The Deeper Meaning of Don Quixote  


Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote is the humorous tale of a middle-aged man embarking on a donkey-led peregrination across Spain in order to satiate his recently insatiable thirst for adventure. Quixote is not a knight, not a seasoned explorer, or even really “don Quixote.” After all, “they say his name was Quijado or Quesada” or even “Quejana.” Not Quixote.

Is Quixote a misunderstood genius? A man entrapped by fantasy, whose story may inspire others to live the lives they have always dreamed of, and to not hold back – no matter who may scoff in their direction?


But Don Quixote is also literally a confused (but lovable) man on a donkey with the ever trusty and only moderately dim-witted Sancho Panza as his sidekick. Just like The Princess Bride, the tale is ludicrous.

Don Quixote is a humorous tale, and a laughable man.

The sole purpose of Cervantes’ work was to mock the melodramatic fairy tales of years prior. So why attempt to insert a deep meaning of identity and self-awareness into a work that exists as an early-modern Onion article?

Any work can be analyzed, no matter how innocent or shallow it may seem. But just because one could say that Margaret Wise Brown’s 1947 children’s classic Goodnight, Moon is thinly-veiled social commentary on the impending US/USSR Space Race conflict, should one?

It may be conceded that don Quixote’s existence lends itself to debate over whether or not Quixote is inspiration to believe in ourselves, or simply a misguided loon. And don Quixote has a lot to teach us about identity, by proving that we are free to live our life with rose-tinted glasses in which windmills are fantastic beasts, and tavern wenches are lovely women.

It is admirable that don Quixote is following his dreams.

Really. It’s quite quaint to see a man not paying a single bit of attention to what others may think of him, (whether or not he is even capable of comprehending what others think of him is beside the point, supposedly) and embarking on the LARP of the century.

Maybe the tale even teaches its readers to relax and let go of our worries and insecurities in search of something greater than us. Maybe don Quixote is living his life to its fullest potential, while his peers merely wallow in the droning doldrums on a standard of living slightly above that of a peasant.

With that said, social norms exist for a reason.
We can’t all turn 48, quit our day jobs, jump on our donkeys, or 2007 Honda Civics, or whatever, and expect great things. Most members of society are more or less required to remain functioning and productive.

Don Quixote should be enjoyed for its surface meaning.

Harshness aside, Don Quixote is really a charming tale. But it is not Hamlet, Crime and Punishment, or any other deep literary work discussing identity or the multi-faceted nature of man. It is merely the tale of a whimsical man embarking on a quasi-fairytale escapade.