Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Beautiful Struggle

From Mary Victrix:
In the immortal masterpiece, Don Quixote by the Spanish king of poets, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, we see the complete opposite embodied in the figure of a middle-aged gentleman from the region of La Mancha. Don Quixote befuddles his imagination with the tales of knightly derring-do and fantastic deeds of chivalry. He decides that his world needs such a knight-errant and that he is just the man. Due to his mistreatment of the imagination, Don Quixote too lives in a sort of “never never land,” where he is paradoxically a self-appointed hero who constantly disturbs the peace. We read in chapter 18, that he often saw “in his imagination what he did not see and what did not exist.”

Far from lampooning genuine knighthood, what Cervantes fluently describes and brands with such mordant satire is a degenerated knighthood, stemming from a presumptive use of the imagination—the good old “art for art’s sake.” In consequence, the factor that originally sparks Don Quixote’s wild adventures, namely, an uncontrolled imagination, results in persistent misinterpretations of ordinary events he encounters on the road. The aftermath is only natural. He mistakes the windmills for giants. A funeral procession becomes a troop of devils carrying off a princess. A barber’s basin becomes the miraculous Helmet of Bambrino. We are told of how his unsanctified imagination “immediately conjured all this to him vividly as one of the adventures of his books.” The attempt to live chivalry, while failing to tame the “madman of the house,” only ends in humiliation and suffering.

In all this, the power of the Cervantes’ narrative lies in illustrating the gradual transformation of Don Quixote as he regains the balance of his imagination. In Don Quixote we have an eloquent proof of one thing: reality will always be a salutary kryptonite for those who imagine themselves to be superman. (Read more.)

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