Don Quixote Book II

Don Quixote Book II Themes

Narrative Accuracy and Literary Complications

Narrative accuracy was a leading theme of Book One, and in Book Two this theme encompasses several different concerns. In Book One, the focus on narrative accuracy involved two distinct lines of analysis. The first involved Cervantes as a translator who was sometimes in competition with Cid Hamet in regards to what actually occurred and how it should be recorded. The second involved the priest mainly and other internal characters. These characters either told stories of their own past (their histories) or read stories and documents into the record of the novel (for example, "The Novel of the Curious Impertinent"). In Book Two, Cervantes and Cid Hamet have largely resolved their differences and moreover, there are fewer of the discursive ramblings of minor characters. In Book Two, then, the "narrative accuracy" theme focuses on three areas: The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote de la Mancha, Avellaneda and the Second Part of the History of Don Quixote, and the "history" vs. "story" tension.

Within the story of Book Two, The Ingenious Gentleman has been published and widely read. Essentially, this novel is Cervantes' Book One, but in Book Two, we read that The Ingenious Gentleman has been written by Cid Hamet. This is the true novel, whose rival later appears. In terms of this novel's accuracy, there are three things for us to keep in mind. Time: Don Quixote is bewildered by the fact that the novel has created a paradox of time, for it was published so soon after these adventures had ended. Indeed, it must have been written as it was happening. Quixote concludes that it is the work of a "Moorish sage." Fame: Don Quixote and Sancho Panza enjoy the fame that The Ingenious Gentleman brings, but this leads to complications when they discuss how the story is best told. Quixote wants the literature to expand his own fame and proclaim his valor. Sancho wants the story to tell the truth. Writing vs. Publishing: Cervantes tells us that there were some typographical errors in Book One (TIG) and that we should not confuse the errors of the writer with the errors of the printer. This only complicates the relationship between Cid Hamet (original author) and Cervantes (editor-translator). The question of whether or not - and if so, how - Dapple was stolen is a good example of such an Œerror.'

Avellaneda published a sequel to Cervantes' work. Well past halfway through Book Two, The Second Part (TSP) appears, much to the horror of Don Quixote and Sancho. They feel violated: their identities have been usurped. Somewhere, within the world of Book Two, there is another Don Quixote and another Sancho Panza: imposters. The largest irony here is that Avellaneda's work was entirely unexpected. Cervantes had begun developing these themes without considering the possibility of the imposter sequel. In the end, it was not difficult for Cervantes to establish his context as the dominant, defining one. Don Alvaro Tarfe, one of Avellaneda's characters, appears late in Book Two. After meeting the real Don Quixote and Sancho, Tarfe goes as far as to give notarized testimony impeaching the credibility of Avellaneda's work.

Finally, the word "historia" in Spanish refers both to a Œhistory' and a Œstory.' Throughout Book Two, Cervantes blurs the roles of translator, historiographer and historian. In terms of "form" vs. "content," there is the argument that the way in which a story is presented can determine whether or not it is considered true ("history") somewhat independent of the actual details. The question of whether or not these histories of Don Quixote are true histories written by the true authorities, implies that there is a true story behind the published works.

Idealism and Realism

Don Quixote is an idealist, but Don Quixote is a novel founded upon realism. Quixote's idealism often takes the form of faith. He believes in "transformations" and "enchantments" that make the world a worse place - but Quixote believes that good is powerful enough to overcome these evils. He invents Dulcinea, mourns her "enchantment" and fights for her "disenchantment." Ultimately, Quixote believes in a world where a weak and elderly man like himself, can still contribute to good in a meaningful way. There is a fine line between Don Quixote's idealist imaginations and downright heresy. Indeed, on his deathbed Quixote has been healed by Heaven - not of his physical ailment, for he surely dies. Rather, Quixote is cured of his wild thinking. After this "repentance," Quixote is "so proper, so rational, and so Christian" - the perfect Spaniard. We are not used to seeing religion and rationalism ordered in opposition to faith and idealism, but Quixote's imaginations are so other-worldly that they go beyond the bounds of traditional faith.

Don Quixote is a tragicomic novel. Much of the contact of tragedy and comedy comes in scenes when Quixote's idealism bristles against reality. When Sancho grabs for a "Dulcinea" at random, it just so happens to be a seriously ugly girl: reality is harsh. Don Quixote has been somewhat mistreated in a number of inns that he has mistaken for castles. When Quixote arrives at a real castle, he is treated far worse than he was in his imaginary castles. The castle of the duke and duchess exceeds the inns for mayhem, cruelty and violence.

Virtue, Nobility and Social Class

This theme is developed more fully in Book Two. The relationship between Don Quixote and Sancho Panza is important because Quixote is a gentleman and Sancho is a peasant. Quixote argues that he is Sancho's "natural lord." In the course of Book Two, Sancho becomes Quixote's caretaker. Also Sancho is forced to wrestle Quixote to the ground, physically dominating him. Also, Sancho briefly serves as governor of the town of Barataria (his "island").

Sancho also serves as a critique of the Duke and Duchess. These two characters mock and abuse others for the purposes of their own wicked amusement. The duke and duchess lack noble virtues and ideals. Ironically, their real castle is far more corrupt and dangerous than the Œenchanted' inns that Quixote mistook for castles earlier in the novel. Sancho, the peasant, has more virtue than the nobles, despite their class distinctions. In Cervantes' era, virtue was considered to be linked to nobility and birth. Poor people were born without the moral distinctions and inherent virtue of the wealthy noble classes.

Masks, Disguises, and Deception

This theme is not as major as it was in Book One. Gone are the priest, the barber and their artifices. In Book One, these characters worked to fool Don Quixote into coming home. Sampson Carrasco does this when he dresses as a knight and defeats Quixote. Most of the disguises and masks are worn by the staff of the castle. Doña Rodriguez, for example, is also the Afflicted Matron, and later on she is the mother of a wronged maid. Altisidora pretends to be a love-sick maiden, and towards the end of the novel she performs in her own funeral rite - only to be rescued from death at the last minute. These costumes blur the line between deception and delusion because Quixote sees what he sees. In Book One, Quixote imposed a vision upon the visual field and then supplied a story. Here, Quixote sees clearly. Unfortunately, he cannot see through the disguises.