YMMV / Don Quixote

  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • Who's crazier, the madman or the sane man that follows him? It's lampshaded several times in the first part, that Sancho Panza is a sane man with a very limited intelligence. In the second part, through fifty chapters, we'll see him display his common sense.
    • In Part II, Chapter XI, Don Quixote claims: "from a child I was fond of the play, and in my youth a keen lover of the actor's art". Several critics have toyed with the idea that Don Quixote never lost that passion for theater and behaves like an actor: he does not believe to be a knight, but pretends to be one, as if he were on stage. Indeed, several critics in the 20th Century, notably writer Harold Bloom, have argued that Quixote is in fact sane and rational and is putting on an act at being crazy to show the absurdity of society. This is borne more in the melancholy Part 2, where Quixote discovers that he has become a cliche in his own lifetime and a Living Legend much like the great heroes of the past he hoped to emulate.
    • Let's be fair, though: A lot of people like to point and giggle at Quixote's insanity, but a lot of them would also love to have a hallucination that elaborate, assuming they could recover. Why else would we have games like The Legend of Zelda or The Elder Scrolls?
    • If you are an Hispanist or a Spanish Literature student, you'll know that's not even the tip of the iceberg when discussing alternative interpretations of The Quijote and its characters, particularly the titular character, Sancho and Dulcinea. Even in the same books, the characters don't stay the same. The most accepted characterization changes through history as well. From a funny loon in its original time, to an Idealistic or a Romantic hero on Modern times, etc.
  • Applicability: Literary critic Harold Bloom's wrote in his article, The Knight in the Mirror: "The aesthetic wonder is... when we stand back from the huge book and ponder its shape and endless range of meaning. No critic's account of Cervantes's masterpiece agrees with, or even resembles, any other critic's impressions. Don Quixote is a mirror held up not to nature, but to the reader. How can this bashed and mocked knight errant be, as he is, a universal paradigm?" That means that every reader will interpret Don Quixote in his own way, and all of those interpretations will be valid. It also means that none of them could be valid, because every reader’s impression of himself is reflected by the novel. You can interpret all other novels, but in Don Quixote's case, the novel interprets YOU!!.
  • Even Better Sequel: While Part I is probably the most famous one, Part II is considered deeper and more mature than Part I.
  • First Installment Wins: Part II is considered deeper and more mature than Part I, but the most well-known and influential episodes (like the windmills) come from the first part.
  • Fridge Brilliance: In the first part, Don Quixote uses Antiquated Linguistics and the Spanish equivalent of Ye Olde Butchered English, but in the Second Part, he almost doesn't use it. This is because in the first Part he is a Disco Dan in a world when Chivalric Romance is Deader Than Disco, so he uses this trope to reject everyone's reality and substitute his own. In the Second Part, everyone has read the first Part, knew about Chivalric Romance and stage Massive Multiplayer Scams to convince Don Quixote he really is an Knight Errant, so this trope is unnecessary for him.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: The main character is a nobleman who spends most of his time staying at home reading chivalry books, obsesses over a woman and refers to her as "my lady" even though she doesn't even know him, and the story is all about his LARPing adventures. Don Quixote could easily be satirizing modern nerd culture, and just goes to show how little things have changed in 400 years.
  • Lowest Common Denominator: Don Quixote and a lot of people in the novel, even those who don't like chivalry books:
    • Alonso Quijano: What other way can you describe a man that belittles Cid Ruy Diaz, (a real badass warrior) and prefers a silly character of fiction? Part I Chapter I:
      "He used to say the Cid Ruy Diaz was a very good knight, but that he was not to be compared with the Knight of the Burning Sword who with one back-stroke cut in half two fierce and monstrous giants. "
    • At Part I, Chapter XLVIII, the canon adduces that this trope is the reason he has wrote a hundred pages of a chivalry book, but he will not finish it.
      "… because I perceived that the fools are more numerous than the wise; and, though it is better to be praised by the wise few than applauded by the foolish many, I have no mind to submit myself to the stupid judgment of the silly public, to whom the reading of such books falls for the most part."
  • Magnificent Bastard: Gines de Pasamonte is an ungrateful galley slave whom Don Quixote frees. Gines is a vain, shameless, cynical bandit, thief, swindler and picaresque writer. Then, in the second part, we discover that Gines is a Master of Disguise.
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • This book generated various memes that have survived for more than four hundred years. Some are now words registered in the Spanish Royal Language Academy's dictionary:
      • "¿Leoncitos a mi?" Literally, "Little lions to me?". More figuratively, "Do they want to scare me with those little lions?". The quote is basically modified each time, changing the "leoncitos" part for whatever you want to show you're not scared of, serving as a Badass Boast. A popular recent example that English speakers can relate to is in the European Spanish dub of The Avengers (2012), where they translated Hulk's "Punny god" as "¿Dioses a mí?" ("Gods to me?")note .
      • Quixote: Man who fight for love of the ideal. Man who fight for noble causes
      • Maritornes: A rude, ugly, mannish maid.
      • Rocinante: A thin and weak horse, almost always full of sores. This one was even documented by Cervantes in Part II, Chapter III, when Carrasco declares that the first part of the novel was read…
        " by heart by people of all sorts, that the instant they see any lean nag, they say, 'There goes Rocinante.'"
      • Dulcinea: the name Don Quixote gives to the (blissfully unaware) woman he has made himself the champion of. In the Spanish of the time, Dulcinea meant something akin to an overly elegant "sweetness". To this day, to talk of one's "Dulcinea" is to say the object of one's hopeless devotion and idealized love.
    • Most native Spanish speakers who have completed high school can quote the first few lines by heart.
    • As a matter of fact, quoting this book in general is often considered a sign of being a well read person, just like quoting Shakespeare is in English-speaking countries.
  • Misaimed Fandom: Many people have misunderstood the point of the parody. Romantic writers lionized Don Quixote as a praise of hopeless noble ideals in an increasingly cynical and materialistic world. Then, followers of literary Naturalism praised the novel... for deconstructing groundless Romantic enthusiasm.
    • Some people Take a Third Option and argue that Don Quixote himself is more complex than either division, and that he's essentially a tragic figure who willingly chooses to go insane rather than live his banal life and that by willingly embodying virtues that are outdated, if not ever existing in the first place, he's paradoxically just as, if not more heroic as the legends he hopes to emulate. This makes him more or less, a modern day existentialist hero.
  • Mis-blamed: Even many fans of They Might Be Giants assume that the band took their name directly from this novel. It actually comes from the 1971 movie They Might Be Giants, whose main character (who believes himself to be Sherlock Holmes, and has been compared to Don Quixote by another character) muses on the value of being open to the possibility of windmills being giants. Don Quixote himself had no such doubts; he was positively certain that he was charging against giants.
  • Never Live It Down: Sancho Panza's reputation as a Big Eater. In the first part of the novel, Sancho Panza has several scenes enjoying food and drink to show his easygoing nature. When Avellaneda published his own second part of the novel, he accused Sancho of being a Big Eater. In Cervantes' second part of the novel, Don Quixote's niece accuses Sancho of this (she hates him) and later, when they know about Avellaneda's second part, Sancho defends himself against this accusation at chapter LXII of the Second Part:
    "No, señor, that's not true," said Sancho, "for I am more cleanly than greedy, and my master Don Quixote here knows well that we two are used to live for a week on a handful of acorns or nuts. To be sure, if it so happens that they offer me a heifer, I run with a halter; I mean, I eat what I'm given, and make use of opportunities as I find them; but whoever says that I'm an out-of-the-way eater or not cleanly, let me tell him that he is wrong; and I'd put it in a different way if I did not respect the honourable beards that are at the table."
  • Romantic Plot Tumor: The last chapters of the First Part solve the Love Dodecahedron between Dorotea, Don Fernando, Lucinda, Cardenio, Clara and Don Luis, leaving Don Quixote as a mere spectator in his own book. In the Second Part Cervantes makes an Author's Saving Throw when Don Quixote opines:
    "... and I know not what could have led the author to have recourse to novels and irrelevant stories, when he had so much to write about in mine; no doubt he must have gone by the proverb 'with straw or with hay,' for by merely setting forth my thoughts, my sighs, my tears, my lofty purposes, my enterprises, he might have made a volume as large, or larger than all the works of El Tostado would make up".
  • "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny: Don Quixote contained a lot of references not only to now disappeared chivalry books, but to Spain's popular culture at the XVII century: (respectful) caricatures of then famous celebrities, unrespectful caricatures of contemporary writers, quotes from Cervantes' favorite poets, popular proverbs, then-contemporary Urban Legends, phrases that can be taken in at least two different ways, all of them completely unknown for the modern reader, even a Spanish one, if not for the notes provided in most reprints. Cervantes' book was incredibly funny when he published it, but it's very difficult to see it like this now.
  • Sequel Displacement: Variation. A lot of people don't know that this was originally two separate books, with the sequel being written a full decade after its predecessor. It just so happens that now they are almost always printed together, but even then both parts are clearly marked inside of them.
  • Signature Scene: Don Quixote charging against windmills believing they are giants.
  • Surprisingly Improved Sequel: Although Don Quixote is published as a one volume today, it is generally agreed that the mostly philosophical second part is better that the mostly farcical first one. Perhaps related to the fact that the first part was written while Cervantes was in jail (Sancho Panza's wife has 2 different names in the same page, neither of which would be the definitive Teresa Panza).
  • Values Dissonance: Several of the attitudes expressed by the characters are enough to make modern sensibilities cringe. Sancho, a man usually associated with being a loyal and amiable sort actually considers taking up selling people as slaves and turning 'black into gold'.
  • "Weird Al" Effect: Barring a few exceptions such as Tirant lo Blanc (which is remembered for being one of the first literary texts written in Catalan/Valencian, and has a recent Film of the Book made of it) few people today remember the novels that Don Quixote read and Cervantes lists before throwing them in the bonfire in Chapter 3, and most of them are philologers and historians. One of those novels is remembered today in the USA, sort of: a land conquered for Spain got named for a character in one of those novels - the nymph California.
  • The Woobie: Particularly in the era where Don Quixote was considered a tragic hero. Admit it, sometimes you just want to give him a hug. He is after all, El caballero de la triste figura, translated by Edith Grossmann as The Knight of the Sorrowful Face. He is the Knight of all woobies.
  • Woolseyism: Early English translations of the novel were unusually creative, coining new phrases and one-liners that became an integral part of English phraseology (e.g., "thanks for nothing").