Don Quixote de La Mancha: Timeless Message of Hope and Chivalry

Don Quixote de La Mancha is the greatest literary work to come from Spain, the first novel, written by the pen of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. It is also one of the most translated books in the world. The novel was published in two volumes, the first book published in 1605 and the second in 1615.

These tomes were written during a time when stories of knights errant were the genre of choice. They were also written during a time when social classes were basically the nobility and peasants.

The nobility did not work. It would have been unseemly. The peasants did not read, but lived by the sweat of their brows and the limits of their physical endurances.
Alonzo Quixana was a gentleman who read so many books of knight errantry that his brain convinced him that he was one.

Consider the epitome of the knight. The ideal knight was chivalrous, which has many meanings, all of them noble. The ideal knight was generous, honorable, courteous, gracious, and by all means took the high road in his noble attitudes and behavior, especially toward woman.

Consider the living situation of the day. Few nobles cared about the plight of the peasants. Yet, as Don Quixote the knight sallied forth on his quests to “right the unrightable wrongs”, he chooses a simple farmer as his squire, Sancho Panza. Readers see the stories through the rose-colored glasses of Don Quixote as well as through the realistic eyes of Sancho Panza. His lord of the castle they approach is an innkeeper. His lady is a neighboring farm girl, because every knight needs a lady to whom he may dedicate his valor and successes. Nevertheless, he treats them with the knightly qualities he has assumed and sees them as such.

His lady, the farm girl Aldonza, does not realize that she is the imaginary love interest of Don Quixote. He gives her the name of Dulcinea de Tobosa (“dulce” meaning sweet in Spanish) to make her name match the idealistic and platonic love and admiration that he holds for her.

For those acquainted with the musical and movie “Man of La Mancha”, this is an extremely abridged version of the real story, but some songs have been added to contribute to the vision of the elderly nobleman playing as a knight. “To Dream the Impossible Dream” is undoubtedly the best known and represents the ideals of the gentleman as well as the knight. “To fight with his last ounce of courage to reach the unreachable star,” are idealistic and ultimately honorable words, as is the mission of Don Quixote.

“It is not the responsibility of knights errant to discover whether the afflicted, the enchained and the oppressed whom they encounter on the road are reduced to these circumstances and suffer this distress for their vices, or for their virtues: the knight’s sole responsibility is to succor them as people in need, having eyes only for their sufferings, not for their misdeeds.”
― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote

Imagine our world today. We have nearly returned to the same class system of the day of Miguel de Cervantes, with the latter being more extreme. We have a greatly privileged class and the workers, with an ever shrinking middle class. If the “nobility” today would genuinely give “its last ounce of courage” to lend gentle attention and gracious assistance to those in need, what a difference it would make!

“When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies? Perhaps to be too practical is madness. To surrender dreams — this may be madness. Too much sanity may be madness — and maddest of all: to see life as it is, and not as it should be!”
― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote

The dream of that noble gentleman written 400 years ago is still alive. I believe it was the first President Bush that told us we needed to become a “kinder and gentler” society. The reality is that there some people living in castles on hills, while there are many people in need of work, health care, recognition for their disabilities, dignity for those who suffer disgrace at the whim of those judging them by their own standards. The world is hurting now as it was then.

We still need a team of Don Quixotes to stand up honorably and strive to overcome the disgraces that have been committed to our natural resources and the dishonorable acts that have been done to people around the world.

Theodore Roosevelt said something very profound: “Do what you can, with what you have, from where you are.” That includes us all. No class status, merely an attitude of chivalry. If we honor our land and respect our people, then we can all lend a hand. The impossible can be achieved. The only thing stopping us is our own will power to act.

“For neither good nor evil can last forever; and so it follows that as evil has lasted a long time, good must now be close at hand.”
― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote

Don Quixote wasn’t crazy, as he has been tagged for centuries. He had noble intentions, but he lacked the resources. Today, people can communicate better and can work together easier. Don Quixote doesn’t have to work alone. We who believe the world can be a better place need only rally to Teddy Roosevelt’s words and begin to contribute what we can, with what we have, from where we are. That may be working with a non-profit organization that seeks to further cultural awareness, or it may be gathering things for or helping feed the homeless.

There are many causes that need to be addressed, and there are many ways for us to try, with our last ounces of courage, to reach the unreachable star.

Don Quixote’s message is still alive. Chivalry is still alive. All we need to do is cultivate it and apply it.

By Ann M. Morris

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