Transformation of Reality as Portrayed in Don Quixote
Throughout his novel, Don Quixote, Miguel Cervantes effectively uses the transformation of reality to critique and reflect societal and literary norms. In three distinct scenes, Don Quixote or his partner, Sancho, transform reality. Often they are met with other’s discontent. It is through the innkeeper scene, the windmill scene, the Benedictine friar scene, and Quixote’s deathbed scene that Cervantes contemplates revolutionary philosophies and literary techniques. The theme of reality transformation does not even stop there. Sometimes the transformations of reality scenes act as mimetic devices. Ultimately, Miguel Cervantes’ use of transformative scenes acts as a creative backdrop for deeper observations and critiques on seventeenth-century Spanish society.
When Don Quixote stumbles upon a modest inn shortly after beginning his journey, the reader is presented with the first of many transformations of reality. For Quixote, the inn is not a typical inn but a castle, and the innkeeper is a lord. Quixote states, “I expected nothing less of your great magnificence, my lord...Until that time, in the chapel of this castle, I will watch my armor” (Cervantes 2234). The mundane has become the extraordinary. The innkeeper, who himself admits he has not had the most noble past, is given a title of royalty.
The prostitutes Quixote meets inside transform into ladies. Cervantes describes the girls as shocked to be referred to as anything other than prostitutes. He writes, “The girls looked at him, endeavoring to scan his face, which was half hidden by his ill-made visor. Never having heard women of their profession called damsels before, they were unable to restrain their laughter” (2231). In this scene Cervantes is critiquing the stratification of Spanish society.
Cervantes is forcing readers to ponder questions regarding class stations and stigmas. Do circumstances make the person, or can people be more than their circumstances? In seventeenth-century Spain, circumstances determined your worth and track in life. Women who had no family, for whatever reason, often had no choice but to become prostitutes. They needed to survive and because society did not view women as having the capacity to have another job besides wife and mother, society forced them into a demeaning job. So by transforming these women in damsels, Cervantes is critiquing Spanish societal norms.
The second example of transformation of reality, and perhaps the most famous scene in the entire novel, is the windmill scene. In this scene, Don Quixote claims to see giants, but Sancho is adamantly certain that these giants are merely windmills. The knight-errant states, “...for you see there before you, friend Sancho Panza, some thirty or more lawless giants with whom I mean to battle” (Cervantes 2247). Sancho responds by stating, “But look, your grace, those are not giants but windmills, and what appears to be...