In the beginning of the book the main character, an older man of around fifty, struggles with his identity. This is initially seen when the narrator of the story/ the town of the main character is unsure of his true name. After immersing himself in books of knights, chivalry, and adventure over the years the main character decides he is going to be a knight (seeing no problem with it) and gives himself the name of Don Quixote de La Mancha. I believe that Don Quixote should be somewhat regarded as a child who is powerless to his mind.
In present times the people who generally struggle with identity issues are younger people. Usually those people have middle and high school to find the answer to the question of “who am I?” Sometimes the answer comes quickly and for others it takes longer. However, it is still somewhat strange that Don Quixote struggles with his identity as an adult. An adult having a mental illness or a mind that hasn’t matured is not a topic you generally see or talk about therefore it makes me have a hard time picturing the situations and feelings of the characters.
I don’t believe that Don Quixote’s identity changing attempts are laughable or admirable. I don’t think they are laughable because he seems to have a genuine mental health problem that is out of his control and therefore he should not be laughed at. I don’t believe that it is admirable because there are many books with people or places, such as Harry Potter and the wizarding world, where it would be nice to live as that person or in that place, but I know that those places and people are not real and even when I was younger I was able to separate fiction from reality.
I have never thought of changing my identity, I have wished to have characteristics of others i.e. intellect, creativity, athleticism, etc. but I have never wanted to legitimately change who I am. Therefore, I would not go about changing my identity (if required) the same way Don Quixote does especially since, unlike Don Quixote, I have never found myself to be completely overtaken by something to the point where it changes myself or my beliefs.
Although there are some characters that treat Don Quixote well there are others that torment him for his mental illness. Many don’t understand that he can’t control the ideas that his mind comes up with. The niece begins to seem to understand Don Quixote’s issues, “I’m beginning to understand—and it’s the truth, just as I was born to die—that these cursed books of chivalry he’s been and is constantly reading have made him crazy. Now I remember having heard him say to himself many times that he wanted to become a knight-errant and seek adventures in the world. May these books, which have caused the ruination of the most sensitive mind that there was in all of La Mancha, be commended to Satan and Barabbas'” (Cervantes Chapter 5). Although she says that he has “the most sensitive mind” the niece only looks for a quick fix to help “solve” the problem and goes straight to the source (the books) which won’t help to cure or change Don Quixote’s mind because he is already too far gone.
The characters should be cautious of Don Quixote because he has shown that he has the capabilities to severely injure someone, but they should also be somewhat understanding. Because he is “crazy” it causes the characters to fear him and to make fun of him. However, the characters that seem to play along with his knight act, are only furthering the fact that his mind is equal to that of an immature (not fully grown/developed) child that is playing around and lost/ powerless to their wild imagination. Those who play along also seem to understand that if they don’t and they upset Don Quixote, either party could be hurt either emotionally or physically.