Oct 6th 2014
Context of Don Quijote and A Confederacy of Dunces
Although Don Quijote and Ignatius both long for an early time, they are uniquely defined by the period and place they live in. The sympathy towards Don Quijote, the protagonist of Don Quijote, emphasizes the critical attitude to the medieval literature. As the transition of literature from chivalry romance to modern novel, Don Quijote reflects the Renaissance Period in Spain, late 16th century. Similarly, the internal conflict of Ignatius in A Confederacy of Dunces reflects conflict of the traditional and modern life style in 1960s New Orleans.
The word “Renaissance” is the French word for “rebirth.” The late 16th Century, during Renaissance period, was a time of rebirth and new discoveries in fine art, music, literature, philosophy, science and technology (Dictionary.com). Don Quijote, written by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra during the Renaissance period, marks the transition of literature from medieval to the modern world. Novels about romance of chivalry took rise in the poetry of the Middle Ages which consisted of heroes belonged to mythic cycle of Charlemagne and of Holy Grail. The older novels which consisted of knightly adventures became popular during the medieval (Heine, Heinrich). Although Don Quijote was also a story of knight errant, Cervantes wrote it as a satire and destroyed the old romance and started time of the modern novel. As a transition from old chivalry novel to modern novel, Don Quijote reflects the Renaissance period in Spain.
The protagonist of the novel, Alonso Quijote is a low-born nobleman from La Mancha who spends so much time reading chivalric novels that he loses his mind and wants to become a knight errant. He changes his name to Don Quijote de La Mancha and chooses a peasant girl as his lady in order to match his chivalric illusion. He refuses to see the reality and alters the world around him to match his imagination.
Cervantes builds up the readers’ sympathy towards Don Quijote from the very beginning of the novel. He claims that “the reader must know” although Don Quijote is “so odd and foolish”, he is not a wrongdoer. Don Quijote’s problem is that he takes his “hobby” so serious that he becomes unaware of the people around him, and further and further away from the reality. He attempts to “translate” what he read into reality by “seeking adventures and doing everything that, according to his books, earlier knights had done” (15) He has done ridiculous things, but he is full of good intentions.
He shows his first attempt to save the oppressed when he sees countryman flogging the boy. (Book I, chapter 4) Unfortunately, Don Quijote brings more pain to the boy. However, Don Quixote thinks he is a great savior, not realizing that he has, in fact, only exacerbates the situation. When Don Quixote meets the boy again on the road (Book I, chapter 31), he proudly encourages the boy to tell the company his brave deeds. To his surprise, the boy says with anger: “For God's sake, Sir Knight Errant, don't come to my help if you meet me again, even though you see me being cut to pieces. But leave me to my troubles, for they can't be so bad that the results of your worship's help won't be worse" (209). Although his behaviors always cause pain for the people he encounters, his good intension prevents from him becoming an annoying character. The perplexed Don Quijote always attracts the readers’ sympathy. As the adventure goes on, Don Quijote is increasingly treated as a sympathetic character.
The unawareness of his own situation makes him seems more powerless. Of all the knights Don Quijote admires and wants to imitate Amadis of Gaul. Don Quijote states that Amadis of Gaul is the greatest knight when he and Sancho are in the Sierra Morena (Book 1 chapter 25): “I want you to know, Sancho, that the famous Amadís de Gaula was one of the greatest of knights-errant. No, I’m wrong in saying ‘one of,’ he was the