20 June 2011
The Knight’s Realm
In “Narratology: A Guide to the Theory of Narrative,” Manfred Jahn describes the role of reflector-mode narration. In this narrative style, the story is expressed “as seen through the eyes of either a third-person or a first-person reflector character” (Jahn 3.3.8). In The Ingenious Hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha, by Miguel De Cervantes Saavedra, the canon of Toledo explains his view on fictional books:
Speaking for myself I can say that when I read them they give me some pleasure
so long as I overlook the fact that they’re all folly and falsehood; but as soon as I
remember what they are, I dash the best of them against the wall, and I’d even hurl
it into the fire if there were one handy, because they all deserve this punishment for
being cheats and imposters and beyond the pale of common nature, for inventing new
sects and a new way of life, and for inducing the ignorant rabble to accept as truths all
the absurdities they contain. And such is their audacity that they even dare to unsettle
the wits of intelligent and well-born hidalgos, as is clear from what they’ve done to
you, because they’ve reduced you to such a state that it has proved necessary to shut
you up in a cage and transport you on top of an ox-cart, as people wheel a lion or tiger
from one village to the next to exhibit it for money.(Cervantes 452)
The canon, as a third person narrative, is reflecting his views onto Don Quixote and what he perceives to be the source of Don Quixote’s current predicament. The canon blames Don Quixote’s fanatical behavior on his intense reading of fictional books. The canon personally feels that these books are in fact entertaining and he enjoys reading the imaginary tales, but as soon as he steps away from the book and realizes it was all fake, it enrages him that he wasted his time reading stories that can never be true. He is able to separate himself from the artificial stories he reads from true reality and is aware that the information in these books are merely fabricated situations and attempts to relay the same message to Don Quixote. The canon believes that these books give people fake hope and dreams that only lead them to creating imaginary lives for themselves, as Don Quixote has done. In this sense, the fictional books appeal to lost souls and allow them to create an imaginary world for themselves that they want to imitate causing them to overlook and ban societies true governing. He attempts to give Don Quixote a mirror image of himself as a caged animal that is paraded around as a spectacle for others to marvel and laugh at because this is in fact the negative impact these bogus stories have on Don Quixote’s life. The canon reflects how the fantasy world has ruined Don Quixote and many others who have also fallen prey to the mysticism of fictional books.
Another sector of a figural narrative is the epiphany. In “Narratology: A Guide to the Theory of Narrative,” Manfred Jahn explains the epiphany narrative as indicating a moment where a character receives or expresses clarity or insight. Jahn further states that, “epiphanies may turn out to be deceptive, misguided, or otherwise erroneous” (Jahn 3.3.10). In The Ingenious Hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha, by Miguel De Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote responds to the canon’s claims:
I consider that it is you who are out of your senses and under some spell, for you
have taken it upon yourself to utter such blasphemies against what has been so
well received in the world and so widely accepted as the truth that anyone who
denies it, as you do, deserves the same punishment that you say you inflict on
books that annoy you when you read them. Because trying to persuade anyone
that Amadis and all the other knight adventurers that pack the histories never
existed is like trying to persuade him that the sun does not give out light, and
that ice is not cold, and that the earth does not sustain us.(Cervantes 453)
This passage shows just one example from the many epiphanies Don Quixote has throughout the novel, but here, his epiphany is combative with the canon’s view. The juxtaposition of the two characters’ opposite views on the same subject is intensely portrayed here. We also have a multiple focalization in these two passages where each character expresses their belief on the importance or insignificance of fictional stories. Like the canon tried to persuade Don Quixote in seeing make-believe stories for what they are, Don Quixote in turn is trying to force his epiphany onto the canon. He tells the canon that he should be ashamed to disgrace the meaning of books that hold so much historical treasures within them and that it is he who should be punished and thrown against the wall and into the fire as he wishes to do to his so-called farce books. Don Quixote further argues how he isn’t the only person who follows and knows the history of knight errantry detailed in his books, and that everyone knows that Amadis does exist in the world. His epiphany of how true the knightly realm is leads him to believe that everything the canon attempted to prove is purely false. Don Quixote explains that he will never believe that his world of knight adventurers is counterfeit and that it is so true and clear to him that persuading him otherwise would be useless and a degradation of his knighthood. He further argues that trying to convince a knight that the world they live in is a sham would be hopeless, for it’s like telling them that the sun doesn’t give them light and that ice is indeed not cold. A knight will never believe their world is not the same world everyone else lives in, and so Don Quixote will never understand that either. Don Quixote and the canon clearly live in two different worlds where they will never be able to comprehend each other’s world.
De Cervantes Saavedra, Miguel. The Ingenious Hidalgo Don Quixote de la
Mancha. Trans. John Rutherford. Columbus, MT: Penguin, 2003. Print.
Jahn, Manfred. “Narratology: A Guide to the Theory of Narrative.” 28 May 2005. Web.
17 June 2011. <http://www.uni-koeln.de/~ame02/pppn.htm>.