Why Don Quixote is Considered One of the Greatest Works of Fiction Ever Created
“To tell you the truth…you’ve told one of the most novel tales … anyone in the world has ever thought of, and the way you told it, and then ended it, is something never to be seen, and never ever seen, in the course of a lifetime, though I expected nothing less from your remarkable powers of reasoning.”
With this quote from Part 1 Chapter 20 of “El ingenioso hidalgo don Quixote de la Mancha”, or as translated in English, “The History of the Valourous and Wittie Knight-Errant of Don Quixote of la Mancha”, Cervantes himself gives us the most appropriate summation of his own book.
Considered by many to be the world’s first novel, most writers, editors and publishers also consider Miguel de Cervantes’ work to be one of the greatest books ever written. There are many reasons for the distinction, but to understand them, the plot of the book should be reviewed.
The protagonist of the book is Don Quixote, a middle-aged knight from the la Mancha region of Spain. After having read many books featuring chivalrous and heroic characters, he becomes obsessed with seeking justice. He decides to go out into the world to defend the helpless and seek justice for them by destroying those who he sees as wicked.
Unfortunately, his perception isn’t very accurate and Quixote makes several enemies on his quests because he steals from ordinary citizens in his desire to help others and seeks vengeance against those he sees as threats. For instance, a couple of the mistakes he makes is leaving a young boy with an evil farmer just because the farmer swore he would not hurt the boy and perceiving a simple peasant woman as a princess.
Essentially, a Don Quixote analysis shows it depicts the knight’s travels, the misadventures he experiences and the stories of the people he meets.
The book is plotted as history, with Quixote and his sidekick, Sancho Panza, a laborer he meets on his travels and promises to make a wealthy governor, changing their histories and commenting on the fake history that was written in their names. After his travels and the problems he encounters are over, Quixote disavows the truths about chivalry, becomes sick with a fever and dies.
The Greatness of Don Quixote
Many in the literary world consider the novel of Quixote’s travels and adventures one of the all-time great novels of the world. Miguel de Cervantes was believed to have plotted the tale during his time in the Crown Jail of Seville. He was there twice between 1597 and 1602 because while working as a tax collector for the government of Spain, he made frequent “mathematic irregularities”.
When the book was first published, it quickly became popular and would be considered a bestseller by today’s standards. Within three years of its publication, which was before the second part was published, the first part of the novel was translated from Spanish into several other languages. Since its original publican, it has become one of the most published literary works ever written.
Many of the world’s authors, some of which have also written great novels, consider Don Quixote the quintessential work because, as Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote to his niece, Quixote stands out as a the most perfect, beautiful character because he is so ridiculous. The influence of the novel is seen in Dostoevsky’s own work when wrote “The Idiot”. In 2002, the Norwegian book club named the novel “the best literary work ever written”. The book has been translated from the original Spanish into at least 50 languages.
The book was written in two parts, with the first part meant to destroy the notion of the ideals and influence of chivalry on the people of Cervantes time, as he states in the prologue to the book’s first part. The second part was written ten years after the first and helps to flesh out the two main Don Quixote characters. Due to how the second part is written, the novel becomes more than Cervantes may have originally intended.
The Influence of Don Quixote on Modern Culture
Although the book was written over 410 years ago, it was published in 1605, it has made a large impact on modern culture. Several expressions from the book were popularized in English and are still repeated today. They include, “out of the frying pan into the fire”, “tilting at windmills”, “a bird in the hand is worth two in a bush”, and “plain as the nose on a man’s face”, as well as many others. Writers, filmmakers, composers, artists, and playwrights have been inspired to create works trying to explain Don Quixote meaning since the book was first published and it continues to be an important influence today.
A Broadway version of the novel, called the ‘Man of the La Mancha’ hit the Great White Way in 1965 and it ran for almost six years. Many musical performers have recorded versions of the play’s music, including 20th century artists like Placido Domingo, Gordon Lightfoot and, most recently, the band Coldplay recorded ‘Don Quixote (Spanish Rain)’ in 2010. A film version of the play, which has the same name, was made the same year it closed in 1971 and starred Sophia Loren and Peter O’Toole.
Several works of literature have also been influenced by Cervantes’ novel or was referenced in works with some of the same Don Quixote themes. Some of these works include “Huck Finn” by Mark Twain, “Monsignor Quixote” by Graham Greene and “The Moor’s Last Sigh” by Salman Rushdie. The list of novels, plays, films and music influenced by Don Quixote is almost endless.
Many artists were influenced to create works of art inspired by scenes from the book. The art pieces include paintings by artists like Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali, sculptures displayed in Spanish cities like Barcelona and Madrid, tapestries by artist Charles Coypel, and many other etchings and illusions created for the numerous publications of the book.
Although the book is lengthy, over 1,000 pages, many consider it to be the first and greatest work of fiction. You can read ‘Don Quixote’ on Geeker!