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A STEP BEYOND
TESTS AND ANSWERS
11. There is no one right answer to this question. You should keep in mind,
however, that the majority opinion is that Cervantes attacked only superstition
and hypocrisy, not religious values as such. It is easy to find places
in the novel where the author pokes fun at the church hierarchy. For example,
Quixote's friend, the priest, is a small-minded man who makes himself
ridiculous by dressing up in women's clothing. When Don Quixote is behaving
like a wild-man hermit, the priest even predicts that the Don will be
made an archbishop if he continues to act that way. A few readers think
that Cervantes was mocking basic Catholic beliefs. They even compare Dulcinea,
a princess only in the Don's imagination, with the Virgin Mary. Whether
you agree or not, your answer to this question should discuss the Don's
attack on the penitents, and his conversation with the learned canon,
both near the end of Part I. These incidents can be interpreted in more
than one way.
12. At the beginning of the story, Sancho is a country bumpkin. He knows that Don Quixote mistakes the windmills for giants. Yet Sancho's greed makes him want to believe in the rich rewards his master has promised him. When he does try to fool the Don, by tying Rozinante's legs together, for example, his tricks are crude and obvious. Also, in the scenes at the inn (Part I) you see Sancho torn between belief and disbelief. He is surprised to hear the other guests say that the days of knight-errantry are over. Yet he goes along with the Don's fantasy that the wineskins are giants. In Part II, Sancho plays a very successful trick on Don Quixote, convincing him that a wicked magician has turned Dulcinea into a peasant girl. Sancho pays for this trick when the Duke and Duchess set him up as the butt of their humor. They convince him that Dulcinea really is enchanted and that only when Sancho agrees to flog himself 3300 times will the spell be broken. Sancho has been "quixotized" when he becomes Dulcinea's champion.
13. There is a great deal of physical, slapstick humor in the novel. The Don and Sancho are continually getting beaten up, and these scenes are funny because Quixote believes in a heroic battle while you can see how ridiculous the fights really are. In discussing this form of humor, you might want to consider why the Don's beatings seem less funny in Part II. Is this because you have started to identify with him to some degree? Note that the humor in this section comes from Sancho's trying to avoid a beating. Another source of broad humor is Sancho's way of talking. He uses a mixed-up vocabulary, quotes proverbs in laughably inappropriate situations, and deflates other characters' pretensions by his unwitting honesty. The Don's mock-heroic delusions are also a source of humor. An example of this is found in the scene where he concocts a wild tale about opposing armies after watching the dust raised by two flocks of sheep. More subtly, the author mocks himself and teases you, as when he has the imaginary "historian" Cide Hamete complain about how long and tedious the Don's story is becoming.
14. The episode in Montesinos' Cave is out of character with the Don's other visions. Dulcinea, instead of being noble and ethereal, asks to borrow money. The knight Durandarte is a hero who has outlived his time. For the first time, Don Quixote does not know whether to believe what his imagination has shown him. He has become a doubter. Cide Hamete also interrupts the story to suggest that he can't believe the dream either and that perhaps Don Quixote is lying. A few readers take this seriously. They believe that the Don made up this vision to pay Sancho back for pretending that the peasant girl was Dulcinea. Others suggest that the vision is a "real" dream, dreamed by the Don's sane alter ego, Alonso Quixano.
15. The most important use of mirrors as symbols occurs when Sampson Carrasco appears in a suit of armor covered with tiny mirrors. Sampson, who even calls himself "Knight of the Mirrors," is pretending to be a knight only in order to trick Don Quixote into giving up his quest. Sampson's trick "mirrors" the Don's madness. If you have read the novel carefully, you may recall that in the Prologue to Part I, Don Quixote himself is described as the "mirror" of chivalry. Remember, mirrors not only reflect reality, they sometimes distort it. In a sense, literature mirrors real life. And life itself may only be a distorted mirror in which we see the reflections of eternal truths.