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Don Quixote de la Mancha is a novel written in two parts by the 17th century Spanish novelist, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, often merely referred to as Cervantes. Don Quixote is, in a sense, a deluded anti-hero, who having read many books regarding chivalry, decides to be a knight and practice true knightly aims.
Don Quixote is almost always deluded, particularly in his love for Dulcinea, a peasant woman he believes is actually a princess. Don Quixote is also accompanied by his straight man Sancho, who is a laborer.
On the surface, Cervantes uses Don Quixote to represent unrealistic idealism. Quixote almost always fails in his quests and the phrase “tilting at windmills” derives from the book. He imagines a world not in keeping with the real one, and becomes an object of mirth and sometimes pity.
Don Quixote often even dupes Sancho into believing in a world of knights and enchantments, but it is a sincere form of duplicity. Quixote desperately wants to believe in his fantasy world, so much so that he gives up the comforts of his life in pursuit of an unwinnable quest.
The second part ends with Don Quixote’s death, and this is an interesting statement by Cervantes. To Cervantes, the old days of chivalric behavior are dying quickly as well. Only the deluded can still believe in them. In this way, Don Quixote is read as a very important work of European literature, since it makes such a definite statement of the fate of things once considered romantic and now merely the fantasies of near idiots.
Despite his gross failures to accomplish any of his quests, and often his incredibly wrong actions, Don Quixote is somewhat likeable. He is a rather embraceable idiot whose convictions lead him to constant misinterpretations. Yet his tenacity in holding to the ideals of romance and chivalry is somewhat beautiful.
The character of Don Quixote was further embraced in the American musical The Man of La Mancha, which became a popular film in 1972. Mr. Rogers is remembered for his television show, where he had a likeable puppet named Donkey Hodie, who lived in a windmill in “Someplace Else.” Many other films, artistic works, comic books, television series, and novels draw inspiration from the original Don Quixote.