dorotea and the others intend to lead Don Quixote back to his home in La Mancha. At several points, the priest has to intervene and help "Princess Micomicona," as she is telling her story to Don Quixote. Though Princess Micomicona offers her hand in marriage, Don Quixote is entirely devoted to his lady, Dulcinea. Quixote demands that Sancho give him the details of the trip to deliver the letter to Dulcinea.
This request puts Sancho in a situation much like Dorotea's, for he is forced to create a hopefully plausible story without extensive preparation. Quixote asks whether Dulcinea was stringing pearls or embroidering something for him, but Sancho replies that Dulcinea was merely "winnowing two bushels of wheat in a backyard of her house." Quixote keeps demanding fanciful and romantic details, but Sancho denies Quixote his pleasure. In the end, Sancho Panza explains that not only is Dulcinea illiterate, but she is also far too busy to pause in the middle of the day to read a love letter.
In Chapter 4, a young man named Andres was severely beaten by his master, John Haldudo the Rich. Don Quixote threatened to kill Haldudo for severely beating Andres and also for refusing to pay Andres for his labors. Haldudo promised to repay Andres, but when Quixote continued down the road, Haldudo beat Andres even more severely and then fired the boy, as opposed to paying Andres for his labor. At the end of Chapter 30, Andres crosses paths with Don Quixote and he does not have pleasant words. Indeed, Andres mocks Quixote as an incompetent knight. For his part, Don Quixote vows to kill Haldudo once he has learned what has happened. Andres assures Quixote that he need not waste his time because he will only "cause more harm than good." Don Quixote chases Andres down the road, intending to chastise the young man for his insolence. Andres easily escapes and Quixote is sorely embarrassed because his reputation has been tarnished.
In Chapter 32, the group of six travelers (Cardenio, Princess Micomicona, Sancho Panza, Don Quixote, the barber, and the priest) arrive at the same inn that Don Quixote and Sancho Panza hurriedly exited at the close of Chapter 17. Don Quixote is removed to sleep in a quiet room, for the innkeeper remembers Don Quixote's madness. Don Quixote is the topic of conversation and nearly every one participates (including the innkeeper, his wife, his daughter, and Maritornes the half-blind hunchbacked laborer). Sancho Panza does not offer much of a defense of his master's behavior and the group is generally disapproving of Quixote's frivolity. Most of the individuals do believe that Quixote's madness is the result of reading too muchand specifically, too much chivalry. The chapter ends when the innkeeper discloses that a guest has left an antique trunk of books and papers. The priest is intrigued and he begins to read a story from the collection.
Don Quixote does not understand the impropriety of his decision to free the galley slaves. Is Don Quixote a hero? He helps the unfortunate with no respect to their crimes. The re-appearance of Andres in Chapter 31, reminds us of Don Quixote's ignorant error in Chapter 4. Don Quixote is unable to render justice. In chapter 32, Don Quixote is asleep, all others convinced of his insanity. In terms of the immediate plot-drama, Quixote is almost a non-entity. Even when he is awake, it is as if Quixote is sleeping or has his eyes closed. The "players" can shed their disguises and yet Don Quixote does not perceive this fact upon sight.
In terms of genre, the novel increasingly resembles a cycle of stories, like The Decameron or Canterbury Tales. Unlike those works, this novel does not feature storytelling characters on a pilgrimage. In chapter 32, the inn assumes the traditional literary role (symbol of hospitality). At the same time, it represents a microcosm of Don Quixote's society. Here, the characters have separate destinations and not all of them are travelers. Several, though not all of the characters get the opportunity to display their storytelling talent, and this group ultimately includes individuals who might not have been given a voice otherwise: women, the poor, young people, Moors (non-Christians).
The theme of storytelling intersects with ideas of truth-telling and deception. "This, gentlemen, is my history" is a suitable statement for a character to make when presenting her autobiography; Dorotea, however, tells a false autobiography. She hesitates at the beginning and cannot remember her name (Princess Micomicona, daughter of Tinacrio the Wise and Queen Xaramilla). The priest prompts Dorotea and corrects the errors throughout her story. We can wonder about the logical repercussions here, and the semantics of Dorotea's factual error within her lie, within a fictional work. It seems somewhat paradoxical that Dorotea could make a genuine mistake in the middle of telling a made-up lie. The priest's correction was no truer than Dorotea's original erroneous claim.
All the same, Don Quixote believes what stories "resemble the style and manner of his foolish books." The priest's correction is more correct in a stylistic or aesthetic sense. For further clarity, the reader can consider two similar quirks of the work. Recall that in Chapter 7, Quixote's niece lies and tells the knight that "the sage Muñaton" has wrested away the library. Quixote replies that it was not Muñaton, but Friston. We can also consider the return of Sancho's mule, Dapple. This is a discrepancy within a work of fiction, the error of the humans who produced the book, not the error of a fictional being. (In Book II, however, this discrepancy will be accounted for and explained away, though not in the most convincing manner.)
These details are important because of the context of the novel. Cervantes' work, published in 1605, was already sensitive to a number of meta-literary concerns. On a primary level, we can say that Book I is concerned about books: Don Quixote loves literature; literature affects Quixote's life. But these levels are increasingly complex: Quixote wants to become like literary characters; literary ideals conflict with the real world; books are burned. And Quixote is not the only character for us to focus upon: Cid Hamet Ben Engeli has translated a fictional work and injected his own opinions. The author, Cervantes, has invented Cid Hamet Ben Engeli, a "straw man" with whom to argue. Cervantes says that he wants to eradicate the influence of the anti-realism of chivalric books. Characters argue about the aesthetics of realistic portrayal and what makes a book good or bad. Numerous characters tell stories, write letters, compose poems, and debate the merits of literature as well as literary characters.
In between the publication of Books I and II, an imposter sequel is published: a man only known today as "Avellaneda" created his own Book II, published it as Cervantes' own, and reaped profit. As a consequence, Cervantes' sensitivity to meta-literary concerns is greatly heightened in Book II, and these "quirks" of Book I are discussed in the sequel.
In these chapters, premature literary criticism takes the form of a critique of the novel as a potential genre. Remember that the novel was not an established writing form at this point. It matters when the characters discuss a story's claim to present the whole truth. It matters that the novel is able to allow different characters to speak and that letters, arrest warrants, and elegiac poems can be read out aloud 'into the record,' so to speak.
The book fetish is intended to be a simple motif. The book is mysterious and potentially dangerous: a manuscript has been left in a trunk and abandoned. The trunk implies travel and foreigners or perhaps, a foreign land. Travel suggests wanderlust and imagination, like Quixote'san open door. The danger of foreignness occurs even as the narrative warns about Cid Hamet's literary treacherya closed door. We are left to wonder: Is one of these books Don Quixote? In his "Preface," Cervantes set out to blast the books of chivalry but now there is empathy with almost every text portrayed.