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How and Why Cervante`s Don Qixote influenced the modern novel

March 19, 2016 | Author: | Posted in antique literature, literature and language

How and Why Cervantes Don Quixote influenced the modern novel Walter Allen (1955 ) in his book The English Novel ‘ mentions , There can scarcely have been any one book that has more profoundly shaped the novel as a whole than Cervantes ‘ Don Quixote . It was translated into English in 1612 , but we have to wait another one hundred and thirty years , until Fielding ‘s Joseph Andrews in 1742 , before we see the influence of the great Spaniard truly at work in our literature and then , by becoming part of Fielding , Cervantes became part [banner_entry_middle]

of the English novel (p . 22 . This statement provides the idea that the form and structure adopted by Henry Fielding was based on the model set by Cervantes in his Don Quixote . However , it is not only the form and structure that was adopted by English novelists . There are many other things in the modern novel that owe their existence because of the basic spark lit by Cervantes in the shape of Don Quixote . What is that basic spark , and how it influences the modern novel , these are the questions that need to be answered . Such understanding is not possible unless main characteristics and theme of Don Quixote are analysed

Don Quixote is the story of journeys and adventures of a poor gentleman of La Mancha and his friend Sancho Panza . Don Quixote , the protagonist is possessed by stories of knights . He is a man of amiable character and has had his wits dised by devotions to tales of knightly errant His family considers him crazy when he adopts the name of Don Quixote Don ‘ is the symbol of nobility while Quixote ‘ is the literary degeneration of Quijana ‘ the knight ‘s real name . He thinks that the inns are enchanted places and the maidens living in the inns are princesses . He often imagines Dulcinea , a fictional character who never appears in the novel . Don Quixote goes on telling about her appearance ironically he confesses that he has never seen her in person , is a reference to craziness of lover and its unrealistic thinking . Romance was considered deceiving in17th century . Don Quixote appeared at a time when science was understudy and discoveries were taking place , in such times talking of love seemed unrealistic . This attitude has been remained since 12th century that continued till 17th century and even modern romance is not taken serious such novels normally end up in women shelves (Dudley , 1997 Don Quixote has two parts . If we study these parts , we can clearly see a fine blend of medieval romances and modern novel . In the first book we see Don Quixote armed with the lance and shield leaving his hometown for a long journey . He receives the of knighthood from an innkeeper The innkeeper sends him home to be equipped properly . A farmer finds him and sends him home , where the priest , barber and his niece want to seek a remedy for his obsession . On way the priest come up with is burning of the book and the reason is that priest is too lazy too separate innocent from guilty , book burning shows the lack of tolerance in the Spanish time . An obsession of book ban that was followed was in communist era to stop the people from thinking . This mentality also shows the lack of freedom in society at that time and even still prevalent in some societies

The Don Quixote and Sancho take dinner with some hospitable shepherds and as one of the shepherds tells a story about a blighted romance , the novel ‘s first real digression ‘ takes place . This digression reminds us of Tom Jones errant when he meets , the man of hill ‘ and listens his story . Critics of Tom Jones think that as a picaresque novel of this digression can be accepted , but looking at the plot construction it is a clear a digression . Don Quixote and Sancho Panza seek refuge at an inn , which Don Quixote has mistaken for a castle . He ventures again in the leaky vessel of his mind and is twice more beaten or struck . Some men at the inn toss Sancho in a blanket before the two can leave From the disaster at the inn they come to two flocks of sheep , and Don Quixote mistakes them for opposing armies . After siding with one of these imaginary battalions , he kills seven sheep and is beaten by the shepherds . Sancho puts him back on his horse and , moving on , they encounter a funeral procession . Attacking the procession , Don Quixote strikes a cleric and is excommunicated . During this incident , Sancho has an inspiration . He gives Don Quixote the name of The Knight of the Sorrowful Face , a flat rendering of The Knight of the Woeful Countenance . Don and Sancho next encounter a chained group of prisoners . On inquiry the Don decides that they should go free , and he successfully engages their guards . But the prisoners – bent on escape and callous towards their rescuer – are ungrateful , and as they depart they pelt their liberators with stones . This is the second time (the first was at the last inn that they visited ) that Don Quixote has transgressed against the interests of the Holy Brotherhood , a vigilante group attempting to establish some kind of security on the highways . The problem with Holy

brothers is like Marx ideology , who looks at justice outwardly . In theory the idea of equality seems nice and is high ideal , but justice merely given in law books is mockery at the name of justice . One reason for the failure of communism was to form ideal only in book but never applied it in real life . Don Quixote does not wait for the Holy Brotherhood , and retreats into the nearby mountains where another digression , more closely integrated into the text , takes place . It is the sad story of Cardenio , betrayed in love and now living in the wilderness , alternating between madness and sanity (This has an adventitious interest in that it provided Shakespeare with the material for a play , now lost ) Don Quixote decides to perform penance . He calmly and cold-bloodedly discusses with Sancho all the mad things that he will do . The deliberateness of his plans shows him teetering between insanity and a kind of compromised sanity , the logic of a diseased mind ( Macbeth sort of planning

There is something piquant in a madman being so lucid about madness . Don Quixote is an extreme example of comic and madness , such combination can also be seen in Dickens characters as well . If Don Quixote is embodiment of madness , larger than life rather exaggerated character , so are Dickens characters such as Miss Havishm . Don Quixote is blinded by the inner illusion and bent on finding truth at all cost . For example every one knows windmills are harmless , but he considers them an evil , as they seem more powerful than human . The Don Quixote enmity with windmills is the lurking fear in human mind , the primitive fear of things powerful than humans . Regardless of science benefits , countless people are suspicious of science progress . The same fear have been mentioned by major science fiction writer in the 20th century , starting from HG Wells , War of the World to Matrix (movie . It is always the war between man and machine , man who is the creator is fearful of machine power . Don Quixote dual with windmills portrays that lurking fear he is bent on destruction of the machine , even if they are beneficial to mankind . At another occasion he considers prostitute , ladies of fine qualities again shows that the protagonist was only acting on his internal vision regardless of external reality . Similar themes we can find in Jane Austin , whose romances are weaved in her own world little concerned with the outside world and her reality was her worldview . Don was so much fixated with finding truth , that external reality mattered little to him and he started to interpret things according to his mind , rather than how they were in the external world

Further in the novel , last members of the Holy Brotherhood appear threatening to arrest Don Quixote for liberating the convicts . This takes place in a series of uproars , diss , and fights that are richly comic . The denouement is inevitable , as he has exhausted possibilities of his delusions . He has been fighting for ultimate truth to seek higher ideals in imperfect world that has nothing to do with reality . The concept of reality from 17th century is a controversy . The idea was that the things that can be verified by science could be considered only real and the issue is still a controversy . James Joyce Ulysses also goes on a voyage of knowing reality the novel is written in state of delusion and dreams giving little knowledge to the readers what is real and unreal , a true remnant of Don Quixote , which continues to this day in science fiction novels and movies

After going through the story the readers are quite puzzled whether to regard it a romance or a novel and the same identity can be used to prove our claim that Don Quixote has influenced the modern novel . J .A Cuddon in his Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory defines medieval romance as , courtly romance in verse ‘ or a popular book In the 13th Century romance was almost any sort of adventure story , be it of chivalry or of love . If we study Don Quixote and medieval romance we can see many similarities . Like the early romance , it is a story of adventures and misadventures of a hero and his companion . Similarly the fantasy , improbability , extravagance and naivety of its chief characters testify the method of a typical romance . Our protagonist repeatedly confesses that he has never seen Dulcinea , an imaginary character , yet he would undertake the task of her disenchantment and his friend would follow him in his blind pursuit . Their stature as a knight and his squire remind us of the typical trend of romances . However , like all the great works of art , it has something more than a romance . The hero at his deathbed confesses that his past roaming has just been madness . This realization of the truth and the transformation of character cannot be found in romances . It presents a psychological approach , quite typical of 20th century literature . Similarly Jane Austen ‘s Emma in the 19th century realizes that her meddling in the affairs of the others is not the way of a sound lady . Darcy in Pride and Prejudice of the same author has to change his pride if he wishes to marry Elizabeth . In the 18th century , we see Tom Jones with a good heart in Henry Fielding ‘s novel of the same name but he also goes through the same transformation of character when at the end of the novel Allworthy tells him that with a good heart he needs prudence as well . So we see the first proof of our earlier claim that Don Quixote has influenced the modern novel Modern literature is more near to life as compared to the past epics romances , elegies and other dramatic art . It points out the shortcomings of the society in the form of satire , allegory and many other forms When the books about knighthood are burnt to keep Don Quixote out of this false practice , Cervantes is also pointing out towards the ghastly standards of literature of the time that deserves to be burnt . It is not only the literature that has been criticized all the sections of life have come under the microscopic eyes of the authors . Modern literature is full of such instances especially the modern novel clearly portrays the abuses of modern socialism . Henry Fielding ‘s Tom Jones is one such example in which the hypocrisy of the elite has been shown in a life-like manner . Bridget Allworthy , Blifil , Rev . Roger Thwackum and Thomas Square show the false standards and hypocritical nature of the society . In E .M . Forster , Howards End , Wilcoxes lose Howards End (symbolically stands for England ) because they lacked spiritual strength , a necessity to rule the land , which in the words of William Wordsworth in his sonnet , It is not to be thought of ‘ holds the faith that Milton held and speaks the language the Shakespeare spoke Similarly the depiction of modern man in the modern novel is not different from the real one . Modern man is confused . His outer self is just like the visible part of an iceberg . His real self lies down within him . Mrs . Ramsey in To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf is busy in making a portrait . That can be seen as outward action , but inwardly she is thinking about the child of the lighthouse keeper , she is also listening to the voices of the children outside the house and at the same time she is also answering to the questions of her husband . Either it is the issue of freedom of press or the issue of lack

of flow of blood ‘ in the relations , whatever the observes they present it in their writings- a practice basically introduced in the field of novel by Cervantes

Cervantes has made his hero not a real knight , but a poor man who acts like a knight . This practice is quite opposite to the trends of that age when the romances were in vogue . In romances the hero used to be a man of exceptional powers and even of superhuman proportion . His hero is in fact a common man . E . C . Riley points out the democratization of the classical hero Don Quixote as a prototype of the little man ‘ of the twentieth century . If we study the novel in general , right from Henry Fielding to Virginia Woolf , it can be observed that these heroes are common people . Tom Jones is a common man having common weaknesses . His entire adventure from Somersetshire to London shows the story of a common man caught in human weaknesses . Similarly Pip of Great Expectations by Charles Dickens is a common human being . He is an orphan brought up ‘by hand ‘ by her sister Mrs . Joe . His benefactor arouses an ambition in him to be a gentleman . He becomes a gentleman , but realizes in the end that his entire concept about gentleman was wrong . The real gentleman was Joe , the blacksmith with mild nature , simple life and straightforward dealing . This realization is not different from Don ‘s realization at his deathbed

Different critics and philosophers have commented on Don Quixote and its place in the English literature in different ways . For Hegel Don Quixote was the modern bourgeois epic . Don Quixote and his squire have numerous adventures . They have very noble intentions , however despite good intentions , they suffer a lot . They meet criminals sent to the galleys and are victims of an elaborate prank by a pair of Dukes , when Sancho is made “governor ” of the xistent Barataria . If we compare this situation with Tom Jones who in his errand to London accompanied by Partridge , we find similarity not only in the structure but also in the intentions of the protagonists . We see Tom doing things with a good intention , but later on he suffers for it . For Walter Benjamin it is solitude that marks the novel and its birthplace is the solitary individual . Keeping this statement in view if we think about the novel reading , it is an act that can only be enjoyed in isolation as compared to the tragedy or comedy that can only be watched in the theatre along with hundreds of audience . Similarly this statement also shows that Don Quixote deals with the problems of an individual like us We do not finish this novel with our mind full of reverence or awe for the great fall . We feel oneness with the hero because he is like us The job of a novelist is only to depict the society but to create life-like characters as well . This is what the critics realized when they studied Don Quixote . If we go through modern literature we can observe the problem of loneliness . Mrs . Moore in A Passage to India by E .M . Forster says that for thousands of years man has been in contact with other human beings , yet he is unable to understand them

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte has been considered a unique novel because of its double narrative . We learn partly from Lockwood , the new tenant and Nelly Dean , the maidservant at both the places mentioned in the novel . Of course Emily is not the only one who has adopted this trend in narration . There were many others in the same age that adopted this pattern in their narrations . But if we look at the origin of this trend , we find Cervantes doing the same long ago . The Arabic manuscript in book two needed to be translated into Spanish . Creating such a situation , Cervantes has used three narrators , Cervantes himself , the Arabic writer of the manuscript , and the translator of the manuscript If we look at all the above similarities , there remains no doubt in our mind that Don Quixote has influenced the English literature immensely


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