Essay on Reason vs. Faith in Don Quixote

Essay on Reason vs. Faith in Don Quixote

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During his chivalric adventures throughout the novel Don Quixote encounters many characters that humor his fantasies as well as characters that attempt to persuade Quixote of the folly of his pursuits. One such character of rationality is Dr. Carrasco, who explains "There are no giants. No kings under enchantment. No chivalry. No knights. There have been no knights for three hundred years" to which Quixote responds "Facts are the enemy of truth!” This short exchange embodies the real conflict of the novel; reason versus faith. At the time the novel was written Europe was caught in the midst of the Renaissance, a social movement centering on the conflict of reason and faith. Up to that point faith and reason were interchangeable, however during the Renaissance Europeans began to shift more towards scientific and reason based thinking. On the surface, Cervantes’ savage satirizing of the chivalrous ideals found in the books Don Quixote so lovingly reads appears to support the humanist shift away from faith; however the novel actually poses a much more sophisticated opinion supporting the merits of both the rational and fantastical. By juxtaposing the faithful character of Don Quixote with his rational sidekick Sancho as well as making the unique traits of each character interchangeable Cervantes asserts his favor of an individual quest based both on reason and faith.
Cervantes quickly establishes Don Quixote as a laughable character, so consumed by the chivalrous and romantic myths found in the novels he reads that he neglects his responsibilities, his family and his estate. The absurdity of Quixote’s attempts at noble knight-errantry become evident when he sallies onward on his pathetic steed, Rocianante, in rusty armor and a mak...


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...initially has towards Quixote’s whims. Because his pragmatic character naturally contests the aspect of Quixote’s character that Cervantes so frequently mocks, the novel is also giving merit to the spirit of reason that Sancho embodies.
So if Cervantes’ novel attributes value to reason and faith, two very contradictory ideologies, which school of thought is he ultimately supporting? Cervantes adds one more shade of complexity to his novel that asserts his favor of both reason and faith in conjunction. Initially, Quixote is the man of faith and Sancho of reason. However, as the plot progresses we see Sancho and Quixote develop a mutual respect for each other as the trademark characteristics of each become interchangeable. Sancho’s skepticism eventually helps to disillusion even Quixote further while he himself becomes seduced by the knight’s wild imagination.

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