Don Quixote: Chapter 8 to Chapter 20

DQWEM

I have tried reading Don Quixote on several occasions. I’ve just never been able to get through it. I love the story, but part of my problem is the wordiness and part is are the diversions into unrelated stories. I’m sure that these diversions and flowery wordiness is parodying stories of chivalry around the time of Cervantes. However, that doesn’t make it any more amusing for me to get through. I think this is part of a parody that simply doesn’t translate well to modern literature. I think I will take a break from Don Quixote, and read a much lighter book for a while. Hopefully I’ll be able to pick up where I left off with more excitement than I’m currently feeling.

Don Quixote Prologue – Chapter 7

DQWEM

This is not a review, it is notes and an analysis of Don Quixote. Therefore, it will contain spoilers.

So far, there are two issues that make me cringe about Don Quixote. They are: the book burning *shudder, and the way the characters treat a mentally ill man. We’ll start with a discussion of the book burning.

The prologue makes fun of writers of the day – how they are pedantic and (Cervantes claims) list off references in their works of fiction in alphabetical order from Aristotle to Xenophon. It would also appear from the prologue that the purpose of Don Quixote was to make the readers laugh by satirizing chivalric works of the time.

After Don Quixote’s first sally forth, his friends (who in the past encouraged the old man’s interest in works of chivalry) decided to burn his books and wall off the library, so that even the room where his madness overtook him could no longer be accessed by the erstwhile knight errant. I was a little confused by this book burning at first. Surely Cervantes felt the pain of destroying something so valuable as that library? So what was his point? Then I realized that he was making fun of the completely arbitrary way Don Quixote’s friends chose which books would be burned and which saved. They would look at a book, rattle off some preposterous monologue about whether the story were worth saving, and then decide whether to burn it. Then, they got really lazy, and just burned the rest. This is not the act of a caring friend, but someone who wants to solve a problem quickly, despite what damage he may incur.

Then, they walled off the library, and told the madman that an evil wizard had whisked it away to spite Don Quixote. Really? They’re encouraging the madness? These are his friends. At this point it seems like they care more about appearances (keeping Don Quixote from indulging in his madness) than about the actual health of their friend/uncle. But this is not the only terrible way he had been treated in the story. It seems that everyone he runs into, except for Sancho, is cruel. They mock him and encourage the madness. At the moment, I wonder whether Cervantes was also making a social statement about having compassion for the mentally ill, but that may be a bit forward thinking in the early 1600s. I will make a more educated guess as I proceed with the book.

 

Classics Club 2018 – 2023

classicsclub

This is my list for the Classics Club, which is a fantastic group of people that read and write about the classics. They choose a list of 50+ books that they want to read in the next five years. Then they share their reviews with each other.

  1. Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes
  2. Roots, by Alex Haley
  3.  The Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan
  4. The Island of Doctor Moreau, by H. G. Wells
  5. Gulliver’s Travels, by Jonathan Swift
  6. The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde
  7. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
  8. Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
  9. Foundation, by Isaac Asimov
  10. Oliver Twist, by Charles Dickens
  11. The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  12. The Merchant of Venice, by William Shakespeare
  13. Much Ado About Nothing, by William Shakespeare
  14. Twelfth Night, by Wiliam Shakespeare
  15. Moby Dick, by Herman Melville
  16. Uncle Tom’s Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe
  17. Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert
  18. Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  19. The Return of the Native, by Thomas Hardy
  20. The Portrait of a Lady, by Henry James
  21. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
  22. The Red Badge of Courage, by Stephen Crane
  23. Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad
  24. The House of Mirth, by Edith Wharton
  25. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  26. The Trial, by Franz Kafka
  27. Native Son, by Richard Wright
  28. The Stranger, by Albert Camus
  29. 1984, by George Orwell
  30. Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison
  31. Seize the Day, by Saul Bellow
  32. The Bible
  33. Mahabharata
  34. The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, by Edward Gibbon
  35. Room of One’s Own, by Virginia Woolf
  36. Swann’s Way, by Marcel Proust
  37. The Souls of Black Folk, W. E. B. Du Bois
  38. A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens
  39. Master and Commander, by Patrick O’Brien
  40. The Divine Comedy, by Dante
  41. The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, by Howard Pyle
  42. The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair
  43. Far From the Madding Crowd, by Thomas Hardy
  44. Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
  45. The Witches of Eastwick, by John Updike
  46. The Complete Sherlock Holmes, by Arthur Conan Doyle
  47. Paradise Lost, by John Milton
  48. The First Men in the Moon, by H. G. Wells
  49. The Island of Doctor Moreau, by H. G. Wells

 

The Well-Educated Mind: reading through the novel

9780393080964_p0_v1_s550x406I have started a new project: I will be reading through the novels (and histories) as suggested by Susan Wise Bauer in her popular book The Well Educated Mind. (I intend on reading through the other categories, too, but later.) I have completed an outline for questions I’m going to ask myself while reading the first book on the novel list – Don Quixote:

Bauer suggests three levels of study:

Inquiry Level 1: Grammar

This is the first read-through, during which I will take important notes from biographies and blurb, and list the characters and relationships to each-other. She suggests dog-earing and underlining the book. Instead, I will take notes in Evernote, and share them here on Saturdays.

Inquiry Level 2: Logic

After reading through the book, she wants me to come up with my own title and subtitle for the book, describing the major event or point. I should also take note of:

👽What is the most central life-changing event?

👽Am I transported? Do I see, feel, and hear this other world?

👽Can I sympathize with the people who live there? Do I understand their wants and desires and problems? Or am I left unmoved?

👽Is this a fable or a chronicle?

If the novel is a chronicle, how are we shown reality: Physical? Mental?

If the novel is a fable, what was the intent? Is it an allegory? If not, is it speculation?

Is the novel realistic with a few fantastic elements? If yes, it’s not simply a fable. What is the phenomenon being described that can not be described in real terms?

👽What does the central character want? What is standing in his or her way? What strategy is pursued to overcome this block?

👽Who is telling you this story? Is this person reliable?

Is it first person? Second person? Third person limited? Third person objective? Omniscient?

👽Where is the story set?

Is it natural or human constructed? If natural, does nature reflect the emotions and problems of characters? Or is the universe indifferent? If human constructed, do those constructions set a mood?

👽What style does the writer employ?

👽Images and metaphors

Are there any repeated images? If so, is this a metaphor, and if so, what does it represent?

👽 Beginnings and endings

Does the beginning sentence/scene come with meaningful imagery that represents where the story is going?

Does the end have a resolution or a logical exhaustion?

Inquiry Level 3: Rhetoric 

👽Do you sympathize with the characters? Which ones, and why?

Did the author choose characteristics to make a statement about the human condition?

👽Does the author’s technique give you a clue as to her argument: her take on the human condition? 

👽Is the novel self-reflective?

👽Did the writer’s times affect him?

👽Is there an argument in this book? If so, do you agree?