Cervantes' Motivation for Writing Don Quixote

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Cervantes' Motivation for Writing Don Quixote Miguel de Cervantes' greatest literary work, Don Quixote, maintains an enduring, if somewhat stereotypical image in the popular culture: the tale of the obsessed knight and his clownish squire who embark on a faith-driven, adventure-seeking quest. However, although this simple premise has survived since the novel's inception, and spawned such universally known concepts or images as quixotic idealism and charging headlong at a group of "giants" which are actually windmills, Cervantes' motivation for writing Don Quixote remains an untold story. Looking at late fifteenth- and early sixteenth-century Spain from the viewpoint of a Renaissance man, Cervantes came to dislike many aspects of the age in which he lived, and decided to satirize what he saw as its failings; however, throughout the writing of what would become his most famous work, Cervantes was torn by a philosophical conflict which pervaded the Renaissance and its intellectuals--the clash of faith and reason. When Cervantes began writing Don Quixote, the most direct target of his satirical intentions was the chivalric romance. He makes this aim clear in his own preface to the novel, stating that "..[his] sole aim in writing..is to invalidate the authority, and ridicule the absurdity of those books of chivalry, which have, as it were, fascinated the eyes and judgment of the world, and in particular of the vulgar.” Immediately after the beginning of the novel, he demonstrates some of the ridiculous and unbelievable writing of these books: as Alonso Quixano--the man who decides to become the knight Don Quixote, after going mad from reading too many of these romances--sits in his study, tirelessly poring over his belo... ... middle of paper ... ...r (Magill 330). In Part II of the novel, however, Don Quixote becomes less of a sadly comic figure, and more heroic (331) after he stoically faces down a lion, leading Sancho to change his master’s previous title--”Knight of the Rueful Countenance”--to “Knight of the Lions”. Although the tale told in Don Quixote, the account of an idealist who embarks on a seemingly impossible quest to rid society of injustice, “[has] assumed archetypal importance for what [it reveals] of the human mind and emotions (Person 81),” there is another story which remains hidden between the pages of the novel: what was Cervantes’ original intent in writing, and how that simple goal--a humorous parody of chivalric romances--eventually led to the literary embodiment of a tremendous philosophical debate: whether to let the perception of truth be dominated by faith, or by reason.

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