So Don Quixote is transfigured beyond the sprightly scheme and function of his maker.
He was conceived and formed, as a broken writer’s bitter turning against his heroic soul and his heroic age: he becomes the Body of sublime acceptance—the triumphant symbol of what his misfortunes were to mock. And this is plain almost from the outset in the fact that the Manchegan knight, despite his author’s assurance, We had an inkling of this already in the too conscious, too ironic naming of Rocinante.
He needs a helmet—indeed he needs Mambrino’s magic helmet.
A barber comes, riding an ass and on his head (for it is raining) a copper bleeding-dish.
And he takes Sancho to witness of his straits, ere he sends him off to beseech mercy of Dulcinea.
Nor is he fooled by Sancho’s meeting with the lady.Four chapters later a worker in the neighboring fields addresses him as Quijana and as such he made his will at the end of his last journey. Quixote (Quijote in modern Castilian) was the choice of the old man himself. He is a cadaverous, lantern-jawed, brittle-boned, deep-eyed fellow.And as Cervantes gives him birth, he is old—old for his fifty years in a frustrated Manchegan village. His naked house, one room of which is stocked with the chivalric books that have sucked his substance and addled his slight brains, is cared for by an old nurse and a young niece.” The reader will be aware of a curious shift in this Don Quixote’s madness: a note of self-conscious irony, not usually found in the insane upon the point of their mania.However, this strange madman to whom Cervantes introduces us seems at first consistently the creation of his author. He loses teeth as his molested countrymen lose tempers.It is clear that some day his madness will discomfit him entire.At which time he will be forced to return to his poor house where the good nurse and the niece will staunch his wounds, bathe the dust from his eyes and put him to bed.But she has endowed it with a principle which will make her child recede ever more from being her creation. From the womb of his will and fancy comes the child.This inner life, seeking substance in the objective world both of sense and of impression, becomes itself. But Don Quixote is no sooner set on earth, than he proceeds by an organic evolution, by a series of accretions and responses, to change wholly from the intent of his author—to turn indeed against him. The man is child of his own childhood and of his parents in a deeper way than any conscious, biologic pattern. He has transcended vastly the amorphous thing lodged in his mother’s womb.Meantime, there is the tale to tell—with much laughter—of his absurd adventures.Cervantes wishes to mock this medieval scarecrow jousting against the Modern.