Don Quixote Book II

Deconstructing Madness in Crime and Punishment and Don Quixote

Madness and sanity seem to exist on opposite poles of a binary; one is defined by the absence of the other. However, this binary, though present in Fyodor Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment and Miguel de Cervantes' Don Quixote, is problematic. The protagonists - who are meant to represent the mad extreme - straddle the line that separates sanity from madness, and they thus refuse to be so easily classified. While the authors demonstrate that such a binary cannot explain a complex human character, they extend their argument one step further: madness is not an agent that results in irrational human behavior, but a description of such behavior. One is not irrational because he is mad; one is considered mad by society because he is behaving irrationally. To gain an understanding of the reason for certain behavior, one must consider each thread in the web of causes that shape identity and effect action.

Cervantes encourages the reader to conclude that Don Quixote is undoubtedly mad. The reader is easily convinced because the third-party narrator is presented as objective and omniscient. The narrator describes Don Quixote as having "utterly wrecked his reason" and fallen "into the strangest fancy that ever a...

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